If there is one thing that Kunal Kapoor’s life isn’t, it is boring! From flying planes and to racing cars to gymming, dancing, reading, and staying updated on the latest technology — it is a jam-packed weekend, every day.
Kunal, however, doesn’t believe in the idea of “ideal weekends”. Rather each day is spent in an endeavour to find new things to do and learn. His childhood may have been filled with weekend outings with family in and around Mumbai — traveling to Khandala, eating pakoras at Chembur, or Haji Ali for a mid-night juice — but Kunal now spends his free time by reading books, like The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly and Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon.
He has numerous passions, but says, “I think writing comes most naturally to me. I have been writing since I was 12-13 years old. It started with little notes in my dairy, then it became poetry and short stories. Now I am working on movie scripts.”
Known for his unconventional yet defining roles in movies, 38-year-old Kunal doesn’t shy away from experimenting with his looks or fitness routine. The secret, he says, is to be creative with one’s workout.
“Right now I am going to the gym but I am also working with someone who is helping me out with callisthenics. I have another trainer who is helping me with martial arts. And I am also dancing. I think it is really important to mix exercises because if you go the gym, it’s the same thing over and over again. You get bored,” Kunal explains.
While he physically trains his body according to the demand of the script he is currently working on, he tries to seek time to pursue his other passions. Often you will spot him with his surf board on the beach, ready to take on the waves, or racing cars and even training for a boxing match in Thailand. He also enjoys carpentry and tries his hand at DIY furniture.
His multi-talented persona hides a young child who is fascinated by nature’s bounty and who is always eager to learn. Recalling his most vivid childhood memory he speaks about the time he spent lying on his father’s Fiat car, mesmerised by the rain.
“Behind the seat there used to be a little empty space where I would lie on my back and used to look at all the lights (passing by); sometimes it would rain, like it is now.”
In fact, his latest fancy includes his Rubik’s cube.
“When I was younger, I would tear the Rubik’s cube apart, put all the colours in one place together and fix the cube again. I really enjoy the process of learning, right from the process of struggling to get something right first, getting better at it, and then getting really good at it,” he says.
Today, decades later, Kunal solves the Rubik’s cube with ease, sometimes within minutes, “playing and messing around” with permutations and combinations and “algorithms”.
Kunal says he always takes a route that engages and excites him. That’s why, over the years, he has dabbled in not just cinema, but also entrepreneurship through his crowdfunding startup, Ketto, and in supporting social causes, including the 'Support Soldier' initiative for Uri martyrs and their families.
As an actor and an entrepreneur, he has been conscious of affecting the world positively. However, he believes that much work is yet to be done and that technology needs to be an enabler of social change.
“Whether it's being part of a story that affects you mentally and emotionally or it's a technology that disrupts how things have been done, entrepreneurship is actually a very creative process. Storytelling and creativity are required in building a business that can transform lives and change the world,” he says.
If he had another chance to start up, Kunal would like to get engaged in education — to provide technological assistance in learning, and harness the power of digital and e-learning to people who do not have access to schools and colleges.
While Rang De Basanti became a defining moment in his career, winning him accolades and acclaim internationally, Kunal has never shied away from taking up unconventional roles. His criteria have always been the story and the passion the film and crew bring along.
“The truth is there is a lot of you in every character that you play. You have to play someone who may be very different from you in how they walk, talk, or look at the world. But you have to use your experiences and emotions to bring yourself close to the character,” Kunal explains.
However, he is clear that there is no shortcut to success. After working with veterans like Aamir Khan, Tabu, and Shah Rukh Khan, Kunal says that hard work and finding joy in that work is what makes an individual successful.
As he prepares for his new film, Gold, Kunal reminisces about the 1940s era where sports was an agent of unity and people had “an incredible amount of passion and spirit for the country”.
“I enjoy movies that entertain and educate. For me, that is the ideal combination. It's not always possible, but I do get excited by scripts that have the potential to do that. A film that you not only enjoy, but also makes you think a little differently when you leave the theatre,” Kunal concludes.