What sets him apart from the rest of his celebrity clan is his surname; the newest Kapoor in Bollywood isn’t a ‘Kapoor’! Armaan Jain, the first non-Kapoor grandson of Raj Kapoor, is the son of RJ’s youngest daughter Rima and her husband Manoj Jain, neither of whom forayed into the cinema spotlight. But with blood being thicker than water, it was a cinch that their son Armaan would end up in front of the lens rather than behind a corporate position, like his father.
He is, after all, the fourth generation actor (fifth, if you consider Prithviraj’s cameo in Awara) in Bollywood and the expectations from Armaan are as grand as his lineage. Not many Kapoors have failed in tinsel town and this one is in direct competition with two of the biggest hits of this generation – Kareena and Ranbir Kapoor – his first cousins. As his debut film opens to public and critics this weekend, it’s anyone’s guess whether this debutant will have the charisma and talent to sway Kapoor-loving crowds of cinema goers as well as his ancestors, but he sure has the background to support his launch.
Armaan’s upcoming film Lekar Hum Deewana Dil pairs him with the young and beautiful debutante Deeksha Seth.
“My role in the movie is that of Dino, who is a full-of-life, happy-go-lucky kind of guy,” Armaan elaborated on his character. “He is always cheerful and has an incredible sense of adventure. Basically he doesn’t want to grow up. He is best friends with Karishma and together they run away when her parents try to get her hitched without her consent. The film is very fun-loving as the two characters bond with each other after they runaway, and I hope the youth-centric plot will appeal to the youngsters.”
Youth-centric plots are exactly what have historically catapulted the Kapoors to fame and fortune. Think of Raj Kapoor’s initial films as well as his productions, including the iconic Bobby, starring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. Fast forward four decades and you have Ranbir Kapoor with massive hits in Bachna Ae Haseeno and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani and Kareena Kapoor as the unforgettable Geet in Jab We Met. It’s a good omen that Armaan’s debut film, LHDD, is directed by Jab We Met’s director, Imtiaz Ali’s younger brother. Replete with a potentially hit sound track by A R Rehman (who seldom, if ever, goes wrong), LHDD may be the perfect launch pad for this newcomer. His lineage may play an important enough role in his success but he is quick to deny any undue favouritism that may come his way.
Armaan believes that a person should be judged for his talent, instead of his family connections and he vows to be known for the former.
“The feeling of being the Raj Kapoor’s grandson hasn’t sunk in yet, especially since neither of my own parents are from Bollywood,” he says. “My father Manoj Jain is an investment banker and my mother Rima’s brothers – Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv – have had film careers but she never did. I, however, love the attention I am getting ahead of my first project,” he speaks like a boy with the spotlight in his soul.
Armaan adds that while his cousins Karisma, Kareena and Ranbir may have met the legendary Raj Kapoor, Armaan never got to meet him, which is one thing he regrets.
“The closest I ever came to being with nana ji was through his films,” Armaan confided rather solemnly. “I never met him as I was born a few years after his death in 1988, but through his films Awara, Shree 420 and Mera Naam Joker, I have observed him continuously ever since I was a child. I always considered him a ‘joker sort of’ person and although he has done many films besides MNJ, I have that image of his in mind. I am also proud of my nana ji’s legacy and of the fact that I am becoming a part of it.”
With Bollywood very much in his blood as well as in his household, how does Armaan feel about the grand Kapoor family? Out of the filmi clan, Shashi Kapoor is the only living grandfather (Raj and Shammi have passed away), Rishi Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor are the two high profile uncles, Kareena, Karisma and Ranbir Kapoor are his first cousins and even Saif Ali Khan (also the producer of LHDD) is now his brother-in-law.
“The Kapoor household is like any other family in India or even in Pakistan for that matter,” Armaan reflects on his family. “We may be actors but we don’t discuss films at home. In fact, these days we prefer football over anything else. Food and politics dominate the dinner table for the rest of the year. Since films are work for many of us, we don’t talk about acting, gossip, scandals and upcoming films since it only bores us now. Films are all in a day’s work. Ab waqt badal gaya hai…times have changed and acting takes the backseat for us as family bonding is more important than the number of films we do.”
Armaan also denies being inspired by anyone from the Kapoor dynasty. It’s uncanny, considering that the grandiose Kapoor men have been an inspiration for many aspiring actors over the past seven decades. But Armaan’s biggest inspiration is a non-Kapoor.
“My biggest inspiration is my father Manoj Jain who has inspired me immensely both professionally and personally. He may not be in the industry but I want to become a person like him since he excels at what he does. As for my cousins and uncles, it is always good to have them around but they all are different kinds of actors, sabka kaam different reasons kay liye pasand kia jata hai. The least I can do is to learn everything from them since I intend to grow as an actor by learning from the best.”
With non-actor parents and his father being such big influence in his life, how did he get into films in the first place? “I wasn’t a movie buff to begin with and didn’t even think about acting while I was studying in London. It was only after I completed my studies that I got an offer I couldn’t refuse and here I am. I was never the sort who would accompany others to film sets and parties but as I have said before, I love the attention now.”
Armaan’s greatgrandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, who started the Kapoor legacy, was born in Pakistani Punjab, and grew up in the then NWFP. Raj Kapoor was born Dhakki Munawwar Shah in Peshawer. The Kapoors have had artistic ties with Pakistan over the years, from film (Raj Kapoor cast Zeba Bakhtiar in Henna) to music. Raj Kapoor invited a relatively unknown Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to perform at Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh’s wedding in the early eighties.
“You have no idea how much my parents and I love Pakistani music,” Armaan corroborated the sentiments. “I for one haven’t missed a single episode of Coke Studio – the Pakistani version – and love listening to the songs performed in it. I am also a big, big fan of Arif Lohar sahib who is just awesome with a capital A. I haven’t had the chance of working alongside anyone from Pakistan but I am all for breaking the borders through films and music, as I feel that it is a tremendous effort on part of both the countries.”
With his family’s roots in Pakistan, doesn’t Armaan wish to visit the country? “Mera dil bohat chahta hai wahan aanay ka … I want to come to Pakistan since not only did my maternal grandparents hailed from Pakistan, but my paternal grandparents also migrated from the country. That’s why I have the strongest connection with your country. Furthermore, I have so many Pakistani friends who studied with me in London and they keep inviting me every now and then. I couldn’t get the time due to my debut film, but in the coming days, I promise that I will visit the country. Inshallah.”
Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]