ANIL KAPOOR

on be­ing street smart, su­per cool and cash­ing in on Dubai

Friday - - Front Page - Pho­tos by Den­nis B Mal­lari

A nil Kapoor is 57. He looks 45. Not on screen, but up close in per­son. And it’s not just his face. He’s trim to the point of be­ing la­belled slen­der, and it’s hard to keep up with him as he lopes around the Gulf News Mag­a­zines of­fice af­ter his in­ter­view on Josh 97.8, not wait­ing for min­ders, and – shock! – open­ing doors for him­self.

The fact is, he knows what he wants and how to get it. If you need proof of how good an ac­tor he is, you don’t have to watch one of his bet­ter movies like his break­out in­ter­na­tional hit Slum­dog

Mil­lion­aire, or his much-ac­claimed Hindi films such as My Wife’s Mur­der (which he also pro­duced), Musafir ( Trav­eller) or

Cal­cutta Mail. You just have to watch him do a photo ses­sion in a stu­dio. He takes it as se­ri­ously as he does his films.

He comes with two wardrobe as­sis­tants, Deepak, his make-up man, and Jalal, his sec­re­tary in tow, with a set of for­mal and in­for­mal wear. He’s in make-up and dressed in less than 15 min­utes, and takes di­rec­tions from our pho­tog­ra­pher, Den­nis Mal­lari, with­out any signs of star­ri­ness.

As Den­nis shoots non-stop, Anil’s face takes on many ex­pres­sions – from amused to se­ri­ous, to quizzi­cal to smoul­der­ing anger, to out­right mirth.

If ever a film-maker wanted a screen test from Anil, he just has to see him at a shoot. He knows the pose, the an­gles and the stances, and just in case, he keeps call­ing out to Deepak, who jumps in with a mir­ror and comb, so Anil can ad­just his hair and check out the an­gle in ev­ery pose be­fore the shut­ter clicks.

“I’ve done this so many times,” Anil says con­fi­dently. “But I never take any­thing for granted.”

I’d wit­nessed a sim­i­lar in­stance when I last in­ter­viewed him way back in 1988 as he was just es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a mati­nee idol in the Hindi film in­dus­try. We’d had to fol­low him (he hadn’t yet ac­quired an en­tourage then) from stu­dio to stu­dio across Mum­bai through­out the day – he was shoot­ing three shifts (work­ing on three films si­mul­ta­ne­ously), and fi­nally was free only at 3am to do the photo shoot, at his house in Juhu, a sub­urb of Mum­bai.

His daugh­ter, Sonam, who must have been around two years old then, was wait­ing up for him, with his wife, Su­nita. The lit­tle girl started prat­tling away as Anil be­gan pos­ing for pic­tures.

He would lis­ten to her at­ten­tively, with his trade­mark face-split­ting smile. But his face would as­sume other ex­pres­sions dur­ing the shots, and this dis­con­certed Sonam, who would run to her mum, wail­ing, “Papa kyon smile nahin

karte?” (Why doesn’t Papa smile?). Anil would grin upon hear­ing that, his face trans­formed, and Sonam would sit back, happy again. There was not a hint of protest as the pho­tog­ra­pher, the late Taiyeb Badshah, kept click­ing away into the wee hours of the morn­ing.

Fi­nally, we had to call a halt – his wife and Sonam hav­ing long given up and gone to bed. I’ve yet to meet an­other ac­tor who’s so ded­i­cated.

Why would a film star who’s been there and done that, want to go through it all over again? There’s a rea­son why af­ter all these years Anil

keeps at it. He’s on the cusp of re­al­is­ing his dream of many years – launch­ing his own en­ter­tain­ment com­pany – and he’s in Dubai on a pub­lic­ity spree and for the mak­ing of Wel­come Back.

“I am go­ing to launch my en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, An­tila Ven­tures, in Dubai,” he says. “It will be a com­pany that has all kinds of ver­ti­cals – con­tent cre­ation for tele­vi­sion as well as films, state-of-art stu­dios, and will have in­ter­ests in In­dia as well as a pres­ence in Hol­ly­wood through my con­tacts there. The kind of ex­po­sure that I have had in­ter­na­tion­ally through my films there gave me the in­spi­ra­tion and courage to do this.”

It’s ob­vi­ous that it is much more than a van­ity project for Anil. He’s been plan­ning this for a long time now, and is de­ter­mined to get it right.

“I chose Dubai be­cause it is a young and pos­i­tive city, with a prime po­si­tion, both ge­o­graph­i­cally and lo­gis­ti­cally,” he says. “It’s only three hours from Mum­bai, and it’s di­rectly con­nected to Los Angeles as well as Lon­don, and other cities in Europe. My com­pany will have pres­ence in all these places even­tu­ally. So it made per­fect sense.”

The changes have been hap­pen­ing ever since Anil starred in the monster 2008 Hol­ly­wood hit, Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire and 2011’s Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost

Pro­to­col. Over the years, the mati­nee idol has stopped look­ing in­ward and is more open to the world and his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to it.

Last year, Anil starred

in Trapped By Tra­di­tion: A CNN Free­dom Project

Doc­u­men­tary. The film shocked the world. As a spe­cial con­trib­u­tor, Anil vis­ited Bharat­pur, on the borders of the western In­dian state of Ra­jasthan, and the cap­i­tal, New Delhi, where many young girls and women are sold into the sex trade, of­ten by mem­bers of their own fam­ily.

He has been in­volved in the fight against hu­man traf­fick­ing for sev­eral years through his af­fil­i­a­tion with Plan In­dia, an or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing to pro­tect chil­dren against abuse and ex­ploita­tion.

“I was sur­prised and shocked to learn that such prac­tices are go­ing on in this sup­pos­edly civilised world,” he says. “That there is a vil­lage in free In­dia, where women are sold into the flesh trade and men stay at home, and this is ac­cepted as the norm. Hu­man slav­ery in to­day’s mod­ern world is un­ac­cept­able and un­par­don­able. We should do what­ever we can to erad­i­cate it com­pletely.

“We had to cre­ate aware­ness and change the mind­set of the people in Bharat­pur – they had to un­der­stand there are other op­tions.”

Anil went to Bharat­pur and spent time with many young girls and women who fol­low the so­cially ac­cepted tra­di­tion of join­ing the flesh trade. In that par­tic­u­lar district, women have been forced to join the flesh trade by their own fam­i­lies, and now it is no longer a taboo.

“I found out that af­ter drugs and ter­ror­ism, this is one of the most

As a leader I had to set an ex­am­ple. So I chose to make some sac­ri­fices, so oth­ers would too

lu­cra­tive crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, and that’s the rea­son it’s so dif­fi­cult to put a stop to it,” he says. “There have been some changes over the years I’ve been vis­it­ing Bharat­pur, but not as much as I’d like.”

He at­tributes his al­tru­ism to Su­nita, who was a model and later a pop­u­lar jew­ellery de­signer. “My wife has al­ways been my an­chor,” he says. “She stays out of the lime­light, but is very much into so­cial ac­tivism and char­ity with some or­gan­i­sa­tions – es­pe­cially Plan In­dia.

“Af­ter more than 30 years to­gether [they were mar­ried in 1984, but knew each other many years ear­lier] some of her ac­tivism has rubbed off on me.

“I guess that’s why we’ve lasted so long – we have a very good re­la­tion­ship. I’ve been aware of her work over the years, though I was too busy with my ca­reer to get in­volved in it then. But af­ter I had es­tab­lished my­self, I felt that life had been good to me, and it was my time to give back.

“So, slowly I got in­volved with the char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions my wife was a part of. And when it was an is­sue that touched us all, I had to par­tic­i­pate and that’s how my in­volve­ment in Trapped

By Tra­di­tion came about.” The doc­u­men­tary was highly ac­claimed and went on to win the Gold World Medal in the Cul­tural Is­sues cat­e­gory at New York Fes­ti­val’s In­ter­na­tional TV and Film Awards 2012.

Anil still has artis­tic am­bi­tions to ful­fil, how­ever, though now he looks to tele­vi­sion for his adren­a­line rushes.

“I am more in­spired by char­ac­ters and roles that I’ve seen re­cently in some in­ter­na­tional tele­vi­sion shows like Kevin Spacey’s in House of Cards,” he says. “I’d love to do that role. I can carry that off pretty well. I did it in a small way in my Hindi film, Nayak ( Leader, 2001), but it was nowhere near Spacey’s role, which I feel is very well writ­ten and es­sayed.

“I was for­tu­nate enough to play the In­dian ver­sion of the Jack Bauer char­ac­ter played by Keifer Suther­land in the US ver­sion in my pro­duc­tion of

24. There’s great con­tent on tele­vi­sion and you feel much more cre­atively sat­is­fied when the writ­ing is good and you are able to give your best.”

It’s ob­vi­ous that for­tune had less to play in Anil por­tray­ing the role, than the ac­tor him­self. The oc­ca­sional pro­ducer donned the pro­duc­tion hat again to make his dream come true. In fact, he gave up al­most three years of his pro­fes­sional life and more than a cou­ple of block­buster films to re­alise the project.

“That was be­cause 24 was a mam­moth pro­duc­tion for me,” ex­plains Anil. “I was pro­duc­ing as well as act­ing in it and, in terms of scale,

it was some­thing that had not been at­tempted be­fore in In­dia.

“To con­vince the chan­nel and the team, both ac­tors as well as tech­ni­cians, to give their all to the project, I needed a lot of time and com­mit­ment from ev­ery­one, and as the leader, I had to set an ex­am­ple. So I chose to make some sac­ri­fices, so oth­ers would too.

“I had to re­ject some very big films, and I put al­most three years into de­vel­op­ing 24, but it was worth it. I learnt a lot, and hope­fully the sec­ond sea­son that starts shoot­ing later this year should be big­ger and bet­ter.”

Anil is now back mul­ti­task­ing and doesn’t have time to stand still. “I’d like to do more tele­vi­sion for cre­ativ­ity, and of course I’ll do films be­cause they pro­vide me the where­withal…” he says.

“People love me en­ter­tain­ing them with my comic roles such as the ones in Ram Lakhan, Chameli Ki Shaadi and

No En­try. I am also pro­duc­ing films that are dif­fer­ent, and I am for­tu­nate in that as a pro­ducer I can make an award-win­ning film like Gandhi, My

Fa­ther, (2007) that was con­sid­ered a sui­ci­dal move on my part. It is the kind of film no­body wanted to buy. But I felt that it was a story that had to be told. I like to take my chances oc­ca­sion­ally, with projects other pro­duc­ers wouldn’t dare to touch.”

The film ex­plores the trou­bled re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ma­hatma Gandhi and his son, Har­i­lal Gandhi, and won a clutch of awards in­clud­ing three na­tional awards.

The film in­dus­try was sur­prised when Anil chose to pro­duce such a film, given the fact that his pro­ducer brother, Boney Kapoor, is known to be a hard-nosed busi­ness­man not given to such flights of fancy.

Anil has al­ways been per­ceived to be in the shadow of his el­der brother, who is said to have mas­ter­minded Anil’s ca­reer from the be­gin­ning, and he’s been ac­cused of not do­ing any­thing with­out Boney’s ap­proval.

“Of course, I’ve al­ways looked up to Boney, and as a fam­ily we have done ev­ery­thing to­gether – me as an ac­tor and he as a pro­ducer,” he says.

“I would look into the cre­ative part and Boney at the fi­nan­cial and mar­ket­ing side. We were a great com­bi­na­tion and we made some good films to­gether like Mr In­dia (1987), Hum Paanch ( We Five, 1980) and Woh Saat Din

( Those Seven Days, 1983). But then we

have dif­fer­ent tastes, and while he may not have made Gandhi, My Fa­ther, I wanted to, and I did.”

Un­like many other stars, Anil doesn’t pro­duce films to act in them. “I don’t want to act in the films I pro­duce,” he says. “These films are my way of get­ting out of my com­fort zone and that’s one of the rea­sons I am launch­ing my own en­ter­tain­ment com­pany.”

For such a worka­holic, Anil doesn’t seem to have made a bad job of bring­ing up his chil­dren, ac­tors, Sonam, 28, Harsh­vard­han, 23, and pro­ducer, Rhea, 27. In fact, he’s known as the coolest fa­ther in Bol­ly­wood.

“I don’t say I’m the coolest fa­ther, my chil­dren say that!” laughs Anil. “It could be that be­ing an ac­tor, I can un­der­stand the psy­chol­ogy of my chil­dren bet­ter, than per­haps any other fa­ther.

“With to­day’s gen­er­a­tion, the more in­de­pen­dence you give them, the bet­ter it is. It de­pends on how they’re brought up. I can’t take the credit for that – my wife has brought them up.

“I don’t have to tell them what’s right or wrong – they know in­stinc­tively. They wouldn’t do any­thing to up­set us, so there’s no point in be­ing over­pro­tec­tive. I let them make their

I am still as hun­gry and ex­cited and scared and in­se­cure and ner­vous as I was when I started out

own mis­takes and learn from them.

“When Sonam came back from Sin­ga­pore af­ter her stud­ies and told me she wanted to ap­pren­tice un­der di­rec­tor San­jay Leela Bhansali, I was doubt­ful whether it would work out, though I didn’t voice my doubts.

“Later when they both came and told me she was to be launched as an ac­tress in his film, Sawariya, I sat her down and told her about the hard­ships and dis­ap­point­ments she was likely to face, go­ing from my own ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Af­ter that I al­lowed her to do as she wished, and she’s done quite well for her­self. I am very proud of her.

“The same with Rhea. She wanted to pro­duce films, and she’s the kind of per­son who lis­tens when I ad­vise her.

“Harsh­vard­han is very in­de­pen­dent, he has a mind of his own. Some­times I may feel they are wrong in some things, but I tell them to go ahead as it’s their life af­ter all, and maybe I just think dif­fer­ently. They have their re­la­tion­ships, but as long as they stick to the broad rules we live by, they are free to do as they wish. I guess that makes me the cool fa­ther!”

Sonam doesn’t go to Anil for act­ing tips. “But my son does say he’ll come to me for ad­vice once he’s es­tab­lished him­self un­der his own steam,” says Anil. “We have a great rap­port. “Rhea has pro­duced her lat­est film,

Khub­soorat ( Beau­ti­ful), on her own, and she’ll be a big part of my com­pany.

“I’d love to work with my chil­dren if a good enough script comes up. But we are not look­ing for it.”

In spite of the gru­elling all-day shoot in the desert for Wel­come Back, Anil still looks as fresh as daisy at 9pm af­ter our photo ses­sion and in­ter­view. When we re­mark on it, his face splits into his trade­mark grin. “I can’t take full credit for that – I’ve been blessed with good genes,” he cracks. “Both my fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were hale and hearty into their 80s. Of course, I am very health con­scious, work out six days a week and make the right food choices, but more than any­thing else I think it is be­cause I am a very pos­i­tive per­son.

“I’ve seen people change dras­ti­cally be­cause of a lot of stress and how they re­act to it. I’ve been blessed with my fam­ily, my wife, the right friends and the right in­flu­ences… all those things mat­ter. I am lucky, I’ve been an ac­tor for 37 years and life has been kind to me.

“I guess it’s ev­ery­thing put to­gether. Ev­ery­body loves meet­ing me, be­cause they find me full of pos­i­tive en­ergy, and its not fake. It’s the way I am. I am a people per­son – I en­joy meet­ing people, I love to en­ter­tain them, learn from them. I am a good lis­tener. I love my work, and that keeps me young.”

The one thing that’s not changed about Anil is his stub­ble – right from the time he started act­ing. “When I started out I would go to pro­duc­ers ask­ing for roles and they would say I looked too young to play the hero,” he grins. “So to look more ma­ture and grown-up I grew a beard – a mere stub­ble.

“I felt I looked bet­ter with a stub­ble and so de­cided to keep it af­ter Woh Saat

Din, which was a suc­cess. At that time it was con­sid­ered odd, but now it’s turned into a fash­ion state­ment. I joke it is my con­tri­bu­tion to the In­dian film in­dus­try!”

When he’s not work­ing, Anil is still try­ing to get back on top of the game. “When I am not act­ing, I try my best to read, lis­ten and learn from oth­ers, spend time with my fam­ily, travel, look for op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he says. “I don’t sit and wait for work to come to me. I look for op­por­tu­ni­ties in ev­ery­thing – things that ex­cite me, mo­ti­vate me, push me out of the box. I try to dream up some­thing that is big­ger and tougher and can ex­cite me out of my lethargy.”

“I just keep go­ing on, try­ing to find some­thing that mo­ti­vates me, ig­nites my pas­sion. I am still as hun­gry, and ex­cited and scared and in­se­cure and ner­vous as I was when I started out.

“My pri­or­i­ties have now changed. There was a time when my ca­reer came first. I would shoot on birth­days, Di­wali, days when I should have been with my fam­ily, as my wife so of­ten re­minded me. But I used to put work above ev­ery­thing. Now I would put my fam­ily be­fore work.”

A pause. That in­tense look again. “That doesn’t mean I am not hun­gry any more!” he de­liv­ers, be­fore strid­ing out, shout­ing “Pack up!” to his team wait­ing in the wings.

With the cast of Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire at the Golden Globe awards

His chil­dren, Sonam, Harsh­vard­han and Rhea, have all gone into the movie busi­ness

With MI4 costars Tom Cruise and Paula Pat­ton

Anil cred­its his wife, Su­nita, with help­ing him be more char­i­ta­ble

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