Ask Anil Kapoor about his son Harshvardhan making his debut as a lead actor in Mirziya next year, and the proud father is quick to point out that his daughter has already been a leading lady in Hindi films for some years now. This is followed by a throaty laughter that most of his followers are familiar with. Also, a youthful exuberance that the tee-and-jeans-clad actor, with his well-trimmed stubble, wears like a badge. But, he does ponder over this for a moment to say, “At times it does feel surreal. This makes me believe that I have done something right in my career.”
Basking in compliments for his turn as a self-obsessed and manipulative entrepreneur on the brink of bankruptcy in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do, Kapoor says, “I can be philosophical and talk about luck and destiny, blessings of parents and being at the right place at the right time. But there is also a lot of hard work involved. Nothing has come easy; there has not been a single year when I have not given my best.”
After a career spanning over 35 years and 100 films, Kapoor remains every bit as dedicated to his job. However, one thing has changed — he doesn’t fret much over the scale of his success. “There is no stress of delivering a bigger hit or being a bigger star. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I just have to better my performance,” says Kapoor. Did he always have this kind of equanimity? “Of course not,” he says, “I would be lying if I say that I did not aspire to be the biggest star of the country.”
However, what dissuaded Kapoor from a being part of the race to the top was his wish for “longevity” as an actor. The actor-turned-producer says that he was conscious of the fact that he would get bored or burnt out if he kept doing the same kind of work.
“Since I love acting more than the money, I wondered what I could do. I decided I would rather earn less money, even if it might affect my stardom, but get good roles,” he says. This made him dabble in different genres. In the ’90s, he acted in films such as Lamhe, 1942: A Love Story,
Virasat and Taal while in the following decade he did Nayak, My Wife’s Murder and Slumdog Millionaire. Today, he believes, directors approach him because he is a good actor. “My stardom is a bonus for them,” adds Kapoor.
Throughout his career, Kapoor believes that he has constantly fallen back on his instincts to make his choices. “My intuition whether I should work with a certain director has mostly been spot on. At times, it is safer to play the same role again and again. But I have often tried to raise the bar and do something out of the box, of course, with the help of writers and directors,” he says. To take these decisions, he has often trusted his “native intelligence”.
What’s interesting about Kapoor is his rare candour. “I’m not qualified academically. I went to college but did not study. You can say I am an 11th pass. However, I was drawn to people who were intellectually superior to me or people from whom I could learn things about literature, poetry, theatre or business,” he says. For Tezaab, which gave a huge boost to his stardom, there was no script initially. “It was just an idea. But I had by then seen N Chandra’s Ankush. So, I said yes. My intuitions paid off with Chandra, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and others,” he says.
While most top actors have six-packs and their machismo to market, Kapoor has rarely flaunted these — not even when he saved the day in Mr India. Yet, at the age of 58, he has remained amazingly sprightly and youthful. “I love to be fit and energetic,” says Kapoor.
The success of Slumdog Millionaire brought Kapoor international exposure and newer opportunities. A year later, he appeared in American thriller 24, the Indian version of which he eventually produced. Post the success of 24 in Hindi, he wants to repeat the feat with Modern Family. “I want to be part of its cast too. Once we have a a creative head, I will pitch myself for a role in it.”
While he strongly believes that international television has become very dynamic, his passion remains cinema. Kapoor, who turned producer in 2007 with Gandhi, My Father, will announce three upcoming films as a producer.