Saimi Sattar sat down for a chat with Actor, Anil Kapoor, who will be seen next in Total Dhamaal.
Actor Anil Kapoor Kapoor is conversing with the chef and asks him to send some meethi chutney to accompany the really delicious Delhi samosas. Eating fried, oily snacks is quite contrary to the idea of the actor’s diet, who seems to have drunk from the fountain of eternal youth, but he lets us in on his mantra. “The body is like a bank balance. It needs a certain number of calories to run. If you’ve burnt more calories and eaten less, then you have the bank balance which can be withdrawn when it is needed. Today is one such day when it is okay to indulge myself,” says the actor, who, except the fine lines and creases here and there, looks not a day older too when he had made his debut in 1979.
Dressed in all black, he is promoting his new film Total Dhamaal, where he reunites with Madhuri Dixit, his popular co-star of the 90s. “It has been a long career. I have been quite lucky. And there is the bonus of being able to work with beautiful girls like Madhuri,” he guffaws.
As to what kept him invested in the adventure comedy film, he tells us, “First of all, I laughed reading the script. That did it for me. This is an ensemble cast and the biggest advantage is that the entire film is not on your shoulder, which reduces the pressure. As a result, we enjoyed acting in the film more and did better. This is also apparent in the trailer and people are liking it,” he says. And the subject of mature romance worked well for him and Madhuri. “When you are younger, you can take the pressure because you are fresh, the songs are great and as a pair, you are also looking good together. We are not Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt. We should stay in our auqat.”
Of course, he points out that there are other factors that prove to be clinchers. “The script, director, co-stars, producers, distributors, and the money make me decide,” says the 62-year-old. But whichever genre he is working in, preparation is essential. “In today’s time when the stakes are so high, every detail including performance, dialect design, art, and clothes have to be prepared in advance. If you are prepared, your work will be faster, easier and better.”
Having worked in comedy franchises quite a bit, Kapoor believes that the foremost role is played by the writers. “Only a few people can work on punches and understand them in a manner that it works pan-India, with people from villages to those in the cities, students, children, intellectuals. The dialogues should make everyone or at least 70 per cent of the population laugh. These days there is a surfeit of comedy for various categories of audience, be it TV, YouTube and even stand- up acts. So in a film, you need to add scale and adventure. We have got in an animal farm like scenario in Total Dhamaal, which is not possible in a TV show, for instance, to make sure that people feel that they’ve got their money’s worth,” he says.
Kapoor feels there are as many styles of comedy as there are directors, writers and actors. “Chameli ki Shaadi was situational. Indra Kumar does a combination of situational, gags and physical comedy. Similarly, Priyadarshan is different and so is Rohit Shetty or the old guard like Basu Chatterjee and Hrishisda. Directors need to have a sense of humour inherently and that makes a difference. Their thinking, the way of writing and the editing can make a comedy work or fall flat. The physical comedy that Jim Carey does was fantastic. The way Ben Stiller works is different. Steve Martin, Mehmood, Kishore Kumar traverse similar territory. Amitji is more poker and physical while Govinda and Johnny Lever have their own streetsmart way of executing it. Coming to the writers, the kind of comedy that was penned by Kader Khan was distinct.”
Kapoor is categorical that if the writing is flat, then even a Charlie Chaplin or Laurel Hardy cannot make a script work. “Gags have to be well-written and thought out. When the writing is good, it is easier for the actors,” he says and goes on to give the example of American show Modern Family as brilliantly written.
We rely on his experience to talk about the progression of content in cinema and inevitably talk revolves around Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. “The audience is evolving. The educated, sensible youth of the country are exposed through the internet and are engaging with sensible content.” And he loves the next generation. While most actors do not like carrying work back home or vice versa even when they have spouses or parents from the industry, Kapoor has no qualms admitting that shooting with his daughter Sonam was a blast. “During the shooting of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, we were preparing for marriage and in between shots we discussed everything related to it,” he says of the film which she suggested to him. Even earlier, while choosing his international outing Slumdog Millionaire, it was his son Harshvardhan, who pushed him. As for his much-acclaimed TV series 24, he went with his wife Sunita’s gut feel. “When we started 24 about seven to eight years ago, I had trouble explaining to people that there can be a season and a daily soap is not necessary. I had to convince the producers that we could pitch it well for TV and if the casting was good with mainstream actors like me, then people would accept quality content on Indian TV. I wanted a certain amount of money because I knew I couldn’t make it in a lesser amount,” he recalls as he keeps his fingers crossed for a third season of the show.
The fast-paced show won a lot of fan following. “Some people even said it should be slowed down because it was so edge-of-the-seat,” he says. But there are other problems too while shooting in the series format as opposed to a film. “There are 24 episodes which represent an hour in one day. While the films are for two hours, the content that we needed for each episode is 40 minutes which adds up to 20 hours for the entire season. That means 10 films in a year! It was strenuous and a roller coaster ride. Sometimes we even worked for 18 hours.”
Besides the content, another way that Kapoor has seen the industry change is the way it treats women. He believes that #Metoo has changed the work environment. However, he believes, “I was fortunate to work in films where there was a healthy atmosphere. Whether it was my Telugu debut as Bapu in Vamsa Vruksham (1980) or with MS Sathyu with whom I was a part of Kahan Kahan Se Guzar Gaye, our assistants and newcomers were women. In Parinda, Renu Saluja was the editor and she controlled everything. Much later in Ayesha, Rhea was the producer and she was 21. On the sets of Veere di Wedding, I had to look for a boy as there were 50 girls. In this film, the photographer is a Japanese girl. We are consciously creating an atmosphere.”
Writer: Saimi Sattar