Anil Kapoor, an actor who has reinvented himself and has always managed to stay relevant without a lull in his career, says he is ‘more fearless’ about the roles he selects.
No matter how edgy the concept, AK vs AK (now streaming on Netflix) was always a big risk for Anil Kapoor’s career. But the actor who has never shied away from experimentation trusted his instinct and his director Vikramaditya Motwane.
Kapoor says the script landed in his lap right when he was ready to give his best onscreen. “I instantly felt that this kind of a script has come at the right time. Sometimes certain things happen at the right time in your life, in your career and that’s why I took a decision that let me dive into it and give my best. For me it is all about story-telling. When I read the script I just loved it and jumped right into it. It is not the question of just my role but the entire team.
Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap play exaggerated versions of their public personas in AK vs AK. Joining them in cameo appearances are the actor’s children Sonam and Harshvardhan Kapoor, and brother Boney Kapoor. Kapoor says since his family is also part of the film, he did have reservations about people’s perception of them.
“There are certain films where you have that fear that it might go completely wrong. With some films you can lose a lot and this is one of them. And then my family was involved in it so it became a double responsibility. It felt like I was sitting on a ticking nuclear bomb,” he says. “But when it comes to me I am very secure within myself definitely at this stage of my career especially in the last 10 years. I am much more fearless than I was. It was always that in between three to four big hits I would do an Eeshwar or a Parinda. I would do a Virasat, or a Lamhe, or a Slumdog Millionaire. I have been quite reckless and careless.”
When asked if he would have considered a subject like AK vs AK when he was at the top of his game, the actor reasons, “Whether I would have done something like AK vs AK then..well, it all depends. These are the things you can’t really preempt and go to the past and think if I would have done it. What was my state of mind then, what I was going through, what were the films that were being offered to me, what was the environment like, you can’t say. It is better to talk about the present. I felt it was zabardast now and I did it.”
“This was one of the finest feedbacks I have got in my entire career. When I look back this will be definitely one of those films where the feedback has been unanimous, something like Mr India, Slumdog Millionaire, Ram Lakhan, Tezaab, Welcome, No Entry..” he opens up on the reception AK vs AK has received.
AK vs AK takes an innovative storytelling approach, blurring the lines between real and real. Making the film was a blast for Kapoor as the team shot in real locations. “Those taxi drivers are real, the crowd in Dharavi was 95 percent real. On the platforms and railway station where I am running, we have got some great candid shots, some real shots and real reactions. When I am in the car and driving with Anurag Kashyap sitting beside me some people would come to the window and say, ‘Anil bhai aapko lag gaya kya, are you hurt? Do you want some help? Who is this person with you? Is he that director?’. They actually couldn’t recognise Anurag Kashyap,” he chuckles. “But working with Anurag was great. He is a fantastic actor. He only says that he is not an actor, he doesn’t like acting, or that he gets bored of acting. There is an actor in him and he should do more films,” the senior actor adds.
“The entire shooting process was quite liberating,” he continues, “We had five to six days of rehearsals where we could find the right pitch for the film. Then we started shooting and finished the film in 21 days. This is the shortest time I have taken for a film. Before I went on the set l was a bit stressed but once I was on the set I forgot everything. You are stressed before you start and after it is done. Sometimes when you are shooting in bits and pieces and you put them together to edit, only then you come to know whether the film is working or not. But here we were shooting in one shot with long shots spanning for four to five minutes and Vikramaditya and we could come to know if it is working or not at the shooting stage itself. It was quite liberating.”
Since Kapoor made his debut with the 1983 film Woh Saat Din, it can be safely said that no other Bollywood has reinvented himself the same way. In a career spanning over four decades, Kapoor has experimented with genres, roles and even a different industry and different formats. AK vs AK is perhaps his boldest experiment on the screen so far.
With no lull period in his long career he has always managed to stay relevant, and one of the reasons, he feels, is that he has never been image conscious, or even minded small roles, or share screen space with his contemporaries. “I did 13 to 14 films with Jackie (Shroff), two to three films with Govinda, I have worked with Sunny (Deol). I have also done films with youngsters like Ranveer (Singh), Arjun (Kapoor), now I am doing a film with Varun Dhawan (Dharma Productions’ Jug Jugg Jeeyo, directed by Raj Mehta), and Ranbir Kapoor (recently announced Animal, directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga). Earlier I have done so many multi-starrers. I have done films like Judaai, Mr India where heroines’ roles were much better than mine. Sridevi had a double role in Lamhe. It didn’t matter to me what money they were getting. They were fantastic. The scripts were good, their roles were great and that would help the film,” says Kapoor.
Considering that films featuring two male actors have become such a rarity, when asked what stops top heroes today from sharing screen space, Kapoor shoots back saying, “You must ask them. Best films all over the world…some of the great films have been made with two great actors, two huge stars. I can’t imagine Once Upon A Time in Hollywood without Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Caprio is one of the biggest stars in the world and much more junior to Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt is also such a huge star and both of them came together to make this film. I think our leading actors should do two hero projects. It will add to their careers and they will help each other. I always believed in this and was never image conscious.”