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'I want to do everything: be an actress, an entrepreneur'

Last updated on: October 02, 2013 21:05 IST

'I want to do everything: be an actress, an entrepreneur'

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Shobha Warrier in Pondicherry

Ayesha Kapur, the child actor from Black who took a break to continue her studies is now 18 and is juggling between academics, business and horse riding among other things.

Ayesha Kapur is known all over India as the little girl who acted as young Michelle McNally in Sanjay Leela Bansali's Black.

That was nine years ago. She is no longer a little girl now but a young adult of 18, with many facets to her personality.

After Black, Ayesha continued with her education in Auroville, the commune in Pondicherry where she lived, and in the United States.

She has also created her own brand of accessories for the family business, the well-known upscale Hidesign leather boutiques started by her parents Dilip and Jacqueline Kapur.

Now, she has decided to take time off from New York University to act in Hindi films.

In the interview that follows, Ayesha talks about her childhood in Auroville, what inspires her to try her hand at acting again, and Ayesha Accessories, her designer brand.

You grew up in Auroville, in an international ambience. What do you remember about your childhood?

I remember growing up in a very pure ambience.

We were quite disconnected from the outside world which was good and bad. We lived in a kind of bubble.

It was bad in the sense that you do not have much connection with the real India.

I was protected from many things which other kids had to encounter at a very young age.

The good thing is that we grew up being a part of nature; we had trees, flowers and mud roads.

Auroville is still like that. We could breathe pure air every day. So, I would say I lived in a healthy, ignorant world.

We friends hung out not in malls but in the open or somebody’s house, or we went horse riding together.

My schooling till high school was done inside Auroville itself and there were only 10 students in my class.

I met people outside Auroville because of my horse riding and the few acting assignments.

My parents enjoyed travelling so I travelled all around the world as a child.

The greatest thing Auroville taught me was that I could talk to anyone from a four-year-old to a 40-year-old to an 80-year-old without any problem.

I was never afraid of conversing with an elderly person. That is what Auroville teaches you.

Was nature your friend?

Yes, nature was an integral part of my life.

The picture Sanjay Leela Bansali saw was of me splashing in the mud with my brother.

It was the funniest game we played in the mud, much more exciting than video games. 

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Image: Ayesha Kapur debuted as a child actor in Black directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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'Even as a three-year-old I loved and enjoyed posing for the camera'

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When were you introduced to horses?

My Mom has been riding horses from a very young age.

Even when she came to Auroville after marrying my Dad, she continued her passion.

I was on a pony from the age of two. At the age of five I was competing for the first time.

Till you acted in the film Black when you were nine years old, you lived in a totally different atmosphere at Auroville. How was the acting experience for you?

I had never watched a Hindi film before Black. I didn't know Hindi.

The only way I connected to Amitabh Bachchan was an ad I saw on TV.

It was not that I was ignorant. I lived in a very, very different world. But even as a three-year-old I loved and enjoyed posing for the camera.

I enjoyed the experience of acting in Black.

I had some amazing people working in the film. Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor were my teachers on the set. I had other amazing people to guide me to act the way I did.

That was the first time I felt I was doing something on my own.

How did you deal with the kind of recognition you had after the film?

It was not easy dealing with random people recognising me.

I found it difficult to be me, which is what Auroville had taught me.

I was a free child but at the same time, I enjoyed acting.

Slowly, I came to terms with the kind of appreciation people had for my work.

You chose not to act in many films after that. Why?

I was too young. My parents let me act in Black but they were of the opinion that I should continue my education first.

I was at a very impressionable age and they wanted me to be back in Auroville and be who I am. I agreed with them completely. 


Image: Ayesha Kapur with her mother Jacqueline
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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'I wanted to be a writer and a journalist'

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What did you want to become at that time?

Black made me interested in acting but as English was my favourite subject and I enjoyed writing, I wanted to be a writer and a journalist.

Why did you decide to go to the US and continue your school education?

That is the tradition in my family started by my father. Also, I thought it was a great opportunity to go to an international school outside of Auroville.

I had reached a stage where Auroville had given me everything and I'd wanted something more challenging.

I went to a boarding school, Deerfield Academy, that is an hour and half from Boston.

It was an extremely different and difficult experience. It was a culture shock, deeper than I had expected.

Why have you now decided to take a break from university to try acting in Hindi films?

Acting in Black was fun and also intellectually stimulating for me. I felt good while acting.

I feel it is important for me to reconnect to that world. I wondered, why not acting as a career choice?

It is challenging as I have to learn Hindi first. I missed acting and wanted to give it a shot and see whether it is a feasible option.

I wanted to live in Mumbai and not try from Auroville.

I needed India as I missed my country a lot.

I loved India but I didn't know what it meant to me until I moved to the US.

What is it like living alone in Mumbai?

Very good. I am learning Kathak dance, Bollywood dance and also Hindi. I would say I am preparing myself for the auditions.

Are you in touch with any actors?

No. Not at the moment. I am in touch with a few people from Black like Ravi K Chandran.


Image: Kapur took a break from acting to pursue her education in the United States of America
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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'There's an aspirational value behind Ayesha Accessories'

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How did you become an entrepreneur?

Even when I was small, just five years old, I used to accompany my mother on her merchandising trips for her store Casablanca in Pondicherry.

I loved shopping even then but I have very strong opinions about everything just like my Mom.

Our tastes were similar on many things and not similar on many things. I used to tell her to not take certain things and take certain things. That was the beginning of my interest in accessories.

I am half German and half Indian and grew up in India.

So, I could think like a young Indian girl who wanted to be very modern but Indian too.

I feel very Indian, and I love my Indian side and I am very proud of my Indian side. But some of my tastes are western because of my mother.

As we shopped, both of us realised that there is demand for girl's accessories and I started designing them. I have these ideas for innovative designs where I blend the traditional with the modern.

Then, my mother suggested that we start a brand in my name. There is an aspirational value behind the brand.

When my mother asked my brother whether we can have a men's brand in his name, he said no. That's how we have this Brand Unknown for men's accessories.

Do you design the accessories for brand Ayesha?

I get a lot of ideas on new designs when I travel all over the world; also readers of my blog give me ideas and I pass all these on to the design team. That is how we work.

Manufacturing is done both in India and China.

You have exclusive stores that sell Ayesha Accessories. When was the first Ayesha store opened?

In October 2010, in Ahmedabad.

We had no plans to start exclusive Ayesha stores but when Kishore Biyani of Future Group offered us a stall at his super store in Ahmedabad, we thought, why not take up the offer and start a store?

Our initial capital was Rs 10 lakh.  Today, our turnover is Rs 12 crore a year.

Today, we have 28 independent Ayesha Stores and 14 at shopping centres.


Image: Ayesha Accessories was founded in 2010 with a capital investment of Rs 10 lakhs
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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'My focus is to create a funky, trendsetter image for the young through Ayesha'

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How involved are you in the business plans?

The business plans are mostly made by my mother and I am learning.

I take care of the creative aspect and I am the face of the brand.

My focus is to create a funky, trendsetter image for the young through Ayesha.

That was how our Neon collection was launched. It is cool, funky and colourful.

We saw it coming even before some western brands did.

Now that you are trying to be an actress in Hindi films, will you have time for Ayesha accessories?

Of course. How can I leave it when I am the face of brand Ayesha!

I want to do everything; be an actress, an entrepreneur, study Liberal Arts and also ride horses! 


Image: Ayesha Kapur wants to pursue a career in Hindi films alongside developing her accessories brand
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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