Unconventional Hero

As 24 goes on air this weekend,Anil Kapoor explains why he adapted this iconic show for India

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:October 4, 2013 2:17 am

When it first aired on American television in 2001,Fox Network’s new series with an unusual title became an instant hit. It was post 9/11,and 24 had the country hooked for eight consecutive seasons. Its thrilling plot,spinning around assassination attempts,cyber attacks,biological warfare,spies and agents,government corruption and nexus,global terrorism and family ties,had the audience on the edge of their seats. The viewers admired its unconventional hero,Agent Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland).

The series not only revolutionised American television,it ended up being the longest running espionage-themed TV drama ever. “It has a universal format and is relevant to our country too,which is why I decided to adapt it,” says Anil Kapoor,who is all set to play Jai Singh Rathod in the Indian version of 24 that goes on air on Colors on October 4.

It was during the promotions of Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 that Fox approached Kapoor to play President Oman Hassan (of the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan) in the eighth season. “I was in two minds. In India too,I keep getting offers for reality shows as a judge,but I’ve always refused. I took the risk,and had a blast,” he says. The professionalism,the acting,and the scale,says Kapoor,was “simply terrific”. Floored by the show,Kapoor decided to buy its rights. He says that channels want 24 to succeed because they,too,are looking for a change.

Once on board,the challenge was to infuse Indian sensibilities into the show. Internationally,the strength of 24 lay in its well-etched characters and edgy writing. So,writers Rensil D’Silva and Milap Zaveri were roped in with Abhinay Deo (of Delhi Belly fame) as directors. “Every episode is like an hour-long film. It all happens in real-time and with a regular use of split screen,” says Kapoor. Casting was easy for “everyone had seen 24 and everyone wanted to be on it”. The toughest,however,was bringing Jai Singh Rathod to life. “Jack Bauer is 24 and 24 is Jack Bauer. Keifer Sutherland has done nothing else but 24 for last nine years,and I’ll be happy if I can achieve even 60 per cent of that,” says Kapoor.

The actor went on a strict regime that included boot camps,strength training,dropping seven kilos,meeting Indian agents and learning how to shoot. “In many ways,I am similar to Jai. He is always struggling to strike a balance between work and family,and for the first 30 years of my career,I did the same. I was consumed with films till I realised family is more important. It’s they who’ve motivated me to do 24,” says Kapoor.

As for his upcoming projects,Kapoor will be seen in Rajkumar Santoshi’s untitled film and as a middle-class salesman in Abhishek Sharma’s Sharmaji Ka Atom Bomb.

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