Talking to Anil Kapoor is like taking a joyful rollercoaster ride. Ask him anything and he’ll amuse you with some of the most honest and bindaas answers you can get from anyone. Sometimes he won’t respond seriously, deliberately aiming to make you laugh. At times he goes off at a tangent and gives you new insight into what he is all about. Anil doesn’t mind being probed, because he has a positive reply for almost anything. Currently promoting his soon-to-release thriller with director Priyadarshan, the 53-year-old says that he’s still fit enough to do an action film. And apart from his exercise and balanced diet, it’s his state of mind that has helped him survive the tough world that is Bollywood.
“I don’t think about how many hit films some other actor has had or whether someone else is getting paid more than me. You can’t compare yourself with the neighbour and say ‘Oh, he’s got a car while I am still taking the bus’. He might actually be sad on the inside. So you work hard and leave the rest be. You build your bank balance in a different sense. Exercise, eat good food and enjoy yourself, but don’t go over limit.” The conversation has been kick-started. While Anil’s career is still going strong (and global), his daughter and now his nephew have already entered the film industry. Ask him about the youngsters and he sets off….
A Kapoor boy is making his Bollywood debut after a long time. The last time a Kapoor made an entry was way back in the 90s, when Anil Kapoor’s younger brother Sanjay decided to take the plunge. So Anil is super-excited about seeing his nephew Arjun on the big screen in Ishaqzaade. “I’m excited about Arjun’s debut. He looks great. From the promos and trailers that I have seen, there’s an ease in his performance and he looks very comfortable in front of the camera. He looks good! Aakhir khoon kiska hai (who’s blood does he have after all?)! I think he’ll be fantastic,” he insists.
Ask him what he likes most about the lad and he says, “Honestly, I will be biased. I’ll like everything about him. He’s a family member, after all! Sonam, Arjun and Rhea have grown up together. They are all my kids.”
Mona Kapoor shared a special relationship with Anil and his family, and he regrets the fact that she couldn’t see her son become an actor. “She touched everybody’s life. We miss her. May her soul rest in peace. I wish she was alive to see her son’s debut,” he rues
The Kapoors seem to have one mantra: they never launch their own children. “Arjun wasn’t launched by Boney Kapoor. Sonam was launched by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I wasn’t launched by anybody,” he says and gets nostalgic when thinking about his struggles, back to the time when he was trying to make a mark in Hindi films. “I used to run around offices with my photographs in my hand. At first I was a kid among 25 kids, or a guy among ten friends onscreen. Then I did Telugu and Kannada films. Then I did a film called Prerna, which was shelved halfway. You may not know this, but I even did a film,Rachna, which again got canned. What you will remember is a Woh Saat Din or a Mashaal. But you wouldn’t know all the things I had to do before I could find a Woh Saat Din.”
Even though Anil is proud of his humble beginnings, he doesn’t feel that his daughter is having it easy in the film industry. “Star children have to work hard. Her struggle is different from mine. People expect a lot more from you if you are celebrity kid. Sonam has to fight a lot. The thing is, people love underdogs. Even if star children do something good, people will say ‘No yaar, isme dum nahi hai’ (No, she’s not convincing enough). When I came in people said, ‘Yeh Amitabh Bachchan ki chutti kar sakta hai’. They said that after my very first hit! It never happens that way, but because I was an underdog so logon ne mujhe chane ke jhaad pe chadhaya (people flattered me no end). I was sensible enough, so I didn’t lose it.”
Though Anil feels that it’s natural for people to criticise his daughter, some of it is unwanted and harsh, he says. “After Saawariya and Delhi 6, people said she should wear modern clothes. They asked why she was playing behenji roles. When she wore fashionable clothes in Aisha, people said she should go back to her earlier characters. It’s a passing phase. You shouldn’t take these things too seriously. She is sensible enough to understand that. It’s all media made. She has her own struggle because she is my daughter.”
Anil is, in fact, quite in awe of his daughter’s sense of fashion. “She has inherited it from her mother. I am a Chembur boy, I have no sense,” he smiles. “She has an inherent sense of style. She has a great aesthetic sense when it comes to beauty and clothes. She has groomed herself after Saawariya. Stars like Tom Cruise can’t believe she’s my daughter when they see her on an international platform like Cannes. They are shocked that she is Indian. She’s has an international personality in the way she walks. It can’t be taught. Not everybody can do it and some people get jealous. What to do; kuch to log kahenge…” The proud father is now gearing up to produce another film under his banner with Sonam in the lead, based on the book Herogiri.
Anil Kapoor’s wife Sunita has always been a private person. While most star wives are seen as arm candy to their husbands, she chose to stay away from the limelight, quietly doing her own thing. “Unfortunately or fortunately you can’t talk to my wife. She took the decision to stay away from the media a long time ago, unlike some who talk the media for years and get all the publicity and then decide to go off the media. By that time they know they will be followed.”
You can always expect Anil to be straightforward. He says it just as he sees it. But we ask him if he ever prodded his wife into being more media friendly. “She feels like it’s her world and she does not want to share it with anyone. Her world is her family and her kids. All she wanted to do was to raise the children and educate them. She wants to go to Dadar to buy flowers or to Crawford market to shop without having to think twice She wanted to go to school or to the court without being noticed. Recently when there was a stupid case filed against us by the BMC, she went for the hearing because I am Anil Kapoor and I can’t go there. Nobody recognised her. She has sacrificed a lot too. She did a lot of things herself.”
Anil admits that he was able to focus on his work only because of Sunita. “Agar use bhi photo khichvane ka shauk hota (if she was someone who was fascinated about being photographed), it would have been difficult. She is a very good housewife, which I think is a much greater profession. She has also been doing her own work related to fashion and jewelry. She was a working girl when I met her. I was kangal (broke) then; she was the one who was earning.”
Harsh is still a student. He is studying screenplay writing in LA. He wants to be a writer. Writing is tough work. You have to isolate yourself from the world. An actor has a lot more support in the form of the director and other actors. He has chosen a noble but difficult profession.
Ask him if he credits his good health to his wife, who made him lose 22 kilos some time ago and he says, “I really believe that there is a woman behind every successful man.” What does he think he has been able to give her as a husband and here’s what he comes up with, “I am so handsome and good looking. Chirag leke dhoondegi tab bhi nahin milega koi mere jaisa. She likes everything about me. She kisses the ground I step on.” He goes into a fit of laughter.