I am making an exception and putting up two 101 posts in one day! Because I want to finish off the Kapoors all nice and tidy on a Thursday, so I can start fresh with somebody else next week. Speaking off, there will be a poll at the end of this entry for you to decide who you want to read about next. (also, after some nagging and requests, I have set up a menu area for Hindi Film 101, you can see them all here)
My last post finished off the second generation of the Surinder Kapoor family, Anil and Boney and Sanjay and Sridevi, on to the 3rd! Sonam was launched first, opposite Ranbir. I talked about this a little already in Tuesday’s post, how they were seeing each other and had a messy break up. But that was from Ranbir’s side, how did it look from Sonam?
Well, they were both really young. Sonam was only 22 when Saawariya came out and Ranbir was 25. They supposedly started dating back when they were both assisting on Black, when they would have been even younger, like 19 and 22. This was probably the first serious relationship for both of them.
Sonam had also gone through enormous changes in her image in those years. She talks about it in interviews, how she felt fat and hairy and ugly as a teenager, and then once she decided to be a heroine, she put in a lot of work to make herself over, and so did a lot of other people who plucked and pulled and perfected. I love Sonam’s look, by the way, BECAUSE it is so clearly false. Sonam presents herself, in her hair and make-up and clothes, as a work of art. Or artifice. She has always been honest that it takes a lot of work and practice and thought to turn herself out like a heroine. (Really, read this wonderful essay)
And so I can’t help picturing these two kids who have known each other their whole lives, both of them awkwardly growing into movie stars, experimenting with themselves, getting to know who they are in this new reality. And my goodness, how painful it must have been for Sonam, still feeling ugly and overlooked, to have her first real boyfriend break her heart. No wonder it burned a bit!
However, Sonam definitely “won” the break-up in terms of career. Like Ranbir, she went on to have a string of more flops after Saawariya. But unlike Ranbir, she found a professional and important way to stay in the papers, not just personal scandal. Sonam became they fashionista of India, always not just perfect but interesting in her appearance. The brands rushed to take her as their spokesperson, the paparazzi rushed to photograph her, she even started attending international film festivals and getting snapped on all the carpets, infringing on what used to be Aishwarya’s exclusive territory!
(Her father Anil was breaking into international territory at the same time in his own way, but I think Sonam DOMINATING Cannes is as impressive as Anil co-starring with Tom Cruise)
Her fashion presence kept her afloat for 3 years until she finally had a solid hit, in a little rom-com with a great soundtrack and a terrible title, I Hate Luv Storys. And then she entered another, worse, dry spell. The worst of these was Aisha, a remake of Emma (officially, but really Emma-by-way-of-Clueless). It’s not a bad little movie, and it is a great role for Sonam, picking up on her fashionista image, it just didn’t work for some reason. The damage of Aisha is that it was a “home production”, the first attempt by Sonam and her sister Rhea to start contributing to the family business. Sonam had to take another 4 year break building up her rep and her connections before they could make another attempt.
2010 to 2014 were pretty up and down, a fair number of flops mixed with hits. But then, finally, there was the one-two punch of Raanjhana and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Everyone knew that those movies weren’t hits because of Sonam (it was because of Dhanush and Farhad), but they also weren’t flops because of her. That vague sense of doom around her films was dispersed. And they could move forward with the Kapoor Family Plan again.
I am fascinated by Sonam’s new series of films, co-produced by her sister, which are building her up as a real female star. Maybe they don’t make as much money as her films as the hero’s romantic interest, but it’s a reliable stake for the family. This is just me, but I don’t feel like Sonam is insisting on playing the lead in films like Khoobsurat and Dolly ki Doli because she wants to be a Star, I feel like it is just as practical as her decision to turn herself into a fashionista. She knows it is a good long term plan for the family as a whole if they can build movies around her without having to bring in a big star from outside.
Also fascinating, how smart she has been about her personal life since the Ranbir thing! The Deepika-Sonam Koffee episode is justifiably famous. And the aftermath was also messy, with Rishi supposedly declaring his son would never work again with either actress, and Anil supposedly having to step in and defend his daughter. But the other part of that episode, was how she steered the questions away when they came close to asking about her and Deepika’s current status, and made it clear that she was never going to make the mistake of speaking publically again. Supposedly, she is now dating a fashion industry figure from Delhi which is just about perfect for her, but there are no statements or red carpet appearances or anything for us to debate over about it.
Before moving on to Arjun, I just want to say again how different the two Kapoor families are. And the feeling I’ve had with Sonam dating Ranbir is kind of like, I don’t know, Kate Middleton and Prince William. Part of the appeal to Ranbir was the calm happy and drama free home life she lead. And part of the reason the reaction to Sonam hitting back is so extreme is because she doesn’t know “her place” as one of the slightly “lessor” Kapoors who should have just been quiet and grateful to ever have been considered by a “real” Kapoor.
Now, Arjun! Poor Arjun. He was 10 when his parents’ marriage imploded. And either that stress made him eat and eat, or his father’s genes caught up with him, but by the time he was a young man, he was very very big. Very very big. He planned to be a director, he had his whole life worked out, stay behind the camera, learn all he could (he got his first director’s assistant job at 18), marry his long time girlfriend, and make his own movie someday. And then his girlfriend broke up with him and it kind of ruined all the other plans to.
(Here he is with Kat, from back when he was a lowly assistant)
That girlfriend, of course, was Arpita Khan, Salman’s baby sister. Now, we all know the Khan’s are the best prospective in-laws, and even better ex-prospective in-laws. They have taken in all of Salman’s girlfriends and kept them as part of the family even after the break-up. And the same is apparently true for their daughter’s ex-boyfriends! Arjun described being nervous the first time he went over to the Khan house, and then being welcomed and made at home. He was even more nervous when he went over after Arpita had broken his heart, but Salman was there for him again, and suggested maybe now would be a time to change his life entirely, to lose the weight and switch from directing to acting.
And therefore Arjun is a dedicated and forever Salman acolyte. Salman did help him lose the weight, it took a couple of years but he did it. And he finally made his debut in Ishaaqzaade in 2012, at age 27, to moderate success and almost unanonymous critical compliments. And it came out almost exactly one month after his mother Mona, who had been abandoned by her husband 15 years earlier and left to raise her children alone, died of cancer at age 48. Last I heard, Arjun still lived with his grandparents and his sister in their house, while his father lived separately, with his new wife and family. It’s not dramatic and extreme like Kapoor stories, it’s just sad!
(At least his father came back for the funeral)
One more final odd footnote on Arjun. The current rumor going around, which has been going around for a while, is that he has moved on from Salman’s little sister to Salman’s sister-in-law. That formerly chubby Arjun Kapoor is now having an affair with Malaika Arora, the hottest item girl in town and soon-to-be-ex wife of Arbaaz Khan. And a bit of a cougar, considering the 12 year age difference!
(I think we can all agree that she is way out of Arjun’s league, yes? Age gap-shmage gap, he’s lucky if she’s interested in him)
And I think that’s it for the Surinder Kapoor family! Arjun is plugging away at his career, and refusing to respond to the Malaika rumors. Sonam has almost recovered from the Ranbir relationship, even co-starred with Rishi after that (although apparently there were tensions on set, he made fun of her and her father a little and she stayed quiet and took it). The family production house is still plugging along, Sonam has her little nitch in low budget films built around herself that make a reliable modest profit, Anil has branched out into TV production headlining the Indian TV version of 24, and Boney keeps producing modestly successful big star hits every few years.
Oh, and there’s also Ranveer Singh! He is Sonam’s maternal cousin, her mother is his mother’s sister. He was never one of “the Kapoors” while growing up, just played with Sonam and saw Anil from a distance. But he and Sonam apparently have a sweet and loving relationship through to today. Although not as close as Sonam and Arjun who seem to be more like brother and sister than cousins.
(I love this picture. This is a woman with a lot of guys on her side!)
Now, this is already a very very long entry, but so long as I am finishing off the Kapoors, I might as well run through all the other “Kapoors” in Bombay, the ones who aren’t even distantly connected to the Kapoor-Kapoors:
Pankuj, Shahid, Supriya Pathak, Neelima Azaam: Pankuj Kapur is a respected art house type actor, in art movies and intense TV shows and stuff like that. He never really found a place in the big glittering party world of Hindi film, but he worked steadily and was always brilliant.
(Here is Pankaj with his second wife Supriya. You may not recognize either of those names, but you have definitely seen them before)
Neelima Azaam was his first wife, a dancer and choreographer. She stayed in Delhi after they broke up along with their son Shahid. But it wasn’t a bad break-up, I get the impression of friendly joint custody, vacations spent with his Dad and so on. Neelima moved down to Bombay at some point and started working around in the industry as a choreographer and dance trainer. She married a low-level actor and had another son, Ishaan, who is now poised to make his debut. Meanwhile, Pankuj married into the Pathak acting family. Respectable, talented, stage and TV and art film actors. His wife’s sister is married to Naseeruddin Shah, it’s that kind of family. And Pankaj also had another son, Ruhaan, and a daughter Sana who was in Shaandaar with her brother and father.
Growing up with a working actor father and a working dancer mother, Shahid picked up occasional parts as a child actor. And then as a teenager, Shahid won an open call and was added to the Shiamak Davar dance group. As part of that group, he started getting tiny parts, like in a Pepsi Ad with Shahrukh, or a back-up dancer in Taal.
And then he got his big break at age 22 (looking about 12) in the college sex-farce Ishq Vishk opposite Amrita Rao (there are still “Shamrita” videos on youtube). While filming his follow-up film Fida, he started dating his co-star Kareena Kapoor. And, like poor Sonam, his hook-up with one of “The Kapoors” chased him for years. They dated and co-starred in a series of films, none of them hits, until he finally had the one-two punch of Vivah (his reunion with his Ishq Vishk co-star in a very different kind of film!), and then Jab We Met. And shortly after Jab We Met, he and Kareena officially broke-up, making that story just as open and aboveboard as their initial dating announcement. It looked like he was poised for stardom, two hits under his belt and no personal story to over-shadow his career.
But, no. Flop flop flop again again again. This is the frustrating thing about being a Shahid Kapoor fan (which I am), he is SO TALENTED. And over the past 13 years, he has over and over again come SO CLOSE to superstardom. And then it all just slips away again. For instance, when he threw away his popularity post-Jab We Met to spend a year making a passion project with his father that ultimately flopped, Mausam. And when his career hits the skids, his personal life hits the headlines and takes over from his career. After Kareena, it was first with Vidya (who he supposedly made feel bad about her weight), then with Priyanka on again and off again and on again, and finally with Sonakshi. Until last year when he surprised us all by marrying sweet little innocent Mira. Maybe now he can be more known for his acting and less for his loving.
Let’s see, what other Kapoors are there? Oh! Kunal Kapoor! That beautiful man. He isn’t related to anybody. Well, he didn’t used to be. He came down from Delhi after training with Barry John (just like Shahrukh). He was “discovered” by MF Hussain, the brilliant painter who occasionally also liked to make films. Hussain had decided that for his film to work, he needed a really really beautiful man. And thus Kunal! Kunal’s kind of bounced around from film to film, never working too hard and never really seeming to care. And then about 2 years back he married Amitabh Bachchan’s niece (his brother’s daughter). So now he is firmly set within the film industry, even if he never works again. Also, good on you Naina Bachchan! Excellent choice.
(Artsy! And you can kind of see how the artist eye just wanted a perfectly symmetrical face right there, right?)
Oh! One more Kapoor family! The Ekta Kapoor family. Which is properly the Jeetendra Kapoor family, but he never uses his last name and his daughter is the more powerful one now anyway. Jeetendra was a hero of the 70s and 80s, known as “Jumping Jack Jeetendra”. He was always known more for being a good hard worker and solid hitmaker then a brilliant actor. Which is why it kind of made sense that he would turn out to have a sound mind for business once he retired from acting and opened his production studio.
Well, Ekta’s production studio really. Jeetendra started out with film production, and then satellite TV came to India and suddenly there was a craze for TV shows and a desperate need to fill all those hours. Ekta Kapoor was 19 years old, an anti-social homebody who had spent her life sitting on the couch watching TV. Perfect! Jeetendra opened a tiny office (actually space in his garage) and gave his wife and daughter permission to play around and see what they could put together for Indian TV. And what they put together was, well, Indian TV!
(Jeetendra and Ekta around the time he gave her a little money and a little office to play with, and she invented Indian television)
It started small with their first hit, a sitcom called “Hum Paanch” (Our Five) about a family with 5 daughters, all with distinctive personalities and catch phrases. One of whom was played by a little actress called Vidya Balan.
(Based on the glasses, I’m guessing she was the “smart” one?)
But they really hit it big once they got into soap operas. Ekta, all this is before she was 22 by the way, came up with the perfect Indian soap opera formula. A strong central woman, an evil woman set against her, fancy clothes and brightly colored sets, complicated family relationships that lasted thousands of episodes and multiple generations, and the public ate it up! And when they got sick of that, Esha reinvented again with a series of young career people and romantic problems shows. And when those started to fail (by this point, Ekta was 25 and in charge of an entire highrise building housing all their productions with thousands of people working under her. When I was 25, I bought my first blu-ray player. So it was a big year for both of us), Ekta took time off and came back to anounce Balaji Films.
(I tried to read the plot synopsis for this on wikipedia once, but I got too confused around the second time jump)
While Balaji Telefilms was all about traditional values and family problems, Balaji Films was all about horror and sex and scandal. And big big hits. Like The Dirty Picture, Love Sex Aur Dhokla, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaii. Well, until this year when they started to fail. As I said back when that was first reported, I blame the fact that Ekta is no longer aggressively at the helm, she brought in some random middle-aged “experienced businessman”, forgetting that it was her 19 year old raw instinct and genius that got them this far.
Esha also has a brother, Tusshar. He acts in films his sister produces, and sometimes in the 3rd or 4th hero role in other people’s films. And he made history last year by being the first single male Indian celebrity to have a baby by surrogacy, the Jeetendra family’s first grandson. Because, as is generally accepted, Tusshar and Ekta are both uninterested in the opposite sex.
(Baby! With his grandfather Jeetendra.)
(personally, I have a conspiracy theory that maybe Tusshar and Ekta aren’t married because they are too close? I read this article about how they still have adjoining bedrooms where the door stays open all night. That’s weird, right? I don’t have a brother, but I feel like if we were both in our 40s and had adjoining bedrooms with an open door, that would be weird)
Okay, that’s it for the Kapoors! Except for someone I have surely forgotten and can’t remember at the moment.
Now, what should I do next? Feel free to vote in the comments between these options, or make another suggestion:
The Dutt Family: Nargis, Sunil, and Sanjay
The Samarth Family: Rattan Bai, Shobhna Samarth, Nutan, Tanuja, Kajol, Tanisha, Ajay Devgn.
The Chopra Family: BR Chopra, Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Uday Chopra, Karan Johar
The Akhtar-Irani dynasty: Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Honey Irani, Daisy Irani, Farah Khan, Sajid Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti
The Khers: Anupam, Kirron, Sikander
The Bhatts: Mahesh Bhatt, Kirron Bright, Parveen Babi, Pooja Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Emraan Hashmi, Mohit Suri, Esha Gupta