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Marathon man

TOP OF HIS GAME:Anil Kapoor is the producer and lead actor in one of Indian’s television’s most ambitious TV shows, 24.  

In about six months, Anil Kapoor will turn 60. Only he looks like a 40-something movie star, and has the vigour and zeal of a 20-something newcomer. For 37-years Kapoor been a constant presence in Hindi films; he has also been an integral part of a multiple-Oscar-winning film ( Slumdog Millionaire , 2008), a Hollywood action franchise ( Mission:Impossible Ghost Protocol , 2011), and is the producer and lead actor in one of Indian’s television’s most ambitious TV shows ( 24 ).

Not a bad track record, for someone who didn’t create any ripples in Bollywood when he debuted with a small role in the Sanjeev Kumar-Rakhee starrer, Hamare Tumhare (1979).

The struggler, the risk-taker

“At the beginning of my career, directors like Mahesh Bhatt would say, ‘he works too hard’ or Manmohan Desai would comment, ‘He is an actor; he is not a star.’ And, these weren’t meant to be compliments.

He remembers contemporaries like Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor used to call him a thelawala actor: “That’s what they called ‘strugglers’ who used to hang outside Prithvi Theatre.,” he says.

All that name-calling didn’t deter him. Almost as if he knew exactly where he wanted to go and knew how to get there. “I always knew that I was here for the marathon and not the 100-meter dash. When everyone was playing the lover boy, I decided to first start with bit roles and then do films in the South (Telugu film Vamsa Vruksham , 1980 and Mani Ratnam’s Kannada film Pallavi Anu Pallavi 1984). Even my first role as a leading man was a South remake ( Woh Saat Din was a remake of the Tamil film, Andha 7 Naatkal ). From the beginning of my career, most of my decisions have been very suicidal,” he says, with his trademark loud, goofy laugh.

Films like Woh Saat Din (1983), Meri Jung (1985) and Karma (1986) got him noticed but it was Mr. India (1987) that shot him into the Bollywood stratosphere.

Thankfully for Kapoor most of his risks have paid off. Over the years, he has successfully balanced a Beta with a Lamhe , a Biwi No. 1 with a Virasat , a Race with a Slumdog Millionaire . Almost exactly a year ago, he played a grey-haired patriarch in Zoya Akhtar’s dramedy Dil Dhadakane Do . “Bollywood is all about the perception. To play a father’s role was a risk because people can start looking at you as someone who should only do fathers’ roles. There is a possibility that your choices start getting limited.”

Over the years, Kapoor’s criterion for being associated with a film or show has changed. He elaborates, “It’s not enough for the role to be exciting, the money to be good and I also want to work with nice people. I am okay with letting go of work if I am not happy with the people associated. I have to enjoy the journey now.”

24 time

He plays a father once again, in the second season of 24 currently on air, but his character Jai Singh Rathod is also the man responsible for saving India from impeding disaster much like his American counterpart Jack Bauer (played by Keifer Sutherland in the original show). This is the the Indian 24 ’s show’s second season, and Kapoor promises it will be ‘bigger and better’.

Kapoor owns the India rights for the show, and for him, “My main aim of doing 24 was that I wanted to do it exactly how it was done in the US. Whether it was the scale, the aesthetics, performances, technicians, it had to be the best there is. The intent is to make this content on the small screen better than what people would see in films. Obviously, it’s tough because we don’t have [those Hollywood] kind of budgets or time, but the drive is there.”

Apart from 24 , his production company also plans to remake Modern Family and Prison Break for the Indian audience. But it’s going to be a while before the shows air. He explains, “We haven’t actively started working on those two shows but whenever I get an opportunity, I talk to people about the shows to understand if they are interested in being a part of the show. It’s important for me that people who work on these projects don’t see them as cash cows or stopgap arrangements. They should want to genuinely be passionate about the project because I am.”

Busy days

It’s been a busy year for the Kapoor household. His older daughter Sonam is flying high on the success of Neerja, and younger daughter Rhea is starting her new production Veere Di Wedding . And in October and his son, Harshvardhan, will start his journey in Bollywood. Interestingly though, neither Kapoor nor his wife Sunita wanted their children to follow in his footsteps. “We tried our best to not get the kids in the movies. It’s a tough business that requires nerves of steel. It looks very glamorous from the outside but the reality is that it’s getting tougher by the end. But they have showbiz in their DNA,” he says, with a shrug.

‘Do what makes you happy’ was Kapoor’s advice to each of his children. He explains, “I started from scratch so I had to earn enough to support my family. I had to strike a balance between art and commerce. My kids don’t have to worry about that. I worked hard so they can experience the unadulterated joy of their craft and to express themselves without fear.”

For himself, he has Fanney Khan with Rayesh Omprakash Mehra, a film with nephew Arjun Kapoor that will be directed by Anees Bazmee and an adaptation of the 2010 action-comedy Red .

His life today is ‘beyond anything I could have imagined’ at the beginning of his career. “I am happy where I am today. I don’t equate success with my bank balance or the films I am doing but also with my family’s happiness and health. I have had a pretty good journey. I am hungry for more but I am also very grateful for what I have.”

The author is a freelance writer


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 7:33:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/Marathon-man/article14513236.ece

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