Why I admire Janhvi Kapoor

It is to her credit she has picked roles that focus on her acting and not her curves

No! I will not compare Janhvi Kapoor with her mother, the legendary Sridevi. Sri was Sri, unique in every way. Janhvi, at 26, is just about coming into her own as an actor, and the comparison seems redundant. Having watched her in Bawaal, a small budget movie, minus frills and thrills, I was once again filled with admiration for the young star who has had to endure snarky barbs all her life for being the child of famous parents.

The circumstances under which Sri died remain mysterious. Janhvi was desperately young and vulnerable at the time, and she was waiting for her 2018 debut film (Dhadak) to release. It is hard to imagine the impact of this monumental trauma on a young girl prepping for her big moment—the one she’d probably dreamt of sharing with her illustrious and well-loved mother. It is to Janhvi’s credit that she has conducted herself admirably back then and during these past five years during which she has endured intense scrutiny. Each time she steps out of her home, she is papped by a posse of eager beavers, and unlike a few of her contemporaries, she handles the press like a pro—with a ready smile and friendly banter.

Janhvi’s choice of films has been interesting. I watched her in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020) and was struck by her sensitive, convincing performance in a role that was anything but glamourous. I skipped Mili in which Janhvi spent most of her screen time trapped in an icebox. Now comes Bawaal with Janhvi playing a simple Lucknowi girl battling epilepsy, married off to a man who sees her as a ‘defective piece’. Janhvi and Varun Dhawan are stealing hearts and giving a run for their money to two flashy stars—Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh—whose big ticket movie is running simultaneously. How’s that as an equaliser?

Janhvi Kapoor | Amey Mansabdar Janhvi Kapoor | Amey Mansabdar

For a student of the reputed Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Janhvi’s professional training is impeccable. This is the same institute that has produced global stars like Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johanson and Lady Gaga, to name a few. It is known for its emphasis on ‘method acting’, which encourages actors to tap into their own emotional experiences when they perform. Watching the ease and maturity displayed by Janhvi in Bawaal, it is evident that here’s an actor willing to let go of vanity and star trappings to get under the skin of the character. Stripped off make up in most scenes, Janhvi lets her large expressive eyes do the talking, resorting to understatement over high histrionics.

The last time I met Sridevi was at the lavish wedding of a top cop’s son. She could only talk about her daughters as she shared her excitement over Janhvi’s debut, explaining why Boney Kapoor, her producer-husband, had picked this script over several other, far more glamourous ones. A clever decision, as it turns out. Frankly, anybody can do those other, far more commercial, candy floss roles with ease. Janhvi could effortlessly pull off a contemporary version of her mother’s iconic ‘Hawa Hawaii’ song from Mr India, or sign up for the next big production helmed by the likes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It is to her credit she has picked roles that focus on her acting and not her curves.

Yes, her latest steamy promotional shoot with Dhawan has generated a controversy, but the girl has been raised to live with sticky issues since childhood. No wonder she was described as a ‘Gen-Z Culturalist’ by designer Gaurav Gupta.

Popular and well-liked in a notoriously harsh film industry, I am waiting to see her next move. And for those who are keen to know her precious beauty secret, Janhvi says it is a spoonful of ghee first thing in the morning. Try it! I started yesterday.

@DeShobhaa @shobhaade