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Janhvi Kapoor Talks Headlining 'Roohi', Bollywood's First Major Release Since Indian Cinemas Returned To Full Capacity: Q&A

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EXCLUSIVE: For Janhvi Kapoor, playing the lead role in the first major Bollywood film to hit Indian cinemas since they returned to full capacity earlier this month is a nerve-wracking responsibility. The movie, the horror comedy Roohi, has pressure on its shoulders to paint a rosy picture of the Indian box office market when it releases March 11, particularly while the wider country continues to make a remarkable recovery from the pandemic.

This kind of genre cinema has not historically been a big deal in India, but it is gaining traction, as evidenced by the buzzy reception to 2018 pic Stree, which was made by Roohi producer Dinesh Vijan. In the new film, Kapoor plays a woman possessed by a witch who can only be cured by marriage. As you might have guessed, it promises to have a cultural point to make, which the actress discusses below in an exclusive first chat with Deadline ahead of the release.

The actress also tells us how she "underestimated" the reach that VOD platforms now have in the traditionally theatrical-first nation, a lesson she learned after her biographical drama Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, in which she plays an airline pilot, pivoted to Netflix during the lockdown. She does, however, remain committed to the big screen. Kapoor also discusses the pressures associated with being from a dynastical Bollywood family, and what she hopes to achieve in her own career.

DEADLINE: How does it feel to be the star of a film that, given the circumstances, feels so important?

JANHVI KAPOOR: Honestly, it's making me extremely nervous and anxious. I am not sleeping very well. People are asking me this question every second of the day and I am so scared someone is going to jinx it. I really hope it works out - communal viewing in theaters is such a big deal and has been such a part of our culture since the start of time. I would hate if it died out because of the pandemic; we need to keep it alive, but we need to be as safe as we can and take all the precautions we need.

DEADLINE: Tell us about being an actress during this pandemic.

KAPOOR: It's been confusing. I was supposed to have three theatrical releases and instead I had one Netflix release [Gunjan Saxena] this past year. That wasn't what I expected, but it taught me a lot; it taught me that nothing goes to plan and you need to be OK with that.

Honestly, I underestimated the reach of OTT platforms. Having my film come out on Netflix, I realized you get such a global reach, it was a lovely experience. We've all been through something collectively and I think this has united us - I hope we come out of it better human beings.

DEADLINE: How does it compare, releasing a film online versus in theaters?

KAPOOR: A digital release doesn't make me as nervous as a theatrical release. The pressure of numbers, i.e., box office, is less when you are online. The producers have made their money and you have given it your all.

DEADLINE: The comedy-horror genre isn't historically that highly regarded in Indian cinema, but we have seen more films of that ilk recently. Is it growing in popularity?

KAPOOR: It is! In the past 2-3 years I've seen a lot of them. It's a wonderful genre, all the jump-scares as well as the comic-relief aspects. I love them for the adrenalin rush. Especially when you get to watch it communally in a theater, it's a wonderful experience.

DEADLINE: The trailer looks wild [watch it below, English subtitles can be enabled]. Was this one fun on set?

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