Rahman, Blink-182, and Tycho: Harshvardhan Kapoor describes his musical journey
Kunal Bambawale · May 31, 2018 · 6 Minute Read
We sat down with talented, unconventional actor Harshvardhan Kapoor to talk about how music influences and inspires him. We also spoke about what to expect from the soundtrack and score of the upcoming film Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, in which he plays the titular role. You can listen to all of Harsh’s favorites in our exclusive playlist.
What are you listening to these days?
I’ve been listening to this song called “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz a lot. I actually just wrote a short story inspired by the sound of that song.
I also listen to a lot of film soundtracks. There was a film I saw recently that Joaquin Phoenix starred in. Great actor. It’s called You Were Never Really Here, directed by Lynne Ramsay, and Jonny Greenwood had done the score for it — he’s basically a rock musician. He’s done some really interesting stuff. (Editor’s note Jonny Greenwood is the lead guitarist and keyboardist of Radiohead).
How would you describe your taste in music?
I like music that I can fall asleep to, I like music that I can think to, sleep to, write to, take walks to. I like melodies, mixed with female voices. That does something for me.
I’m not a very social person, so I don’t really like club music. It just gets on my nerves. I listen to a lot of soundtrack music, I listen to a lot of Sigur Rós.
I have the ‘Dive’ album on vinyl – actually, I collect vinyl. I have 2-300 albums.
What’s in your vinyl collection?
It’s a pretty varied collection. I’ve got a lot of Blink-182. I listen to all their albums, I grew up listening to them. I grew up on Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Self-titled, Chesire Cat. I grew up on that, and I lived in Southern California for four years, so a lot of my influences are very SoCal. I studied at Chapman in Orange County, which had a huge impact on my musical taste.
There’s an album that Tiësto did called ‘In Search of Sunrise: 7.’ In it, there’s a song called “Ride” by Cary Brothers, which he remixed. All of this is my college, growing up music, which has nostalgia attached to it.
Besides writing and falling asleep, what else do you use music for, functionally?
For me as an actor, the biggest strength that comes from music is concentration.
On film sets, you take your phone, you take your headphones, you find a quiet corner. You listen to music, and you allow it to put you in a specific mood that would be apt for the scene. I couldn’t go on set if it weren’t for music and headphones. I actually just bought a pair of noise-canceling headphones for this specific reason.
It can uplift you, it can make you feel sad, it can make you happy. It has all of that power.
What were you listening to during the filming of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero?
A lot of Sigur Rós.
In fact, even Vikramaditya Motwane was listening to Sigur Rós while he was writing Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. If I were to read the script, while listening to Sigur Rós at the same time, I feel like I’d cry, every time.
You feel in this film, that this guy can die at any time — that what he’s doing is ridiculous. It’s about a common man, in extraordinary circumstances, who decides to do the brave thing. It’s got that epic quality that’s apparent in many Sigur Rós songs.
Music and film can work together to create the most beautiful moments – moments in which the scene brings the song to life, and the scene creates an environment for the song to shine in.
Can you talk a little bit about your favorite moments in which film and music elevate each other?
I feel like sometimes, entire films are based on an emotion that a song can make a person feel. My first film, Mirzya, is a musical — but not in a typical Bollywood format. It’s a musical in which the actors don’t sing and dance — it’s more like a Greek chorus, Broadway kind of style.
If you have time, you should listen to that soundtrack. It’s great. The lyrics are by Gulzar, and it ties in to the narrative, so they take the story forward. That’s a great example in recent film history.
I saw a film on Netflix the other day called Newness, starring Nicholas Hoult. It had this really great song called “Shortline” by Howling in it.
Are there any musicians whose choices reflect your own, in that you’re an actor committed to unconventional films?
All independent musicians make their choices with the same spirit. It’s the same thing as when actors go outside the studio system to do what they believe in.
Any musician who says: “No, I’m not going to work like this, I don’t need a label” — I can relate to that. There are a lot of things I get asked to do, to which I just say, “No, I’m not going to do it.”
I’m in a very privileged situation, because I don’t have to work for fame or money. I’m motivated by the kind of work that I want to do, and by doing something specific. Even Tycho, for example, could compromise their vision, and do a super dance album, but I don’t think they’d do it.
In the same way, there’s no way I’d do something that didn’t match my vision.
Who are some of the most inspiring artists to you?
For me, Tom Delonge has been a huge inspiration. The Blink-182 guys are very underrated songwriters, but because of the whole pop-punk thing, they got typecast as these people who are always cracking jokes and having a good time. Even Angels & Airwaves, his side project, created some of the most amazing, uplifting stadium rock music.
I also think Jared Leto is a great artist – he’s a phenomenal actor, and also an incredible musician. 30 Seconds to Mars is amazing, and I was obsessed with Requiem for a Dream growing up.
So Jared Leto, Tom Delonge, Tycho, Sigur Rós, all of these people are big inspirations.
First song you ever truly loved?
I would listen to a lot of A.R. Rahman growing up, because I feel A.R. Rahman is a genius musician. That’s the kind of Bollywood music I like — I like Rahman, I like Amit Trivedi. These composers work within the director’s vision to create music that’s in service of the film.
The Taal soundtrack, by Rahman, is one of the best soundtracks ever, in the whole world.
There’s also a film called Delhi 6, which Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directed, which has one of the best soundtracks ever.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Gulzar, Amit Trivedi, Amitabh Bhattacharya, and Anurag Kashyap in my career. Now, I hope to get to work with Rahman. He’s a genius.
What song do you want played at your funeral?
Uhm… I hope that people care about me enough that they’d create something original, I guess? Laughs. As opposed to just playing something off an iPod. This is getting a bit morbid.
What song do you want played at your wedding?
Hmm. Man, I don’t know if I’m going to get married. The whole institution, there’s something scary about it. But since I’ve been talking about the song, I’ll go with “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz.
There’s also a cover of the song Downtown, by this Irish singer, Lilla Vargen. I actually wrote to her saying, “I want to do a music video to your song.” Maybe I’ll go with her version. It’s romantic.