It’s a rainy afternoon in Mumbai and I am negotiating Juhu streets clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach Arjun Kapoor’s seventh-floor apartment. The room where I wait for him is bright and spacious, and adorned tastefully with paintings and artefacts.
Kapoor has just returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where he was shooting for Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend. The movie, slated for release in May, is an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s book by the same name.
Kapoor will next start shooting for Mubarak—a film he signed recently with uncle Anil Kapoor—in November/December.
The 31-year-old actor, in black shorts and a black tee, plops his over 6ft-tall frame down on an orange sofa that contrasts well with the dark-brown glass table. He then launches straight into the story of his acting career.
Work is a priority
There’s one thing that’s clear about Kapoor’s current financial focus. At this point, building a strong foundation and generating income takes precedence over investments and returns. So he is channelizing his energy into work—acting, hosting TV shows, and endorsements.
“Movies are my bread and butter and my inherent passion. The forms (of work) could change over a course of time. And acting is a tough job. It is emotionally, physically and mentally draining. There are 300 people who are coming to work because they think I can do the job,” he says.
But the field is highly competitive and Kapoor is looking to build a strong foundation that will enable him to expand his horizons. “In a population of over one billion, there are 12-15 names that have the potential to be main leads in Hindi films. I am within the minority of the minority. If I dabble in too many things and don’t focus on channelizing my energy into one thing, I might mess it up,” he explains.
He is not in a hurry though. “If you look at the bigger actors of today, they have survived for a long period of time and then expanded their horizons. Some people are lucky to expand their horizons in the initial years. That also depends on their mindset and ambition. My ambition is very cinema-driven. Right now I am at that phase where I am enjoying as an actor—the ups and downs; highs and lows of the profession,” he says.
Kapoor, who debuted as a television show host this year with Season 7 of Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi, a reality show on Sony, says he is learning the process of making money.
TV is important to create an audience, he believes. “TV is consumed by the masses, who don’t come to theatres. They are consuming you on a weekly basis. A lot of actors have benefited from TV. My intent is to connect with rural India. It is imperative that we understand that digital presence is in cities, which are a minority.”
Expenses and investments
Kapoor is acutely aware of the inherent instability of his profession. And of the luxury that it brings. He loves to spend and freely admits it. “There is no guarantee in this profession. Tomorrow, this income can shut down. It can fluctuate. Hence, I have a contingency plan and I work towards it.”
His lifestyle is expensive, Kapoor says, but he doesn’t need to live on a budget. “I am very blessed that in the last four years I have got more than what most people would ever get in their lifetime. Anybody’s life is more expensive than what they are earning. It is the same for me. I am like any other person in that sense.”
And like any other person, there’s always the wish to save a bit more and spend a bit less. “But it doesn’t happen. Fuel, mobile bills, travel and going out with friends are expensive,” he explains. “You get one life.”
“So the sporadic opportunities I get, I go out and indulge myself. (But) it is not that I am a spendthrift to the point that I am blowing up all my money,” he says.
He admits to a special fondness for sunglasses, leather jackets and shoes, but really splurged on a Mercedes SUV he bought with the signing amount he received for Aurangzeb, “the moment Ishaqzaade (his debut movie) released”.
“It survived four years and is still with me—turned out to be a pretty good investment,” he says.
Travel overseas is his biggest expense, and he tends to be like a child in a candy shop when abroad. “I love spending on travel. I went to Cape Town and was in London recently. Before that I went to Maldives for New Year’s with my sisters. I went to Spain to watch a football match with my friends.”
“And of course, when you are travelling you are shopping, which I am addicted to. I am also Boney Kapoor’s son, somebody who is known to spend money. So you know the genes are following through into my system as well. I like spending money and work hard for it.”
Savings are on his mind, but they are not a huge priority. “The ability to save, I am living and learning. My sister runs the house so those things are streamlined. I don’t have to interfere in that.”
So where does he invest? “The world doesn’t need to know about my investment,” he says, adding: “Of course, I have invested. I am aware about mutual funds, equities, real estate and fixed deposits. There are various avenues and I am exploring all and it is a continuous process.”
Kapoor likes to be fully aware about a financial instrument before investing. “You need to spend time in understanding the market and how the system works. You can’t just blindly put in money somewhere. The kind of money that I am dealing with is huge. I am young and I have got far more than I had imagined.”
He gets help in terms of financial advice from family. “My father is always overlooking things. My grandmother, who just passed away, was also involved in my day-to-day expenditure (calls) and savings.”
He takes the final call though. “I am independent so I have to be convinced first. A lot of people who are in my profession have their parents or family members doing it for them. There is a system in place. I also have a support system but it is not on a daily basis. I take my decisions on a daily basis.”
Like his late mother Mona Kapoor, and uncle Anil Kapoor, he too is interested in art. “This is Subhash Awchat,” he says, pointing to a work on one of the walls. “I am pretty certain that at some point I will become someone who starts buying paintings as well. Right now I would rather have that money in the bank if I need to invest in something bigger. Because you can’t sell off a painting last minute. You can’t exchange it and it is not liquid. So if you are buying it, it should be a centrepiece of your house. You have to have a thought behind buying one. A lot of people have excess money and let it lie around in storage, which I don’t. For me, investing in art would have to be defined by a need more than just collecting.”
The ‘Shark Tank’ effect
Kapoor says that as of now he is enjoying creating his brand—he believes it will come in handy when he starts directing films. “I intent to direct films but I don’t have a timeline yet. In a way, you can say acting will propel me into direction at some point. By the time I start direction, I would have created enough equity and credibility in this business.”
Perhaps his interest in the TV show Shark Tank has kindled an interest in investing in start-ups: “I unfortunately haven’t cracked a deal or met somebody. I would love to be part of it because it is the future. I am obsessed with the show Shark Tank. I truly believe something like that should exist in India and I would love to be part of it like Ashton Kutcher.” The show has aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their business models to a panel of investors and persuading them to invest in their ideas. Kapoor is not picky about sectors. But the problem, he says, is that “we are not accessible as actors”. “I don’t have to understand the product. I just have to understand the intention of the man behind it. I have to believe that this is something the common man will use, or do I use the product?”
For the moment, however, he is happy to go with the flow. “Some people are very aware about what they want to do in life. I am not one of those who has everything figured out. I am the live-and-learn person, and it has worked for me. I am not constructing my life, I am going with the flow.”
“I am in that age and phase where digital is evolving, TV is changing, and so are the kind of movies. Hence, I don’t want structure because then you restrict your energy.” He wraps up, saying, “Let’s revisit these investment-related questions maybe 5-10 years later.” But with income generation in focus, half his job may be done for now.
Name: Arjun Kapoor
Likes to spend on: Sunglasses, leather jacket and shoes
Biggest first splurge: Car. The moment ‘Ishaqzaade’ (his debut movie) released, he bought a Mercedes SUV from ‘Aurangzeb’s’ (his second movie’s) signing amount. ‘It survived four years and is still with me—turned out to be a pretty good investment.’
Wealth plan: Talk to me in 5-10 years