Film actor and theatre artist Sohaila Kapur is well-recognised in Delhi circles. She isn’t only working as an actor with top filmmakers but also producing and directing plays. The eminent writer, theatre director, producer and actor started her career writing articles for newspapers and went on to make documentaries. Her Indian Witch Hunt won the National Geographic best film award in 2004 and it has been telecast several times on Discovery.
Among the big names she has worked with are Govind Nihalani, MS Sathyu, Chandita Mukherjee, Satish Kaushik, Chetan Anand, Shyam Benegal, Sudhir Mishra, and Ram Madhvani.
Sohaila was born to Kulbhushan Kapoor, the physician of former Indian President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, and Sheel Kanta Kapoor in Mumbai (then called Bombay). She is also the niece of the late actor Dev Anand.
She was, however, raised in Delhi and lives in the Capital now, running her own theatre company called Katayani.
In an interview with Patriot, Sohaila opens up on her life and career and her latest project Aarya Season 3 which also features Sushmita Sen and will be shown on Disney+Hotstar.
Q: What kind of story is Aarya Season 3?
A: Aarya Season 3 is a crime thriller TV series.
Q: What kind of role Sushmita is playing?
A: Sushmita is shown as an independent woman, who cares for her loving mother. I play the mother and she is depicted on the screen as caring for me. Her role is very important. She has to take care of her three children and her mother.
Q: How do you like working with Sushmita Sen?
A: Sushmita Sen is a very warm person and her performance exudes this warmth. She calls me Maa (mother) even outside the set. I share great vibes with her.
Q: Who has created Aarya web-series?
A: Amita and Ram Madhvani have created the series, which has also been nominated for International Emmy Awards. The first and the second editions of Aarya series were shown in 2020 and 2021. This will be the third of the Aarya web-series and is still under process. Season 2, which was also streamed worldwide like season 1, became famous.
Q: How would you describe your role in Aarya Season 3?
A: I am playing Rajeshwari Rathore, the head of a wealthy family doing business in pharmaceutical industry and am playing Sushmita Sen’s mother.
Q: Can you tell us something about the shooting?
A: Aarya Season 3 shooting was held in Mumbai in January. Now, shooting will be held in Jaipur soon.
Q: How do you like working with Ram Madhvani?
A: Director Ram Madhvani is an amazing director, and has a special style of shooting that I call 360 degrees. The whole scene is rehearsed and three cameras move around catching the action. The results are amazing.
Q: Has Ram Madhvani made documentaries also?
A: Yes, he has made a short documentary and also directed This Bloody Line. It showcased superstar Amitabh Bachchan and was premiered at the Lincoln Center in New York. Richard Peña, director of the Lincoln Center, wrote: “It is rare that a film on an artist is itself a work of art.”
Q: How do you like his film Neerja?
A: I think Neerja is the best tribute to India’s daughter by director Ram Madhvani. Due to his great direction and production, he also got the Gollapudi Srinivas National award.
Q: Would you like to share your experience with Shah Rukh Khan?
A: It was nice to shoot with Shah Rukh Khan in Dubai. That was for Dubai Tourism, but I really enjoyed working with Shah Rukh Khan and loved the moments I was shooting with him.
Q: Have you played a politician and in which film?
A: Yes, I played a politician for the first time in Daas Dev (Sushila Devi). She is quite popular but the opposition targets her and she is attacked during an election speech. The role has some obvious political references and I realise how it feels to be in a contemporary politician’s shoes.
Q: Would you like to share your personal experience working with film-maker Sudhir Mishra?
A: I have always wanted to work with him and told him so once. He was kind enough to offer me the part. I feel fortunate to work with him because he has seen my work in my plays and he loved those characters. Therefore, he decided to cast me in his film Daas Dev.
Q: What kind of feedback have you got after this film?
A: I always work very hard and I can say that till now, my work has been appreciated by critics and my family friends. The positive feedback encourages me to work more. The best thing is that Sudhir Mishra called up on the day of the premiere and said that he liked my performance. This was the first time he had mentioned this and it thrilled me.
Q: How has been your brother Shekhar Kapur’s reaction?
A: My brother Shekhar Kapur loved my performance and appreciated my work and he has been talking about it to his friends in the industry.
Q: Which has been your favourite role?
A: I have worked in many films and directed several plays but I think my role in Phantom has been my favourite. My brother too loved my performance in that film.
Q: Do you recall any interesting incident while shooting?
A: I still remember once when I was shooting till 2 am, and I was so tired that I could not get my dialogue right. Sudhir [Mishra] finally gave up, saying he will have to work something out on the edit table, which he did. I was sure after that, he would blacklist me as an actor, but his praise on the day of release swept away my apprehension.
Q: You have also directed some interesting plays, can you name some?
A: Yes, theatre direction is my passion, I love it. I have directed many plays such as What’s in a name, Meera, Appointment with death, Mahim Junction, Rumi, Miss Julie, Jailbirds, Tattoo and Bebe Ka Chamba, which has an all-woman cast. We have travelled with it in India and the Sangeet Natak Akademi sponsored two shows.
Q: Which film directors do you like the most?
A: Stephen Spielberg and Vishal Bhardwaj. They are both great storytellers.
Q: How does it feel when people relate to you as Dev Anand’s niece and Shekhar Kapur’s sister?
A: I am proud of my uncle, the late Dev Anand, and brother Shekhar Kapur. It’s always a pleasure to connect with my brother.
Q: Most play directors are shifting to film-making. Have you ever thought of this?
A: Yes, many times. But you need to have an investor for that. I hope to direct a Bollywood film some day!
Q: Besides direction and writing, what are your other passions?
A: Reading, writing and script-writing. I love writing columns for newspapers. Watching movies and television are my favourite hobbies. I am always busy either doing work or reading scripts for my new play or film. My other passion is to produce interesting and meaningful plays.
Q: What kind of play did you have in the Shri Ram Centre?
A: The play revolves around a man trying to “discipline” his new wife through means ranging from humiliation and manipulation to abuse and violence. Many men at the packed Shri Ram Centre in Delhi applauded it.
Q: Any interesting memories of Delhi?
A: Delhi is in my blood. I am the only one in the family, who was raised and educated entirely in Delhi. I am a Delhi product. Whenever I go abroad, the fragrance of the wet earth reminds me of Delhi, for that is essentially the Delhi smell and I get homesick. But my memories of Delhi are those of my childhood and hence, happy memories.