Anil Kapoor played a Punjabi father trying to come to terms with his daughter’s sexuality in the recently released Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. In Total Dhamaal, Kapoor is in a different (but familiar) mode. Indra Kumar’s ensemble comedy features a bunch of characters played by Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Madhuri Dixit and Riteish Deshmukh, among others, who are all pursuing a treasure worth Rs 50 crore. Kapoor plays Avinash Patel, an eccentric Gujarati.
Kapoor has featured in madcap comedies before (No Entry and Welcome, for instance). The leading actor from the 1980s and ’90s is also a producer, and all three of his children (Sonam, Harshvardhan and Rhea) are in the Hindi movie business. After 40 years in front of the spotlight, the 62-year-old actor’s levels of enthusiasm and energy appear undiminished, and there is a reason, he told Scroll.in: “I am an excited person.” Excerpts from an interview.
In ‘Total Dhamaal’, you play Avinash Patel, a Gujarati.
In the original script, he wasn’t a Gujarati. But I felt that the character would be better if he were a Gujarati. Indu [Indra Kumar], being Gujarati himself, loved the idea.
How did you approach the role?
Usually, when you do this kind of film, your family thinks that you are going to have a lot of fun as it is an Indra Kumar film. But I was shouting at the top of my voice and doing workshops in my room and they were like, are you working in an Indra Kumar film or a Spielberg film? They asked me why I was taking it so seriously. But comedy is serious business.
I have done Haryanvi, Maharashtrian, tapori, Bambaiya and many other such roles. I had never done a Gujarati role. I did not want to make it a caricature. Indu was always there to correct me, and then I had a guy who helped me get the dialect. Even in Mubarakan [Anees Bazmee’s 2017 film], I worked on my dialect. A lot of people have played Sikhs before, including Dharmendra, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. I was thinking about how to make it different.
I had done this earlier too in Woh Saat Din and other films. Then it stopped. But I have started it again. For me, it becomes a little more challenging. I sit down for two or three hours, and the process de-stresses me. Instead of smoking, drinking and gossiping, I would rather sit with these guys, prepare and have some fun.
‘Total Dhamaal’ reunites you with Indra Kumar and Madhuri Dixit. What was it like working with them again?
I have always been in touch with Indu, and our friendship goes back to over 36 years now. Indra Kumar’s team offered me a film in 1982, which was inspired by Teesri Manzil [Vijay Anand’s 1966 film]. I rejected the script and suggested a remake of K Bhagyaraj’s film [Thooral Ninnu Pochchu] instead, and we made Mohabbat. From there, the bond was born.
Madhuri, Indra Kumar and I are coming back after Beta and Madhuri and I are back after Pukar. I am happy that we are doing a hardcore commercial, light-hearted film. I hope people like us again and give us love so that we will be able to do more such films.
What is the trick to a successful ensemble comedy? Is it the script or the energy of the other actors?
It is all about the writing. Internationally when ensembles are made, people do them even if the screen time is less. Even if a small cameo is done in a good way, it is given as much respect as a full-fledged role. Here, people are worried about screen space, and actors get discouraged. I have done so many films now that I don’t take these things so seriously.
It depends on what stage of your career you are at. Sometimes you take it up because that is the only thing offered to you. When Subhash Ghai signed me for Meri Jung, which was a solo film, he told me that I would also have to do Karma, an ensemble film. Sometimes you can gain more from ensembles than from a solo film.
There is a certain sense of fun, there is less lethargy and you do not take things for granted. You get energy from one another and gain so much. Race 3, Dil Dhadakne Do, Welcome, Shootout At Wadala and No Entry were all ensembles. Fans of all actors come and see these films.
It has been four decades since you made your debut in Umesh Mehra’s ‘Hamare Tumhare’. What excites you about a role all these years later?
I get excited when I see someone else get excited. When a filmmaker comes to me and I see his excitement about a role, it rubs off on me. I feed off that energy. I am constantly on the lookout for people who are really excited about their work, and I get inspired by their energy . As it is, I am an excited person.
Would you like to remake any of your hits from the ’80s and ’90s?
There is a lot of nostalgia around the ’80s and the ’90s. There are some fantastic films, but there are also so many fresh things happening. Why should I go back and revisit something?
I detach myself and move on. I am nostalgic only about emotions and people. I am not nostalgic about the product. It is important to keep making more films, and that is our job.
I am enjoying these exciting parts that are coming to me, and I am fortunate. You never know, it might dry up some day. Hopefully, it won’t.
What do you make of the response to ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’?
It has been emotional and overwhelming. Today, I got to know that the film’s script has gone to the Oscar library. In the first week itself, we received so much love. People have called us and sobbed. What more do you want?
The impact is unreal. It is going to keep growing. It’s like 1942: A Love Story and Parinda [his films]. People still watch them. Those films are slow poison. But there are also certain films like soda bottles, that come and go.
You ventured into film production in the early 2000s. What are the kinds of films you are looking to produce?
Rhea [Kapoor] has her own way of thinking. She wants to make films that empower women and girls. She truly believes that women can bring in the crowds. Harsh [Harshvardhan Kapoor] and Sonam [Kapoor] too want to make different kinds of films. All the four of us put together have our own views.
What we do is that each of us takes responsibility for films in the genre that we believe in. I see if the film is commercially and economically viable. They are all thinking out of the box, as they feel they are privileged, and they feel that they should take advantage of their position. It is not that they are taking a torch to educate people, but they want to do films that have not been done in a sensible way.