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Two decades ... and still going strong

Careerwise, things have not been looking too good for actor Anil Kapoor in the recent past. But his next release, "Rishtey", could change all that, as he tells SUBHASH K. JHA.

A sincere approach to every role ... with Pooja Batra in "Viraasat".

ONE THING that can safely be said about Anil Kapoor is that he has withstood the test of time. While fads and fashions have come and gone, he has maintained a firm grip over audiences' imagination. In the new millennium, when a new generation of actors has staked its claims to stardom, Anil still manages to hold sway. Never mind if his last few films haven't made the cash counters jingle. He remains a simple guy, surprisingly free of vanity.

The Mumbai press has constantly portrayed him as an over-ambitious go-getter. In person Anil is caring and warm, almost like an anachronism in the cutthroat world of showbiz. On a Monday morning four days before the release of his latest film Anil unwinds and rewinds.

Is "Rishtey" a remake of "The Champ"?

Indra Kumar makes films in his own way. There's an element of "The Champ" in "Rishtey". I play a retired street fighter. It is a very important film because it's my third release this year. If it does well, the memory of the two previous flops would be wiped off.

What was it like working with Karisma Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty in "Rishtey"?

To be honest nowadays the girls just do their work and go their way. I live with the film even after shooting is over. The girls are right in their attitude. They have so many other commitments.

So is finding co-stars a problem?

Right now, yes there's a vacuum. But I find tremendous potential in Kareena Kapoor. I'm doing a film with her produced by my brother. It's called "Bewafaa." She has a fabulous role.

What kind of a role are you playing?

I play Kareena's husband. I play a tycoon like Michael Douglas in "Wall Street." It's a strong character role.

So how was it working with your two co-stars in "Rishtey"?

I've worked with Shilpa earlier. Karisma was in "Biwi No.1" but not opposite me. In "Rishtey" I got to sing songs with her, though there was not too much of running around trees.

Why do you think "Naayak" didn't work at the box office?

It didn't perform as badly as it was made to seem. Everyone involved recovered investments. It was sold at a very high price. And though it may sound improbable, I feel 9/11 affected the film. Naayak released on September 5. I'm not saying it would've been a super hit. But if it were not for September 11, "Naayak" would've been a plus film. After the terrorist attacks everyone was glued to television at home. Also, I feel the fantasy element in "Naayak" disappointed audiences. The Tamil version, which was a big hit, came a couple of years earlier. I guess audiences' tastes change every six months. But I enjoyed every bit of "Naayak". Everyone I meet liked the film.

In spite of doing varied roles why do you think, of late, your films aren't working?

It's true some of my recent films haven't worked commercially. My performance in "Naayak" and other films did work. Maybe I chose the wrong scripts in "Badhaai Ho Badhaai" and "Om Jai Jagdish". In a sense I belong to the old school of acting. I consider the director to be the boss. I go with his convictions.

Where would your career have been without Boney Kapoor's supervision?

Commercially, I wouldn't have been that successful. He definitely made me commercially savvy. Otherwise with my looks and personality I'd have been nowhere. If it wasn't for Boney I'd have spent all my energy being an actor instead of a star. I feel doing commercial cinema is far more difficult than doing realistic films. I'm not crazily finicky about my roles. But I'm selective. And no matter what I play I try to make it as sincere as possible.

Isn't it time for actors of your generation to try another kind of cinema?

I do it all the time. If Nicolas Cage goes from an Oscar winning "Leaving Las Vegas" to "Face/Off" so can I. And I've done some very offbeat kind of commercial films.

So are you a great strategist?

I just go with my gut feeling. Failure doesn't scare me. I'm ready to be called a flop actor for six or eight months. After that everyone changes his or her mind.

What's the most exciting project you have on hand?

Right now I'm really looking forward to Sudhir Mishra's "Waapsi". It is an emotional thriller about a man's search which brings him to Kolkata. We shot all over Kolkata. What I like about this film is, I don't play a super-hero... just an ordinary man. Sudhir has his own unique vision. He's one of our most under-estimated directors. And then there's Honey Irani's "Armaan".

You have an author-backed role in that?

No I think it is everybody's film. Amitji and the two girls Preity Zinta and Gracy Singh are also very important. I love the way it has been made. The unit was wonderful. We wrapped up "Armaan" in just three months. I am playing a doctor for the first time.

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