Sunday evening has been hectic for Anil Kapoor. Back-to-back media interactions for his latest film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga has left him visibly tired. But the actor makes sure the cameras don’t capture his mood, after all he is looked upon as the epitome of energy and enthusiasm.
But as the arclights leave him and he squeezes a few minutes to talk to indianexpress.com, the Anil Kapoor myth gives way to a more relaxed man who listens to you intently and tells you how under the shining cloak of stardom, it is the actor in him that he cares about the most.
Q. Do you value the praise for a film like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga more than other movies?
I am just completely overwhelmed. It makes you feel very happy and satisfied. I slept very well last night. For nine hours! For me, that is very important. I will not do anything which will rob my sleep.
I want to do everything in my life after which I get a peaceful sleep, without any tension. I should be proud of what I am doing. I should be happy. My director should be happy.
Q. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga felt like a beautiful reunion of sorts for a lot of people involved in the film. How was the energy on the set?
I feel sometimes the material is such that it binds everyone. If that is good, people come together automatically. This was one such material.
Like they say, if your plot is not good, then what kind of building will you make on it? The foundation of this film was fantastic. So, when the foundation is superb, good things get made.
Q. You have always pushed the envelope with the stories you have been a part of. But were there instances when you thought, ‘What will people think?’ before choosing a script?
Being an actor, I don’t have much control because I somewhere surrender to my director. Sometimes I go with their conviction and at times, their conviction goes wrong. But I am happy that at least I had an experience of working with that filmmaker or director. I always find something to take away from a film. It might be the people I worked with, the location I went to or something else.
It might be a very big success or might not be a success. It might be a great film or not. Sometimes, there are films which are not celebrated when they release but are celebrated after 10 or 20 years. I have been a part of those films also. So, it’s been a great journey of learning every time and making fresh mistakes. Trying not to make the same mistakes but still making mistakes (laughs).
Q. During the promotions of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, the team emphasised on setting oneself and love free. In your career, were there times when you found it difficult to set yourself free of the trappings of stardom?
To be honest with you, I took a very conscious decision when I started my career. I worked with filmmakers like Satyu, Mani Ratnam and K Vishwanath in the early stages of my career. Then Vinod (Vidhu Vinod Chopra), Yash Chopra and Subhash ji. They gave me great characters and those characters made me a star. I never wanted to be a star. The characters became popular and so did the films and music. Main star ban gaya!
But at heart, I have always been an actor. For me, the transition was easy because from inside, I was only an actor. There were times when it came to a stage, where the filmmakers wanted to work around my image, which I never knew existed. I was never aware of it. But now, I am very conscious that I go and mould myself according to the script and the character. I am doing that now.
(Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who is also in the room, joins the conversation and recalls how Anil Kapoor cut his hair very short for 1942: A Love Story to get into the skin of the character, while leaving everyone around him worried.)
Anil (replying to his producer): That was because I had no awareness. People, my wife and my director would tell me, ‘You are a star!’ But I didn’t realise I had become one. I just went with the flow.
I used to tell Rajnikanth ji also, ‘Some people dream of becoming the biggest stars. In my dreams, I don’t see that I become a huge star and there is a crowd waiting for me. I see characters in my dreams.’ I dream how differently I can play them. I dream of exploring and doing research.
Q. What has been the biggest takeaway from the experience of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga?
There have been a lot of takeaways from this film. It is playing this character Balbir Singh Choudhary. It is that I know a lot about cooking now and how it is such a great art.
My takeaway was shooting in Patiala, Chandigarh. It was beautiful and the weather was fantastic. It was about working with the entire team. Working with Shelly and the crew was a great takeaway. It’s been wonderful. Every moment has been absolutely memorable.