MUMBAI On his official fansite, Ram Kapoor is described as one of Indian television's most "scrumptious leading men". He's the much-loved star of a daily soap, playing a tycoon who finds love.
Kapoor is turning 40, is portly and hardly fits the stereotype of a romantic icon, but his admirers disagree. On social networking site Twitter, starry-eyed fans beg for retweets and meetings while on Facebook, women confess to dating men who are just like him.
"Bade Acche Lagte Hain", on air since May 2011, is one of the most highly rated daily soaps on Indian television, and features Kapoor as a middle-aged tycoon who finds love in a marriage of convenience. His onscreen romance with Sakshi Tanwar has earned them many fans and the moniker of RaYa (Ram and Priya).
But Kapoor, who studied at the Stanislavski school of acting, isn't content. He's trying to move to the big screen, carefully picking roles that he says will take him to the top in Bollywood.
In "Mere Dad Ki Maruti", which opened in cinemas on Friday, he stars as a bad-tempered father in a role similar to the cameo he played in last year's college romance "Student of the Year". In 2010's "Udaan", his role as the sympathetic uncle of an angst-ridden teenager was much appreciated.
"In television you don't get to show that much diversity because you are playing the same character for a long period of time, but in films I constantly try to choose very different projects and different roles," Kapoor told Reuters.
But in spite of wanting to make it big in the movies, Kapoor is sure he won't be playing the lead in a Bollywood film any time soon.
"I am not under any illusions that just because I'm a big star in television I'll get fantastic roles in films," he said. "That would be the stupidest mistake I could make."
But Kapoor is willing to do roles that will set him apart from the idealized households on television.
"In TV, they want to be able to relate to what they are seeing because they are seeing it every day in their living rooms and bedrooms," he says. "In films, they want to forget their reality."
Kapoor has worked in films from time to time, but his key to success has been the Indian soap opera. He was first noticed for his work in the 2006 soap "Kasamh Se", a long-drawn-out affair that lasted for three years. And he doesn't see "Bade Acche Lagte Hain" ending any time soon, given its consistently high television ratings.
But Kapoor doesn't want to rest on his laurels.
"I had that choice," he says, when asked if he was tempted to stick to television.
"If I want to just keep making money, the easiest thing to do is to continue doing television but if I want to grow as an actor, then I'll have to try as a character actor in films."
Kapoor says he allots 15 days a month for TV shows and the other half for films, but admits it may take him "at least ten years" before he makes it big in Bollywood.
But in a film industry where outsiders and especially actors from television are rarely given chances, it is unusual for Ram Kapoor to be in demand.
Ask him why and he has a clear answer: "I am very clear -- it takes no inhibitions."
"You have to be open to anything, to be starting from the bottom and only then if you are lucky then you might get a shot," says Kapoor.
"But if you come with the attitude that you are a big shot in TV and ‘I will get there' then pack your bags, go home and become a carpenter."
It is this attitude, a willingness to work hard and his inherent charm that makes Ram Kapoor tick.
"He's such a nice guy and such a great actor," says Ashima Chibber, the director of "Mere Dad Ki Maruti".
"Don't we all have fat dads and uncles? He's so gregarious and fun," she says. "You have to love him in the end."
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Tony Tharakan)