Kunal Kapoor on the understanding of infidelity by way of the cinema, coping with insecurities and the difference of books based mostly on the independence motion

If you ask Kunal Kapoor there are some similarities between playing Mughal Emperor Babur and a modern married husband with his own flaws. “Both are prisoners of their own insecurities and need a lot of encouragement from the women in their lives,” he explains.

In the upcoming Netflix anthology ‘Ankahi Kahaniya’ due out September 17th, Kapoor plays a husband who finds out his wife is having an affair and he learns about it from the husband’s wife. What follows is not a face-to-face confrontation with their respective partners, but rather two people slowly putting together the reasons why their partners may have cheated on them.

The short film, directed by Saket Chaudhary from Hindi Medium, is one of the other three short films in the anthology. The other two were directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Abhishek Chaubey and also deal with the many unsaid and unacknowledged colors of love.

We meet with Kunal Kapoor to discuss everything from his role in the film to dealing with fears and how actors are essentially helpless pieces of the puzzle of cinema.

GQ: What was on your mind when you were offered the film?

Kunal Kapoor: Most of our films are about success – successful people, successful relationships and successful jobs. But mainstream Indian cinema has largely shied away from dealing with relationships that don’t work, that are anything but successful. As I read the script, I liked his refreshing take on these broken, flawed relationships. What I also found interesting was that there was a character here who hasn’t achieved his potential in any form and he’s scared of even taking the chance to reach that potential.

The film also explores the unspoken frustration that often simmers in many marriages, and how strangers can often play surprising catalysts in it.

Strangers often have this quality of making us vulnerable, we reveal our true selves to them with the knowledge that we will never see them again. We share deeply personal details about our lives that we may never share with our own partners or family. It has happened to me personally so often. But often it is the things that we don’t end up sharing with loved ones that hold the most important truths. This was wonderfully explored in the film.

From the role of babur to the role of a married man who is betrayed in such a short space of time, were you aware of this variety of roles?

Everyone wants to cast you into the same role, which is successful, so it is very important that I consciously break out of this form. According to Rang De Basanti; Everyone wanted to cast me in similar roles. There was a long time when I didn’t get the characters I wanted. Mainly because the films that were made at the time could not be assigned at all. But now, with the advent of OOT, things are no longer one-dimensional.

As I played Babur, I realized that he was also a deeply vulnerable man. Think about it, there are some similarities between them. Babur needed the women in his life to bring him together. They are both people who have a lot of self-doubts and insecurities. Also, for me, what was interesting about The Empire was that every time you see a king, it’s written in a typical way – strong and commanding, but here’s a character who doesn’t quite believe he’s king, he needs it other people to reassure him his authority. I’ve always wanted to play roles where the villain isn’t the stereotypical Bollywood villain and the hero isn’t the perfect man. These characters gave me that freedom.

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