Still in the race

Still in the race


Still in the race

Anil Kapoor is an actor who defies age. He has also been a trendsetter of sorts since his early days in Bollywood. Rajiv Vijayakar speaks to the actor on his latest role of a cop in the recently released ‘Shootout At Wadala’.

Anil Kapoor can really be a journalist’s nightmare: there are days when he is a little better than a clam, and others, when he is so voluble you have to struggle to keep up. The only recourse left to a journalist is to make a silent prayer that the day we meet finds him in good humour, because you can never ignore the man.

His disciplined lifestyle finds him barely aged since the last 15 years, and he still looks young and fresh, maybe a couple of years older than he looked in his breakthrough film Woh Saat Din (1983). It’s been 34 years since he started out in a cameo in the 1979 Hamaare Tumhaare (starring Sanjeev Kumar and Raakhee), 33 since his debut in the Tamil Vamsa Vriksham, and 31 years since the Hindi Rachna, his small-budget debut as a leading man.

The years seem to have vanished in a jiffy, and Anil is still around, doing centric roles, like that of an encounter specialist in Shootout At Lokhandwala, his international assignments Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol, a serial abroad named 24, and now the lead in the last-mentioned show’s Indian adaptation.
Films in his kitty

His track record finds meaty roles right from his debut through films like Mashaal, Saaheb, Meri Jung, Mr. India, Tezaab, Ram Lakhan, Parinda, Eeshwar, Lamhe, Virasat, Judaai and No Entry, as well as character roles in which he made an impact, like Biwi No. 1, Welcome and the Race franchise.

When we meet up this time, the actor is a queer mix of the pompous and the matter-of-fact, but in a hurried interview, he still imparts weight.

Asked how different was it to portray a real cop in fictionalised form in Shootout At Wadala after playing diverse ‘reel’ cops, he replies, “It was challenging. My character of inspector Afaque is based on a real cop, inspector Isaque, who took on the mafia in the 70s when goonda raj was rampant in Mumbai. The morale of the police was very low as crimes, including rape, were the order of the day. In such cases, while information on the real character may be easy to obtain, it is inevitable that my performance and I will be compared to the real person.”

He chuckles when asked what research he did for his character and mischievously states, “I have not even read the book Dongri To Dubai on which the film is based. All the research was by Sanjay Gupta, who has directed the film.”

Since the film is set in the 70s, when Kapoor started out, we want to know how much he was concerned then with the law and order situation as a citizen? Still in the wry and dry humour mode, Kapoor declares, “To be honest, I wasn’t into all that. I had interest only in myself. I was more interested in when I will get my next film, a good director, an apartment, and a girlfriend.”

On a more sober note, he adds, “Seriously, that’s the truth. I have never been the one to portray a wrong self-image. Saying politically correct things may sound nice for a while, but I think truth sounds nicer.”

Having worked with Sanjay Gupta before in Musafir, how would he compare him nine years ago with now? “Sanjay, in this film, is far superior to what he was in Musafir. He’s lived this film for over two years. It’s real, Indian, and very universal in appeal, while Musafir was westernised and very dark.”

His comfort level with John Abraham, he says, reminds him of the 10 films he did with buddy in real life, Jackie Shroff, who has also come into this film for a cameo.
Innovative actor

He visibly preens when told that he was a trendsetter in many ways. Besides being the first filmmaker-son to make it big — like Aamir Khan and others now — he revived the South remake trend in a big way in the 80s and 90s. “Yes, I did. See, people follow me,” is his repartee to that.

One more point — it was Kapoor who, in the 80s, pioneered the concept of working less to maintain the look needed for a film. He preens again and makes a sweeping and eloquent gesture with his hands. “Aur log mujhe bewaqoof samajhte the (they thought I was an idiot) because I did that. They termed me boring. But if you do not do consistent good work and act in good films, how will you earn and maintain respect? I prefer to be focussed rather than prolific. That leads to a good body of work. I went after the impact of my roles, not their length, like accepting the parallel role in Taal.”

He drawls, “Cowards get scared of competition, the courageous find it healthy. If you do good work, you will always be in demand, though sometimes the best of people fail.”

How much does he get involved in his roles? “That varies from film to film,” he states. “But, basically, I am a director’s actor. And if I am playing someone similar to my own temperament, the effort needed is much less.”

Is he close to any of his good movies that he thinks did not deserve to flop? “I move on after doing a film — I can’t let hits or flops affect me. But yes, I would like to mention Lamhe — it deserved better.”

Kapoor has had most of his filmmakers repeating him, and he has never been short of assignments. He shrugs off the first as a compliment he will not comment on, but has a gem of an answer for the latter: “I got more assignments when my films flopped.” He explains, “Probably the producers felt that I was more accessible after a flop. That’s psychologically correct, right?” We do not reply to that.

About the paradigm changes during his long haul, Kapoor feels that budgets have skyrocketed and action sequences in particular are more expensive, though a lot safer. “Things are more professional, and like me, more heroes are doing lesser number of films and concentrating on the appearances needed for their characters and shooting movies at a stretch,” he says. “The bad thing is that there is too much emphasis on money and on recovering it anyhow.”

About 24, all Kapoor will state is that it is a realistic serial that is relevant because it has been ‘Indianised’ well. The characters are also very powerful. “But this is not the time to talk about it. For that, we will meet again,” he drawls.
The Anil Kapoor interview has ended.

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