Anil Kapoor recently completed 40 years in Bollywood. And his inexhaustible repertoire was well summed by daughter Sonam Kapoor on her Instagram handle. She wrote, “40 years and counting…
looking back moving for ward ont othe next decade”. What’s more, recently when social media went ballistic digging out old photos for the 10YearChallenge, Anil gave it a special twist. The superstar shared video clips of his four films, spanning four decades, from Ram Lakhan (1989), Taal (1999), Slumdog Millionaire (2009) to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019). He wrote, “Forget the 10YearChallenge, take the AKChallenge!” Truly, Anil Kapoor, at 62, is his own competition. Fit and fabulous, he’s a one-shot edition. Excerpts from an interview with the actor, who can still create Total Dhamaal at the box-office.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (ELKDTAL) and Total Dhamaal… released in the same month yet again proving your timelessness…
It’s just a coincidence. It wasn’t planned. If I like a story, I just do it. It’s a blessing in disguise that people got to see two different characters back to back. Ek Ladki… is special because I worked with Sonam (Kapoor) for the first time. I worked with Vidhu (Vinod Chopra) after a long time too (after 1942: A Love Story in 1994).
Every film is special or else I wouldn’t do it. Sometimes, it’s special because I’m doing something, which I’ve never done before, sometimes because I’m doing it for a friend, sometimes because I’m working with actors I’ve never worked with before. I find reasons to stay motivated and excited on the set and in front of the camera. That’s been my aim always.
What message does Ek Ladki… give?
The film makes you laugh, smile, brings a lump in your throat and makes you think. For me that’s enough. I never view things thinking whether they’re politically right or not. I just try to do my best and make my character as watchable, as real, and as believable as possible. Firstly, my director has to be happy and then it goes to the audience. If they’re happy then that’s it.
How did you approach your character Balbir in Ek Ladki…?
Balbir is the opposite of the person I am. I’m a liberal, secular person. I’ve never been judgemental. I have friends belonging to different religions. My best friends have been Muslims and Christians. I’ve some great gay friends too. I’m equally excited to visit a church, a mosque or a temple. I’m equally excited to eat Christian cuisine, Peshawari biryani. I enjoy Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali… dishes. I love wearing Pathani suits and kurta-churidaar just as suits. Balbir, on the other hand, is a moderate. But ultimately he listens to his heart and does what’s correct on a human level. He might be living in a small town. But he’s someone with whom anyone, anywhere in the world can identify.
How was it working with your daughter Sonam for the first time in Ek Ladki…?
I was waiting for an opportunity to work with her. Being in the same profession, if you get an opportunity to work with your daughter, it’s a blessing. Father and sons have worked in the past but a father-daughter working together is rare, at least in India. Sonam and I spent a lot of time together on the set. We were also planning her marriage during that time. So, the timing was perfect. In between shots, we’d go to the van and discuss things. (Smiles) No one knew that the wedding planning was running parallel to the shooting in Chandigarh.
Okay, what did you learn from Sonam?
Sonam’s so giving, so generous and spontaneous, which is wonderful. Everyone likes her. Everyone whom she’s worked with has great things to say about her. It makes me proud of her.
And the credit goes to…
Well, it goes more to her mother (Sunita Kapoor).
Are you excited to work with son Harshvardhan in the Abhinav Bindra biopic too?
Yes, I’m looking forward to it. It’s an exciting story but it has to be planned correctly. I’m waiting for the script to be done right.
As an actor Harsh is making unusual choices. Do you advise him?
No no, you can’t. Everyone has his own way of handling things depending on the person you are. That’s the way we’ve brought up our children – to be fearless, independent, individualistic and follow their own dreams, make mistakes and let people make fun of you. People make fun of everyone. That’s their joy. He has chosen a tough journey. But the end result will be solid. Because he’s doing something which he believes in. People keep telling me ‘Arrey usko bol na yaar commercial picture karne ko, we want to work with him’. I say approach him, if it’s good he’ll do it.
By the way, what’s commercial and what’s not commercial? What could be more commercial than Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Mirzya too was commercial on paper. It didn’t do well. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya too couldn’t have been more commercial. Anyway, water finds its own level. It takes time. It’s easy to go the common path but it’s not easy when you’re individualistic. Also, why does everyone have to be a superstar? Just do good work and stay happy.
It must have been a pleasure working with Madhuri Dixit in Total Dhamaal again…
This again is a coincidence, not planned. It just happened. When I work with a co-star after a long time, I realise how much I actually missed working with him/her. Otherwise, everyone is busy with family, work and everyday issues. When I worked with Madhuri I felt, ‘Oh God, our chemistry! Working with her is so special’.
As an actor you’ve managed to blend well with the new generation.
I don’t want to get into this ‘old’ and ‘new’ discussion. (Laughs) It makes me sound dated. I don’t think about these things nor do I analyse them. I take things as they come. It’s organic. You just have to move with the times. Be it professionally or personally. But when you move with the times, it doesn’t mean you forget your old friends and colleagues. My guest list is the same. It’s not changed with time. Few new guests may have been added that’s all.
So, how do you explain your inexhaustible zest?
I guess it’s not about energy, rather about the love for what I do. I believe in staying positive and not getting bored. You must remain grateful for your family, friends, work… and then everything falls into place. You’re energised automatically. Sometimes the energy may dip when things go wrong as while playing chess or solving a jigsaw puzzle. So, when you feel positive, understand that things around you are going correctly. You can’t fake the energy. More so, for 40 years. I pray it remains like that.