‘I still feel young'
Having won rave reviews for his role in the award-winning show “24”, veteran actor Anil Kapoor talks of his three decades in Bollywood and the after-effects of “Slumdog Millionaire”.
Photo: Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Going global:Anil Kapoor in “24”.
In times when controversies and sensationalism are deemed boosters of shelf-life in Bollywood, it is astounding how Anil Kapoor hasn't let his inner compass sway to the pulls and pushes of nearly three action-packed decades in the world of glamour. Even at 50, he exudes the enthusiasm and passion of a newcomer at every new opportunity to push the envelope. Riding high on the global visibility that the part of Prem in “Slumdog Millionaire” earned him, Kapoor is now playing a lead on the eighth season of Fox's Emmy and Golden Globe winning show “24”. “The best addition (to the show),” wrote the Hollywood Reporter in a recent preview, “is Anil Kapoor…he owns each scene he's in.” Shortly before leaving for the show's Red Carpet premiere in New York, Kapoor spoke about what keeps him going.
Despite unkind murmurs back home, “Slumdog…” has opened up new opportunities for you.
“Slumdog…” will go down in the history of world cinema as a globally appreciated, path-breaking film. Whatever criticism one heard here came from a very small quarter and has since died its own death. I don't think anyone anywhere in the world took it seriously. The film has opened up great avenues for everybody connected with it. It has provided me exposure of a scale I could never have imagined and taken me well beyond the diaspora circuit.
Given your vast body of work in India, hasn't this happened rather late?
It's destiny. I personally feel the time is just right. I can handle it much better now. I have seen it all, so I can detach myself and take better decisions today. I can avoid the mistakes I made in India.
Your role in “24” is earning rave reviews in the American media.
This role wouldn't have come my way without “Slumdog...” How could anyone have imagined me playing a middle-eastern president, trying to broker a peace deal with the U.S.? All my scenes are set in the United Nations and I share the screen with the American president's character. I was signed for 10 episodes, the contract was later extended to 16 episodes and I am being paid for 17 episodes. (laughs)
The serial has reportedly evoked protests from a certain community for its stereotypical portrayal of terrorists, so much so that Indian-American actor Sendhil Ramamurthy refused a role in it. Were you concerned?
I'm not aware of this. But indeed the first thing on my mind was that I wouldn't play a stereotypical Indian or middle-eastern character. The role is that of a liberal and positive character, and has multiple dimensions and layers. The reviews you've read are the result of the first few episodes. The role gets even stronger further on.
Should Hollywood be viewed as the ultimate recognition for an Indian artist?
In any field, be it business, sports or governance, when one succeeds nationally, the next goal is to secure international recognition. Who wouldn't want to be known globally? Debating this is clearly a case of sour grapes. I am sure shows like this will open the doors to more opportunities abroad for deserving artists and technicians from India.
Yours is among Bollywood's longest innings. As director Subhash Ghai says, you are “getting younger each day, and more endearing”. What do you attribute this to?
In a way, I am blessed by my genes. I still feel very young, positive and energetic. Experimentation and variety have been the leitmotifs of my career. I look forward rather than backwards. My reactions to successes and failures are momentary. I just move on. To me, more than the money, it is important to take care of myself. I've weighed between 75 and 77 kg for the last 25 years. That's no less an achievement than my bank balance. I enjoy great relationships with my peers, which has to do with my upbringing and the values that were instilled in me as a child. My wife has been a great influence too. She keeps me grounded.
For long, you were averse to endorsing products. But these days you're seen in a TV commercial. Why the shift?
One has to change with time. I was especially moved by the offer when I learnt this was the first time that the luxury brand I am endorsing had chosen to work with celebrities. Besides, it involved my daughter who believes in endorsements. She convinced me to do this. Earlier, I used to do four or five films simultaneously and time used to be a constraint. In addition, today's ads are creatively and aesthetically far better than their predecessors.
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