There is a reason why Anil Kapoor has remained in the Bollywood A-list for nearly 40 years.
While other leading men who started at the same time as him have fallen by the wayside, the award-winning actor has moved with the times and constantly reinvented himself.
Anil has done that again in arguably the most anticipated movie of the year Dil Dhadakne Do, which is released across cinemas on Friday (5).
He has changed his look to play the patriarch in the comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family who takes a cruise and goes on a voyage of discovery. The latest film from acclaimed Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara director Zoya Akhtar also stars Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and Farhan Akhtar.
Eastern Eye caught up with the legendary actor to talk about the movie and the character he plays in it, his love of the UK, acting and the secret of his youthful looks.
You have starred in so many blockbusters, but do you still get nervous before the release of a film?
(Smiles) Yes. You are always anxious, especially when the film is really highly anticipated like Dil Dhadakne Do, is directed by Zoya Akhtar and has such a great team involved. The more exciting the film is, the more anxious and nervous you become before the release of it. So yes, the feeling is there.
No pressure then, but there is an expectation that Dil Dhadakne Do will be the best Bollywood film of the year?
Fingers crossed. I think you are on the right track, Asjad. You know, more than anything else, I just want people to say it’s a good film, it is good cinema. That, for me, is the most exciting part.
What attracted you to the film?
Actually, the most important thing was that Zoya Akhtar was directing it. I had seen her previous film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which I liked immensely. So obviously that was the first thing when she approached me. I thought, ‘okay, she is a very fine director and I have seen her work’. Then I heard the script and loved it. Of course, there were other things like the role and who the entire team involved was. Everything just sounded very positive and so I went ahead. I’m really happy and excited about the decision to be part of it.
How did you feel about playing a patriarch?
The main reason I said yes to the film was because I was playing the patriarch. I feel these roles come once in a lifetime. If you remember, I played a similar role in Virasat. In the first half, Amrish Puri, besides being my father and head of the family, was also the patriarch of the village. All the decisions and calls are taken by him, and then I become the patriarch. Sometimes there is an elderly person in the family, but he is not necessarily the patriarch or decision maker. The patriarch can also be the woman, a brother or a sister. It can be anybody. Being the patriarch made it very exciting and very real. The character is very real, but has also got shades of grey.
What do you mean?
Besides being larger than life, he is very human. Like everybody, he has his plus points and negative points. He thinks he is right, but ultimately knows he has a lot of demons in his mind. He is a self-made man and started from scratch, then he becomes the patriarch of the family and expects everybody to do exactly what he says. Today the world doesn’t work like that, and there has to be democracy even if it’s a family. He just cannot accept that. He can’t be a friend with the people who work for him, his children and or anybody. Either it his way or the highway!
You are the opposite to that in real life, so you must have enjoyed playing this character?
Yes, very much. It was very exciting for me because like you said, I am completely the opposite. In real life I am totally democratic. I am more like a friend to my children, to the people around me, my staff and whoever I work with. I’ve never behaved like a boss with them. Sometimes it’s good to not necessarily lead from the front; sometimes you can lead from the back as well.
Everybody loves the look of your character in Dil Dhadakne Do?
That was another exciting part of the film. Somewhere there was a notion that I looked too young. So how do they age me? Of course, the easiest way would be to wear a wig. I said everything has changed in the way people look at things. They want everything to be very real – 10 or 20 years back wearing a wig wouldn’t have mattered but today the cine-goers, especially youngsters, want everything to be real. So I said, ‘how do I get this salt and pepper look’. He’s not just a patriarch, he is an attractive man in the film and the women are all drawn towards him. He is health conscious and physically very fit. So keeping all these things in mind, he had to look better than the youngsters. We had to create that look, so obviously it took a lot of time. I must thank (hair stylist) Avan Contractor, Zoya Akhtar and even my make-up artist Deepak Chauhan, who has worked with me for the past 30-35 years. We all worked together to create this look.
Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?
It’s difficult to choose, but I really love the big group song. We had a great time doing the song. (Laughs) Punjabis don’t need an excuse to celebrate and start dancing. They are larger than life. We all had a blast doing the Gallan Goodiyan song. That’s my favourite song in the film also.
You are one of the first Indian actors to be part of Hollywood TV and films. What was making a guest appearance on cult show Family Guy like?
To be honest, it was great fun. I went to the studios and met everybody. It was the first time I had given a voice to an animated character. They created a sketch according to my voice. It is something I’ve never done, so for me, it was very exciting. The people involved in it are great and the show is iconic. It was a lovely experience. I felt very honoured that I was doing a small guest appearance on Family Guy, which the likes of Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey and Liam Neeson had done in the past. They asked me to be a part of it, so if it was a great honour.
Is crossing new frontiers as an actor still very exciting for you?
You know, I have tried to reinvent myself every decade. It’s my fourth decade. It’s been 38 years and in 2017, I will get into my fifth decade in the business. For me to be relevant, for youngsters to want to work with me, for me to be excited and motivated to go on set, I have to keep on reinventing myself. I do transitions before people asked me to do them.
Director Subhash Ghai recently said you should train others to look young and energetic. What is your secret?
(Laughs) This news has spread everywhere. As a professional actor, I feel it is my duty to look after myself. Although the bank balance is important, I believe the health balance is even more important. I try my best to spend a lot of my time looking after the health God has given me and then use my body for so many things. I will keep spending what God has given me, but I try to save something physically so I can enjoy the health I have.
What do you mean?
I look after myself and spread it carefully so I can enjoy it as long as I can. I don’t want to give a number of how long I will carry on working – until I am 70, 80 or 90 years old. Sometimes people have a lot of money in the bank – they can spend it very carefully and enjoy that money forever. The same principle applies to health. So that is what I am trying to do. That is the secret, I feel. For that you have to exercise, eat sensibly and remain positive, internally as well as externally. That is what I do.
Why should we all go watch Dil Dhadakne Do?
I feel it’s got everything a cinema audience can ask for – a good story, good music, a great star cast and good performances. It is directed by Zoya and has been produced by Excel Entertainment. They are a great production company. Internationally, it is being distributed by Eros. All these things make a lot of difference. The film will be there in the right cinemas, for everyone to go and enjoy it.
Finally, how much does the UK mean to you and would you like to give a message to your fans?
The UK has been very special in my career. When I was a nobody and had no work, it was the UK who recognised me first. It was the fans in Britain. I came there for a show almost 37 years back and was just a junior artist. The kind of love and affection I got gave me a lot of confidence.
Then there were certain films the UK embraced, including ones that didn’t do so well in India, like Lamhe or 1942: A Love Story; they were huge blockbusters in the UK. Your country has been very kind and very special to me.
One of the best films of my career – Slumdog Millionaire – had a British director, a British writer and was produced by a British company. That gave me world exposure. So I owe a lot to the UK. I just want to thank my fans there, for being so kind, so supportive and so encouraging.
Dil Dhadakne Do is in cinemas now.