In this month’s Court Martial, we grill Anil ‘Jhakaas’ Kapoor on various topics, including his undying fascination for Hollywood films…
Are you upset that your brother’s dream project, the Mr India sequel, has been derailed because he roped in the original director Shekhar Kapur who has decided to first make his dream project Paani with Yash Raj Films?
I just think everyone should have the same kind of commitment towards the sequel that they had while making the original. Once that happens, everything else will fall into place. With the kind of branding, the content and the people attached with Mr India 2, I don’t think it can ever go into wrong hands. If it’s getting pushed, if it changes hands, if someone else directs it, it will be for the good.
But the trade is sympathising with your brother who hasn’t made a film in years. He was about to embark on this one and it doesn’t seem likely to start before the next two or three years.
I don’t think Boney needs sympathy; he is a strong man. He doesn’t accept defeat or feel miserable easily. He will work out a solution. Mr India 2 will not start till everything is right.
How come did you agree to work with Abbas-Mustan for Race 2 when your daughter’s first outing with them, Players, bombed so badly at the box office?
I was always committed to Race 2. Mine is one of the few characters that move from the first film to the second with some progression. Abbas-Mustan didn’t approach Sonam directly for Players. They came to me. I didn’t find anything wrong with their film and so, I gave her the go-ahead. So what if it flopped? How unprofessional would it have sounded if I walked out of a film because the directors of that film cast my daughter in a film of theirs that unfortunately for all of us tanked?
You were shuttling between Race 2 and Shootout At Wadala almost simultaneously. The roles are obvious opposites of each other. Isn’t it difficult to switch because people start living in their characters and speaking like them sometimes if they’re too dark or too funny?
Thankfully, I’m not a cop in both films. I’m a club owner in one and a serious, verbally abusing cop in the other. One is a light-hearted, slick and good-looking film, while the other presents me in a role of a lifetime where I play a real cop. I know that a lot of actors find it difficult to switch between their characters and sometimes even start behaving like their screen personas, but that doesn’t happen to me even if switch 10 roles in a day. We have to learn to cut off between our real selves and reel selves.
Didn’t your kids mind you being paired with Ameesha Patel who is dressed in clothes inches above her knees throughout the film?
Ameesha is playing a cute and sexy girl. She’s a talented actress. They know she was playing a role and not really trying to titillate their father (laughs). After working with her, I firmly believe she hasn’t got her dues. She has maintained herself really well. She’s our Paris Hilton. This film will give her career a strong push.
Lately, actors from 1970s,’80s and ’90s have emerged as strong second leads. Rishi Kapoor for instance. He plays an array of roles. Do you feel even you could do something like that?
Rishi Kapoor is in a class of his own. He is someone everyone and every generation of actors must learn from. He’s so effortless on screen. I’m nowhere close I think. He has achieved hell of a lot as a romantic hero and today, he is proving to the world that he was worth a lot more. He has set such a benchmark for the heroes of the 1970s and 1980s. Even Amitabh Bachchan. For me, these men are in a league of their own. I have a long way to go.
So, what is it that Anil Kapoor now looks for when he’s offered a project?
At the moment, I want to work with young directors. And young is to do with thoughts, not age. I want to work with people who offer me a role that pushes the bar higher for me. While signing a project, I’m driven by the potential an idea carries and the character I’m offered to play. New thoughts always bring newness to the film and an actor’s work.
You’re an actor who has been to the West and worked in the East too. But your critics often recall that you had a small part in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, and laugh about it. Doesn’t it hurt?
I’m non-reactive to them. But I was actually surprised for the first few days after the film released in India that why have those tongues not started wagging. (Smirks) They have to criticise because they have no other work and no achievement of their own. Shekhar Kapur had told me that no role in the west is ever considered small. Every part is crucial to the plot.
When do you plan to host your friends Danny Boyle and Tom Cruise in India next?
Over a period of time that I’ve been meeting and interacting with them, I’ve realised they are personal and private kind of people. They don’t like their visits to their friends’ houses to make news. I have to respect and maintain their privacy whenever they choose to visit my house next.
With Shootout At Wadala, do you expect yourself to take home a National Award and silence some wagging tongues?
I’ve won three National Awards in the past. But I won’t say I’d not like to have another one. I’ve also won an award from The Screen Actors’ Guild which is a big deal for an Indian because the panellists there are actors from around the world. India doesn’t have such a system of awarding talent which has come from abroad. Do you think an Indian film with Americans, Africans and Japanese will fetch its actors an award from India? I’ve been fortunate.
As a producer, we’re yet to see more films coming in from your company. Aisha was years ago.
My daughter Rhea has been looking into film production. She’s gearing up to make announcements for her next projects. She’s quite secretive about her work and doesn’t like to speak before time or anyone speaking out of turn.
There is still confusion in the market whether Aisha made money. Was it a hit or a flop?
You’re right, there’s still confusion about Aisha whether it made money or not. PVR and my company decided to stop pumping money to promote the film after its release. We didn’t pay newspapers to carry articles about how much money Aisha had made. It brought us so much respect. Everyone benefitted from the film. Sonam, Rhea, Abhay Deol, the director Rajshree Ojha. We decided to stop marketing the film after a certain time because if we did that, we would have run into losses. We made money, everyone did. And we put a full-stop to it.
In an interview to Stardust, Sonam Kapoor had stated that ‘Even Abhay Deol benefited from Aisha, he might deny it. But the fact remains that it was his first commercial solo hero project!’ Your comment?
There are certain topics which have been sucked by people dry. I don’t allow or like to see people using my kids or my name to promote themselves. Today, every actor’s PR machinery works overtime to keep him or her in the news. I don’t want to provide fodder to other actors’ PRs to use my name or my family’s name to promote their clients. For me, that topic has ended long ago. Let’s not get there please!
Fine! Today, do you think you have the tenacity to be a producer and deal with all odd errands which most producers run while making a film?
I can’t do chamchagiri for an actor to cast him in my movie. I’m straight and I prefer keeping business straight. And I can’t stand actors who accept or reject a film and ensure they grab gossip magazine headlines for that. I’ve cast Akshaye Khanna in three films of mine. People wonder how. But let me tell you, he and I share a common passion for cinema. And I’m clear I want to work with such actors only. Once Akshay Kumar had asked me why I wasn’t asking him to work with me. I just told him, “Dekh bhai, main kisika chamcha nahi hoon. I need the same kind of passion in an actor. If we have that, we’ll work together.” I can’t beg and plead, neither will I lick an actor’s feet to cast him.
I can’t stand actors who accept or reject a film and ensure they grab gossip magazine headlines for that. I’ve cast Akshaye Khanna in three films of mine. People wonder how. But let me tell you, he and I share a common passion for cinema. And I’m clear I want to work with such actors only. Once Akshay Kumar had asked me why I wasn’t asking him to work with me. I just told him, “Dekh bhai, main kisika chamcha nahi hoon. I need the same kind of passion in an actor. If we have that, we’ll work together.” I can’t beg and plead, neither will I lick an actor’s feet to cast him.
Your show 24 took long before it was officially announced. Where was the problem?
There was no problem ever. I could have made a flashy announcement about 24 whenever I wanted. But I chose to remain silent till my work was ready for the world to see. Colors channel made the announcement and I honoured whatever they asked me to do. I’m still busy working on the show to ensure there are no loopholes.
This year was superb for your family. Sridevi made a comeback and Arjun made his debut. What do you make of that?
Arjun deserves whatever he’s got. He’s got our goodwill and our blessings by his side. His mother is watching over him from the heaven. He’s made the family proud. He should just maintain it and not let it hit his head because that’s when an actor’s downfall begins. Sridevi’s comeback was overwhelming for all of us. She effortlessly sacrificed everything… her name, her stardom, her status. She left when she was at a peak. She made every effort to become part of the Kapoors. She committed herself to the family, stood by it through thick and thin. Not once did she look behind and crib about what she had lost in the bargain. I hope she never changes as a woman. God has been kind to her for that effort she made to make all of us her own.
You paired up with Madhuri Dixit, another hot co-star of yours, recently on stage. Why are you not planning a project with her?
It was so good to team up again! Our magic was visible on stage because I have never really burnt myself out with any leading lady of mine. Madhuri and I left it at a peak. Pukar was our last film together and we took home a National Award. It’s not like people didn’t want to see us and we were still going on. Today, I want to work with her again, but it doesn’t have to be a romantic film. I had planned to cast her in one of my productions, but Disney shut shop and the film didn’t happen. I would still love to cast her in a good role.
We haven’t spoken about your son Harshvardhan. Is he planning to direct or act?
Harsh is young and he is still trying to figure what he wants to do. I don’t want to rush him through things. You never know he may want to become a writer and an actor together. He’s too young, but he’s already written his first script and he’s extreme;y passionate about it. I think more than working for my company; he wants to be on his own.
Subhash Ghai is making Kanchi with Rishi Kapoor. Did he approach you as well?
No, he didn’t approach me. But I’m confident that he’ll come up with the year’s biggest blockbuster. He’s an immensely talented man.
Do you watch Comedy Circus and other shows where contestants mimic you and your dialogues? Do you enjoy them or you want to give them a tight slap for being nasty?
They imitate those who are popular and have a distinct style. If they imitate me, I guess they find me worthy of it. What’s there to slap them? Or feel bad?
Sonam and Rhea both are fashion conscious, did they try to change your wardrobe when they grew up or after they became a star?
Of course, they have so many suggestions to give. They’ve always had a great sense of styling and fashion like their mother. Sunita is blessed with a great sense of dressing. She and my girls have never let me get it wrong ever!
Do you take advise from your kids? Or it’s your way or the highway at home?
I take their advice all the time on my clothes. They control my life to be honest with you. I don’t control anything at home.
Would you like to see Sonam settled in with a nice man anytime soon? Or you want her to work as long as she wants?
I don’t interfere with any of my children’s lives. They’re grown-ups. I’d let them decide and let me know. We’ll figure.
And do we see Sonam and you in a film together?
Ek jhakaas script to aane de!