How closely are you associated with Mulk, a movie about a Muslim family trying to reclaim its social standing?
We are actors. We listen to a lot of stories and ideas. Somewhere, this idea rang a bell with me. I believed that this was a film one must do, not only because I play the patriarch of the family, the film’s protagonist, but also because there is a voice that must be heard. The film offers an inner truth. Mulk, by itself, doesn’t mean only nation or country to me. It denotes the consciousness of the people. We are responsible citizens of the country. The undercurrent that the film has is about how responsible we have to be. Ultimately, is it right what we are doing?
What was it about this story that clicked with you?
Mulk is based on true events. It’s the story of a family that is fighting to establish its integrity after an insinuation has been made against them. The family used to enjoy the respect of the neighbourhood but the attitude of the neighbours changed overnight after the allegation. Now, they have to fight to get rid of the terrorist tag.
This subject is topical for me. Today, there are cases of mob lynching taking place in India and there is cow slaughter ban. One community is being falsely held just because someone in the family has done something wrong. The whole family is implicated. I thought it’s not just about India, people from other parts of the world might also wish to hear the point of view of the other community.
You play a resident of Varanasi in the film. What’s your process when you take up a new role?
I’m not a Method actor though I respect that school of acting. I have not studied acting. I try and immerse myself in the look of a character. I try to look different in every movie I do, be it Do Dooni Chaar (2010), Agneepath (2012), Kapoor & Sons (2016) or 102 Not Out (2018). It’s very important for me to give shape to my character with the help of my director. I’m more of a spontaneous actor and play by the situation.
How far are movies successful in conveying the messages to the masses?
Movies are meant to send out messages and we have to make an attempt. Mulk tries to say that it’s unfair to judge someone without knowing the truth. Do remember, we are not trying to tell you what the solution to the problem is. Mulk is a dramatic film, with cinematic liberties. It’s a story that has been adapted for cinema. We, ourselves, don’t know what the solution is. The solution is within human beings themselves; we all are responsible. For repairing the damage that’s done, the nation is responsible and their social consciousness is responsible.
Is there a demarcation for an actor when it comes to entertaining and focussing on social responsibility?
I’m still an entertainer. Within the framework, however, if I can make a social comment, then it’s good. The movies made by my father (Raj Kapoor) and grandfather (Prithviraj Kapoor) carried social comments, too. So did movies made by BR Chopra and V Shantaram.
Are you nostalgic about the earlier days in the industry?
I do get nostalgic. Life was much simpler, it was simpler to work in films. Audiences were more forgiving. Today, it’s a tall order. Audiences expect a lot from you and you have to be on your toes. You have to give your best. Today, actors have to be very adept at their skills. It’s no longer a field of mediocrity.
With such diverse platforms for entertainment coming up, does everyone have a chance to survive?
I hope so. Everyone should get a chance. They should continue to work in the long run. I’m working for the last 46 years. You have to be very conscious and, at the same time, sharp at work. That’s how you can survive. You can’t survive on nepotism. I’m not running in the industry for 46 year because I’m Raj Kapoor’s son. Ranbir (Kapoor) is not working for the last one decade because he is Rishi Kapoor’s son. It’s not my fault that I’m my father’s son. Yes, it has its pros and cons. People have a lot of expectations. I am not complaining. I am proud of the fact that I belong to this family. I am very proud to say that God has been very kind that the audience has accepted the fourth generation male actor (Ranbir) of the family even though my nieces (Karisma and Kareena Kapoor) were already successful. The Kapoors have contributed to cinema for nine decades.
Were you judged when you stepped into the industry?
The yardstick was my grandfather, father and uncles (Shammi and Shashi Kapoor). However, the audience found that I had my different style, demeanour and expression.
Do you try to shield Ranbir from criticism?
I’m his father. Of course, I’m protective about him. However, ups and downs are part of cinema. There is no actor who has a 100 per cent success rate.
Other than nepotism, male dominance in the film industry has been a hotly debated issue.
That has been there for a long time. Now, I have been told films are being made where female actors get equal pay, rights and prominence on screen. It depends on the subject and story. It’s the way it is. There is no push button that would reduce the male dominance. I agree that women should have equal rights.
Today, how do you look at your career in cinema?
I’ve done enough movies but, as I always say, ‘I’m still a student of cinema’. I’m learning everyday and imbibing other qualities from different actors. I’m teaching young actors. I want to be surprised by a good story or a character.
How has the content changed today?
In the 70s and the 80s, they were churning out lost-and-found stories. The audience was very forgiving at that time. Now, the audience has the world in their hands, thanks to the internet. The younger generation wants the best. So, in terms of technology and story, a movie should be the best.
What are the factors responsible for this change?
The factor responsible for this change is the multiplex audience. People of a certain section of the society watch movies only in the multiplexes. They can afford to do that. Their sensibilities are not the same as an auto-rickshaw driver. The multiplex audience is growing by the day. They want content-driven movies and different kinds of stories. That’s the reason actors like me have a job and a movie like Mulk has a 60-year-old as the protagonist. The audience is responsible for this change. However, a movie like Sanju or Dangal works for both the types of audiences.
Do we have better storytellers today?
We’re better storytellers earlier. Today, we are more dependent on technology. Earlier, there were dedicated storytellers and that drove home the point. Viewers were absolutely encapsulated by what they said.
Will you direct again?
I directed Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999). I don’t think I will direct again. It is too tiring. I want to keep acting.
Do you enjoy interacting with common people through social media.
Earlier, there was no opportunity of interacting with fans. Today, we come across all kinds of people on social media. There are trolls but they don’t bother me. They give me gaaliand then show-off that ‘Rishi Kapoor ko gaali diya’. You can’t stop the youth from exploring all kinds of formats on social media. You got to flow with the flow.