With his second film he was catapulted to the status of a rising star of Indian cinema, receiving a Filmfare 'Best Supporting Actor' award and winning international acclaim for his role in Rang De Basanti, India's official entry to the Oscars and a nominee in the 'Best Foreign Film' category at the 2007 BAFTA Awards.
After starring alongside industry giants such as Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, Kapoor takes the lead with his latest film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
The actor tells Digital Spy what it's like to work with Shah Rukh Khan, how leaping out of planes helps him cope with the rigours of fame, and the secret ingredients for the perfect film.
Tell us about the very interestingly titled Love Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
"My character in the film is Omi Khurana. He's like a lot of kids in Punjab who want to run away to the UK and US and Canada because they believe life is better there. So they go through illegal ways to get there and stuff. Omi Khurana is one of them. Ten years back he ran away from home to the UK. Now he finds himself in a bit of a spot when he comes back to his house ten years later. Omi Khurana is stubborn, he's selfish, and he's cheeky. He's only ever thinking about himself. Deep down he's a good guy, but he's just someone who's a little lost. So it's really about him finding himself."
It's an offbeat, quirky, character-led film and an unusual project for Anurag Kashyap, who is the film's producer. What was it about this script that appealed to you and how did Anurag come on board?
"I've been involved in the scripting of this film right from the beginning. It started off with me and the director (Samir Sharma), so I've always been a part of it. Luckily for us we pitched it to Anurag and he just read it and he said, 'This is absolutely fantastic. I really wanna do this.' So we had him on board as well. I always tell people, we've grown up on Sooraj Barjatya and Yash Raj and we enjoy the quirkiness of independent cinema so this is a crash between Sooraj Bharjatya and Anurag Kashyap".
The film is centred around a Punjabi family with a love of food. How have you ensured that the portrayal of the family is authentic and that it doesn't end up falling into caricature?
"I'm so glad you said that because that's really been our attempt. My family's from Punjab. Samir's family's from Punjab and the writer's from Punjab. When we Punjabis are played in Bollywood, it's all over the top and caricatures. We look around at what's being portrayed in films and sort of think, 'Hey man, our families are not like this. There are some oddballs there, but we're not like that.' So it's been our attempt to keep it as real as possible and the humour comes from the characters and the situations, more than just playing the characters larger than life and quite frankly, unreal."
Are you much of a cook and can you reveal the secret to the chicken khurana?
"The only thing I can do unfortunately is boil an egg. I tend to get that really right. I'm a really bad cook and fortunately for me I play a really bad cook in the film. To find out the secret ingredient, you have to watch the film."
You had a pivotal role in Don 2 and you won the Filmfare 'Best Supporting Actor' award for Rang De Basanti. After working in such huge films with major lead actors, do you feel the pressure of carrying this film on your shoulders in your first lead role?
"I have never thought about my career in terms of lead roles. I know it sounds like a lie, but it's true. I really have never thought about my career in terms of lead roles and character artists and cameos and such. I think what's really important is that the role has to be really interesting. And the movie has to be a movie that I really want to be a part of. I don't want to wake up and go to a set and say, 'Why am I working with these people?' So that's what's really important to me. So even with this film I'm not really thinking about, is it a lead role or it's my first lead role or what's gonna happen... to me this is an interesting ensemble cast and everybody has interesting parts in the film. I'm just part of an ensemble cast, so that's just the way I look at it."
You've worked alongside some of the industry's biggest stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit. What did you learn from them?
"What you learn from all of them is that it takes an insane amount of hard work to get to where they get. It seems really simple because they've been doing this for years and it's just another day for them, but they all come to the set and they really want to do well and do the best that they can. It's inspiring when you see that sort of enthusiasm with somebody that's been around for 20 years. I can't tell you who I liked working with best because that's just too controversial."
You've shown a real flair as a columnist and you have been involved in the writing of this script. Is script writing something you intend to pursue further?
"Writing is something that I find really, really exciting. I'm involved in the writing of my next three films too. I love reading. I love telling stories. It's something that comes pretty naturally. The column has been fun, but I've started working much more on scripts now."
You have a big fan following and an ardent female fan base. What has been your experience of fame?
"It's hardly difficult to cope with fame. If you enjoy it, it's fun. If you don't, then you have to cope with it. I pretty much enjoy it, so it's not a pressure. It's not a burden. It's something that's just fun. It's not hard to have a private life even when you're famous."
I understand you're a bit of an action man off-screen and have a passion for flying and skydiving. What's behind the adrenalin-junkie exploits?
"I'm trying to figure out what it is I really love about them. I think in life I'm a really rather balanced kind of chap. I think the madness has to come out somewhere. It comes out in the movies and it comes out in flying and skydiving. I drive rally cars and hope to be part of the national competition next year. The madness really just has to come out somewhere."
Can you tell us about the work you do for Save the Children with Gwyneth Paltrow?
"I'm the ambassador for the organisation in India and I've worked with them in Rajasthan to try to create awareness there. I'm always there for all the events and media interactions. I think as a celebrity it's really, really important that you champion these causes because if you can use your image to sell shows and to sell cars, there's no reason you can't use your position to make people aware of a really good cause. Save the Children is a really great cause and something that's close to my heart."
How would you describe Love Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana?
"It's great fun. It's a great entertainer. It's like when you have a really good dish with really good ingredients that come together. I think this has come together beautifully like a perfect recipe. I think the comedies we have had of late have been over the top and they have been just a series of jokes. In the '70s there were films that Hrishikesh Mukherjee made, which made you laugh and smile, but they were really simple and they were about real people. I think the director has managed to achieve that with this story, to make a really entertaining and heart-warming film."
Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer for the film below: