Directed by Shakun Batra, Kapoor & Sons starring Alia Bhatt, Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra will hit the screen on March 18. The film also star Dadu aka Rishi Kapoor. Actor Rishi Kapoor, 63, feels the need to keep up with changing times. In an interaction with the actor, he talks about reel and real Kapoor & Sons.
Your next film is titled Kapoor & Sons. How much of the Kapoor khandan is reflected in the film?
Only the title. It fans my ego. I have done a film titled Chintuji, and now Kapoor & Sons makes me feel it is named after me. But I am glad I got a chance to work in this film, where I play a 90-year-old grandfather. It was one of the reasons I agreed to be a part of the film.
You look unrecognisable in it, and the audience already loves that.
When Karan (Johar, producer) and Shakun (Batra, director) came to me, I told them I wanted to be made up by Greg Cannom, a three-time Oscar winning artist whose work I admire. The film is made on a small budget, but the makers agreed. But it was easier said than done. When we did the look test, it took close to six hours to put the make-up on. I knew it would take that many hours for the 30 days of shoot. Everyone who knows me thought I won’t be able to do it because I am a very impatient man, but I surprised everyone.
Was that to prove a point?
I had to prove the man behind that face, not my patience. The makers had put their faith in me and I had to justify the look and the money spent on me. I will feel validated only if Rishi Kapoor, the actor, can justify the character.
Does Rishi Kapoor still need validation?
Every actor requires validation. I am nervous as hell every time I am on set, wondering if I shall be convincing enough in front of the camera.
Did the prosthetics burden you or aid your craft?
They gave me a new level of excitement and done up as an old man, I started to feel the age. The make-up was like my second skin, and the lines looked real. It wasn’t heavy and any twitch of facial muscles showed through the make-up. The only impediment was the eyes — an old man’s would be dilated and greyed. So we used lenses to cover up. But it was the character that was the most fun to play.
You play the head of a dysfunctional family.
Mr Kapoor is most concerned about how he will look when dead. But he is a dirty old man who watches porn and smokes weed with his grandsons and is obsessed with Mandakini of Ram Teri Ganga Maili. But he has a simple desire — he wants a family portrait before he dies so he can put it up on the wall and write below, ‘Kapoor & Sons, since 1921’. Working on it was fun, but I also fought a lot with my director for the first time in 44 years.
Was it the generation gap?
I am extremely malleable as an actor, but I also know how to get away with doing things the way I want, even if the director disagrees. But Shakun, who is a new school filmmaker, wanted to shoot my scenes from every angle because the medium is digital now and editing softwares allow several options. I agree with the craft, but I am sorry, I am old-school. I cannot recreate the moment at every angle. I am spontaneous and not a method actor. I may be mediocre, but I need my groundwork to be correct. I have to fine-tune myself to suit current times but I’m not sure I will be able to. That said, Shakun’s done a fabulous job and added to the spectrum of roles in my second innings.
You call it a second innings, too?
Now is when I am acting. Isse pehle toh maine sirf jersey pehen ke gaane gaaye hain, kabhi Switzerland mein, kabhi Ooty mein (Before this I have worn a jersey and only sung songs in Switzerland or in Ooty). Contemporary writing has given me the opportunity to play characters as diverse as Rauf Lala of Agneepath and Duggal of Do Dooni Chaar. It took a month of convincing before I took up Rauf Lala, I was unwilling to believe I could look menacing, but it happened. The truth is, I am jobless as we speak. We need to allow screenwriters the space to experiment and I hope that when films such as Neerja or Piku are written, makers think of casting me. If that doesn’t happen, I am happy supervising the construction of Ranbir’s house, which begins in 10 days.
Do you feel sentimental about this bungalow?
Well, yes. I have spent 25 years here, my kids grew up here. But we have to bring down the bungalow in order to construct a new one that will accommodate Ranbir and us. That said, I do have a tendency to hold on to things. Just two days ago, Neetu and I had a squabble because I wanted something to be moved to the temporary apartment, but she didn’t want that. I have always lived in a bungalow and now I wonder if I will manage in an apartment, but then I realise I have lived long enough in hotel rooms during shoots, so an apartment shouldn’t be a problem.
How different is filmmaking now from the time when you started?
Earlier, filmmakers worked with an edit pattern in their head because films were expensive. Today, stunts are less risky and technology has changed. I also feel we shouldn’t completely veer away from song and dance. It’s part of our culture — humaare tyohaaron mein, janam mein, maran mein sangeet hai (We have music in our festivals, in birth and in death).
What hasn’t changed is that acting is still what defines success. The young crop needs to understand that however much one hits the gym, six packs won’t make them a good actor. It’s the muscles of your face, not abs, that really matter. Today, stylised acting is unacceptable. In my youth, I wanted to practise Balraj Sahni’s style of acting but it didn’t work. The only actors today doing it and pulling it off are the Khans — they are the last of the titans.
Do you constantly feel the pressure to stay in step with the times?
Over time, you realise it is the only way. Last month, I was invited to one of Delhi’s top colleges to speak on cinema. I prepared myself with numbers, statistics and also information about how the industry works. But when the time came for me to speak, the audience had only one question: why did Ranbir and Katrina break up. Mere pairon tale zameen nikal gayi. I thought to myself, ‘These are the brightest minds of this time, but gossip and glamour is all they are interested in.’ I am used to this now, I can negotiate an answer but I also realise that times have changed. Back in my day, I wouldn’t have been able to live in with Neetu if I wanted to. If I don’t move with the times, I will lose the connection I share with my son.
Is being active on Twitter part of the same effort to keep yourself up to date?
Anushka Sharma had introduced me to Twitter when we were shooting for Patiala House, but last year, Abhishek Bachchan got me active. I found it interesting and fun — it allowed me to be candid. It’s not a compulsion though. Earlier, when I would have time, I would smoke. Now that I have kicked the butt, Twitter has replaced it. But I have started to become wary and guarded. I cannot be politically incorrect as I am an artist. I am secular but I often get projected otherwise. People say I have converted, which is stupid, but even if I have, what is it to them? Cinema has taught me to be secular, I visit mosques and dargahs and also churches.
What do you mean when you say cinema has taught you to be secular?
I’ve acted in one of the most secular films, Amar Akbar Anthony. Which other film has three people donating blood to a fourth person at the same time? That film defies every logic. In it, my wife Neetu’s character holds Parveen Babi’s wrist to her ear and diagnoses her as pregnant. If people clapped at such stupidity, it’s because Manmohan Desai was a magician of a filmmaker who showed all this with such conviction. That film’s a cult.
What of the plans to revive the RK Films banner?
I don’t see why that would happen. If Ranbir turns producer, he will launch a banner under his own name, why would he go with his grandfather’s banner? It’s what my father did, too. He didn’t launch Prithviraj Kapoor Films. Dad used to say, and he is right, that there is no love lost in more than three generations. I feel an attachment for Prithviraj Kapoor because I have seen and known him, but not for his father. Similarly, though Ranbir owes everything to his great-grandfather, he feels no practical connect with the man. That is the miracle of god — our memory is created in a way that it dulls over time. It is the only way humans will be able to deal with grief.