Anil Kapoor, fit and busy as ever, talks to Harshikaa Udasi about the many projects on hand including Shootout at Wadala and TV series 24
His looks belie his 50-plus years and with those fitness levels, he can easily give the young ones in the industry a run for their money. As senior actor and producer Anil Kapoor traverses the country as ACP Asaque Bagwan (fictionalised, but based on the life of ex-cop Isaque Bagwan who had helmed what was reportedly Mumbai’s first-ever encounter killing of underworld goon Manya Surve), he has the assurance of a man who knows he has hit the nail on the head once more. The second of the three Kapoor brothers has been on a career high globally post-Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and with his recent Bollywood masala film Race 2.
Late last year, he had decided to bring the international TV series 24 to India and has since been busy in putting together the Indian version of the LA-based anti-terrorist agent’s life. With him playing the lead in it, not just as producer but also the protagonist, Anil Kapoor has busy days ahead of him. He has announced that he will inaugurate his own studio called Stage 1 with his TV show sometime in June. As of now, the promotions for Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout At Wadala are top of his mind, and he begins the interview by realising it’s his first-ever Muslim character on screen!
It’s an interesting character to play — Mumbai’s first encounter cop.
Yes, I portray Inspector Isaque Bagwan and in the entire 40-odd years of my life, this is incidentally my first-ever Muslim character. He will go down in history as the first encounter cop of Mumbai. Asaque is upright and honest. He loves his city, his country and he’s a tough-as-nails cop. And, he is supremely fit! I needed to work extra hard on this aspect.
It seems to have paid off. You are looking as good as the other cast of the film.
To tell you the truth, it’s a big thing to be at the receiving end of comments like that. The final sequence in the film, which is taken from real life, is shot at a college. That’s where the final shootout happens. The story goes that both gangster Manya Surve and Inspector Isaque had gone dressed as college students to camouflage themselves. For me, to pass off as one was quite something! For that particular shot, and it was quite a long drawn one being the climax, I had to be on an almost liquid diet. I lost six kilos for it. It’s a scene you should watch out for.
What kind of preparations went into the role? Most of the incidents are documented in Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades Of The Mumbai Mafia.
The advantage I had over the others in the film was that I actually got to meet ACP Isaque Bagwan on whom my character is based. Isaque had once come to my house to invite me for a wedding. This was prior to the film. After I signed Shootout At Wadala, I met him again at his office and later at his home too. I told him I had been chosen to play him and he was very happy. I also told him that part of the film would be fictionalised; after all, we weren’t shooting a documentary. He was absolutely fine by that too. In fact, one of the scenes in the film has been taken from another officer’s life. Hence we decided to change the name of our character. But meeting him gave me an insider’s view into what happened on that day in November 1982 and the events that led to it. He told me about what was the atmosphere like in those days, what Manya used to be like and what the system reaction was. I don’t think I could have got any better ground for preparation that his firsthand account.
Have you read Zaidi’s book?
(Laughs) In fact, it’s an old weakness of mine — not to read. If I hear something great about a book, I can listen to the audio version of it, but can’t read it to save my life! I find the exercise very daunting. I thoroughly enjoy my narrations and story sittings. You won’t believe it, when I hired an agent in Hollywood for myself to source work globally, I had a heart-to-heart talk with him and asked him to guide me about what I should do. I told him to tell me if I needed to improve in any aspect as I was new to the Hollywood set-up. The only thing he told me was, ‘Sir, please read the scripts I send you immediately. If you read them after three or four months, the role will go away to someone else.’ Sadly, in Hollywood no one gives narrations!
Don’t you think even Bollywood is now offering more challenging roles to its actors?
Yes, it is. Not just those of male actors but even female roles are getting challenging. It had to happen. There is a new crop of writers and directors who are exploring new genres and even the third generation coming from families of filmmakers is studying abroad and infusing fresh ideas. They are moving away from the formulaic films and new stories are giving birth to newer characters. It’s a great time to be an actor in India.
How’s work on 24 going on?
Oh it’s quite a task to produce an international show and adapt it completely to a new region. I am blessed to have a wonderfully able team to handle it. Abhinay Deo (director) is working on all aspects of the show but I am hands on on the work.
We should be able to go on air by next year subject to the channel’s decision. I have set up a new studio that will begin work with 24.