What's Age Got To do With It?
They scaled the Everest at 48, ran a marathon at 54 and found love at 61. Here are some amazing stories of people who dared to chase their dreams when the world said it was too late
Anil Kapoor has played an invisible man in Mr India (1987), a good-guy-gone-rogue in Tezaab (1988) and the loveable idiot in Ram Lakhan (1989). He’s won a National Award, several popular trophies and has been that rare thing: a darling of critics and the masses. He’s been a hero for 36 years and starred in more than 100 films. You could say he’s had a full career already.
But at 52, when most actors think of retiring, playing doting daddy here, ageing tycoon there, Kapoor decided to change the game. He signed up to play a smarmy, unlikeable game-show host in Danny Boyle’s Hollywood
film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The film picked up the Best Picture Oscar, won Kapoor a Screen Actor’s Guild award and opened up a whole new world for him. A key part in Mission: Impossible —
Ghost Protocol (2011) followed, along with a whole season on the hit American show 24.
Kapoor is modest about his late-stage plot twist, and attributes most of it to “being at the right place at the right time.” But for someone who has been in Bollywood since he was 23 (acting first as a leading man, then a character actor), breaking into a new industry, presented some unusual challenges. “In Bollywood, if you are a leading actor, you’re only good in patches in a movie. You know you’re there in every frame, so you think if you don’t give your 100 per cent in one scene you can make it up in another,” he explains. “In Hollywood, you only have some three scenes. And you have to get noticed in them. I started treating my three lines of dialogue as 300, and behaved like a newcomer, just cramming all the time.” The one-two-ka-four star would sit with his diction coach for five hours every day, polishing his work. “When you are not the leading man, it’s nerve-wracking. And that was my biggest fear at this time. I just didn’t want to mouth the lines. I wanted to give them layers. My coach became my sounding board.” Starting from scratch made him more alert, says Kapoor. “After years of acting on autopilot, it made me more focussed and alert. I started enjoying the art of acting.”
Kapoor regards his Hollywood career as a dream come true. He says the smartest of all his decisions was to “shed his ego”. “I have always had longevity in my mind — I am like a marathon runner, not one who runs a 100-metre dash. You should do what you have to do before anyone tells you to do it. They shouldn’t be saying ‘why are you still dancing like an actor?’” Despite the hard work that went in preparing for his Hollywood roles, Kapoor doesn’t forget to credit his international success to his Bollywood training. “They are shocked at how well we deal with emotion as actors,” Kapoor says. “Because as Indians we are so much more expressive and have so many layers, so we can play so many characters.”
The cameraman for 24 once walked up to Kapoor and told him that he was like a classical singer. “He said ‘I can tweak you however I want. You have all the highs and the lows perfect’.”
Kapoor is showing no signs of slowing down in Hollywood or on home territory. He recently played the uptight Punjabi father in Zoya Akhtar’s hit Dil Dhadakne
Do (showing off silver hair for probably the first time in his career).
He also made a guest appearance on the animated American TV show Family Guy, and is prepping for the second season of the Hindi version of
24. He’s also working on an Indian adaptation of the critically acclaimed sitcom Modern Family. “The key to remaining relevant is to just keep moving on. I don’t remember any bad patches in my career, because before I knew it was a bad patch, I was on to the next film. I never look back.”
‘‘After years of doing it on autopilot, I started enjoying the art of acting”
Anil Kapoor broke into Hollywood at 52, when most of his peers were playing papas in Bollywood