Anil Kapoor on Pagalpanti: 'The way I act in a drama is the same way I approach comedy since I take it very seriously'
Anil Kapoor discusses his love for cinema and the different genres of films that he has been part of in his career spanning 40 years
Months after the release of ensemble adventure comedy Total Dhamaal, Anil Kapoor is back in his comic avatar with Pagalpanti that hits theatres on 22 November and he is once again playing a comic don in the Anees Bazmee film. The actor-director duo started their collaboration with Andaz (1994) and Deewana Mastana (1997, with Bazmee as the writer) and further on Bazmee directed Kapoor in several films like No Entry, Welcome, Welcome Back, Thank You and Mubarakan among others. “People love my comedies because I always keep a gap between my two films in the same genre so that it looks fresh. What I have done in Pagalpanti is something I did with Anees many years ago. I have continuously done this in my career. A lot of people told me that the audiences have liked me in a particular role and that I should continue doing the same thing to become an instant star, a bigger star, earn more money, but I always strived for longevity in a career. I follow my instinct. I have always believed that commerce follows those who are honest and work hard. I don’t believe in doing the same thing otherwise the audience gets bored," says Kapoor.
No wonder then, that the actor in his career spanning 40 years, has remained committed and consistent, has played diverse roles and has kept reinventing himself. To bring in a bit of variety to his character in Pagalpanti, Kapoor, as he always does, gave his inputs making it his own. "I always create a back-story for my roles. I remember I had heard of a mafia king who lived in Malad (Mumbai suburb). He was a Christian, but had inculcated certain Bambaiyya traits. So, when this character came my way, I told Anees to make him a Malad don instead of Mumbai ka don," laughs Kapoor, adding, "My character was earlier named Jugnu and I wanted to make it different from Majnu bhai (his character in the Welcome franchise). My make-up artist (Deepak Chauhan), who has been with me for 36 years, suggested that we change my hairstyle and add a wi-fi logo on my forehead. So, we decided to name the character Wi-Fi, instead," he laughs.
“If you see the characters that I portray, I often give them a slight touch of humour. In fact, even the names of my characters have become quite popular like ‘Munna’, ‘Majnubhai’, ‘Mr India’, ‘Prem Prakash Patialawale’. Now let’s see if ‘WiFi’ also becomes popular. I always get attracted to characters that don’t take themselves too seriously. I feel if you put a small dose of humour then you make people happy. Sprinkling humour in serious talk changes the atmosphere and I do that on sets as well. I love making people happy and that includes my audience,” says Kapoor.
Calling himself a thorough professional, the actor says, he doesn’t pick and choose roles depending upon what he himself enjoys doing the most, but instead, he first does a lot of evaluation when a film is pitched to him. “It is not a question of what I enjoy and what I don’t. Whenever a film is pitched to me, I assess it in a way to understand what my role is, the script, who are the makers, the studio, who are my co-stars, and then comes the dates and the money. There are so many things that make a film happen. It depends on what is offered to you. For instance, I was shooting for Total Dhamaal and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga simultaneously. Both are totally different films,” he says.
“Again”, he furthers, “Along with Pagalpanti I was doing Malang, both totally different from each other. I enjoy every genre. If you see my films, right from Woh Saat Din till now, I have done all kinds of genres – drama, action, comedy, sometimes emotional and at times out-of-the-box like Eeshwar. I have always taken the risk. Sometimes I failed as many of my fans may have not enjoyed watching me in those films but a certain section of the audience liked it, so this small section also became my fan, and slowly and gradually you manage to have a bigger fanbase.”
Since the disclaimer attached to Pagalpanti says: ‘Dimag mat lagana kyunki in mein hai hi nahi’, one would want to know how difficult it's to do a mindless comedy with conviction, and Kapoor retorts, “I don’t consider the comedies that I do as mindless. It depends on how you look at it. I treat it like dramatic films. The way I do a drama is the same way I do comedy because I do it very seriously. The situation is such that it makes you laugh. You have to use your instinct, experience, intelligence, different styles of speech, what is the character, how he thinks..so you do it seriously to bring in humour. But yes, it is quite difficult to play larger-than-life characters because you have to make it look believable.”
“If you see Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin..some of the things they did looked slapstick, funny, mindless...but there is lot of hard work that goes into it. But we can’t make films the way Hollywood does because we have to put in songs and we make it as per our culture. It caters to anybody and everybody. We don’t want to cater to a certain section of the audience which goes to judge the film and finds faults with it. We make films for a common man, who wants to enjoy and get entertained. They already have so much stress, tension, and problems in life. Why would they buy a Rs 200 ticket and get depressed? They want to have a good laugh. That is the reason we make these films. Then, comedies are also like mind freshener for us actors," he adds.
On one hand, funny is considered to be a serious business but on the other, the genre is not accorded the respectability it deserves, in Bollywood, so the senior actor believes, and says, “But now things are changing. Comedy is gradually being taken seriously and that is why more and more films which are total comedies are being made. People are realising that it is so difficult to write and make such films. Trade, people, critics — all are also realising that. Earlier, it was felt that this kind of film attracts limited business and many times it’s panned by critics but this is show business and such things do happen.”
Early this year, Kapoor, for the first time shared screen space with his daughter Sonam, in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga – the mainstream film that tackled the same-sex story. But the film didn’t meet the desired results at the Box office. Did it hurt? “It is disheartening when people don’t like something. But the fact is that people liked the film but a very small number of people watched it. And whoever watched the film liked it. I did the film as a challenge and I gave my best because for the first time I was acting with my daughter. But it is better than a huge mass watching and rubbishing the film together. So we always pray that the film works because then there is less criticism,” says the actor.
“The way things are changing - trade, people, society – everything has become external. These days we talk of numbers. When 1942: A Love Story and Parinda released, at that time people said that these films worked only in Mumbai but we still remember these films after so many years. After so many years of experience, I know what is genuine and what is not. So even after 10 years Ek Ladki Ko Dekha will be talked about because it is first of its kind. Sonam had the courage to do it without bothering about her image. On the digital platform, the film is doing pretty well. Some films get the credit after 10 years and sometimes even after 30 years,” he says.
While Kapoor may have enjoyed every phase of his career so far, his face lights up talking about the struggle period and small roles that he did between 1977 and 1982 before he hit the jackpot with Woh Saat Din, Mashaal and many more. “Even when I used to do smaller roles I had a great time. I remember travelling to Kalimgong for the shoot of Ek Baar Kaho. Then I remember going to Ooty to shoot for Shakti. I played Dilip Kumar’s grandson and Amitabh Bachchan’s son. I cannot forget that scene where Dilip Kumar is standing in front of me and behind the camera were Ramesh Sippy, Amitabh and Smita Patil watching me while I was giving my shot. Where I would get this kind of opportunity again?" he says sounding excited.
“Then, I worked with Nilu Phule, Naseeruddin Shah and Padmini in Woh Saat Din. I have travelled the whole world for films. Every day, every minute I feel I have been very fortunate. This is the reason I feel so positive and look the way I look. I have been blessed and fortunate that since 1983, every year, or in one-and-a-half year one movie of mine becomes a hit, super-hit, blockbuster or critically acclaimed. I still get scripts that are fresh and unique. That happens when you love your work and you keep going back to it again and again. Then everything falls in place,” he concludes.
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