MUMBAI—It’s been 40 years since we first saw him in a tiny role in the 1978 SanjeevKumar-Raakhee film “Hamaare Tumhaare.” After a film down South, Bapu’s “Vamsa Vriskham” in 1980 and some more small roles, he made his first Hindi lead appearance in “Rachna” (1982), with a breakthrough in the 1983 modest success “Woh 7 Din” (1983) with the same Bapu. This time, it was his late father Surinder Kapoor’s production, with brother Boney Kapoor as executive producer in his own debut.
The film did modestly well, but Kapoor became a hit. And ironically, in the year that saw Jackie Shroff get the most successful debut in “Hero,” followed by Sunny Deol in “Betaab,” it is Anil Kapoor, whose film ranked third among these three, who has become Beep Beep – that is, the Long-Distance Runner. In his long innings of 36 years, Kapoor, 61, has succeeded singularly as hero and a senior character artiste of the star-clout kind. His “Race 3” co-star Salman Khan’s description of him being what Amitabh Bachchan was 18 years ago when he began his second innings fits him perfectly.
Kapoor, the only actor common to “Race 3” as well as the franchise’s earlier two films, is gung-ho about his whole career – which includes singing in a couple of films and producing movies, the last of which, “Veere Di Wedding,” is heading for a century.
He concedes that he has been saleable, but as a leading man! And he attributes it simply to the fact that he never considered his career to be a race, race two or race three! An ideal lifestyle, he says, is the key. He sleeps on time, likes to be stress-free, and eats right. Besides that, consistency in everything from thoughts to actions and spending time with young people completes the secret of his perennial fitness and youth – the man does not look a day above 45. In his words, loyalty, the right intention and honesty are all qualities that are premium.
When his “Dil Dhadakne Do” (2015) did well but could not recover investment and the media asked for his comments, he breezily told us, “How much the producer invests is not the media’s lookout. You guys just see the business done and how good the film is.” Now, if that is not practical and positive thinking, what is?
He changes gears from Robert D’Costa, the eccentric shrink in the earlier “Race” films to a tycoon here. What does he think about that? “My character is larger than life, but my approach to any character I take up is to make it look credible, believable,” he said. “I think that I have succeeded in this throughout, from a ‘Woh 7 Din’ to ‘Welcome’ and beyond. The idea is that the people I play should remain interesting. The gratifying part is that when people did not connect with some of the roles, I did earlier, come and tell me that they can do so now. That is really very satisfying to know as actor.”
Kapoor is considered an inspiration by the young co-stars. What does he have to say about that? “I like to be a part of a team, whether I am leading or being somewhere behind,” he replied. “I absorb my team’s energy. Every unit and film is different, and I attune myself to them.”
What about influences at home? Counting his parents (father as well as mother Nirmal) as those who have helped shape him, he showers praises on his wife Sunita for making him what he is today. In that sense, he has been one of the cleanest heroes of all time, with not even a whisper of any extramarital affair.
“My wife has played a huge role in my success and in what I am,” he declared. “My children help me keep up with the times. Sonam, Rhea, and Harshvardhan often educate me and encourage me. Now Sonam is married, and we have a new young family member. All of them help me look at things differently. We all have strong opinions, but then we are a liberal, and if I may use the word, ‘evolving’ household. So we all make our own mistakes and learn, or do the right things and benefit.”
Kapoor is also elated that he has got to work with both his children, in films that demand them together rather than being teamed as casting gimmicks. “It will be nice to work with Harshvardhan in ‘Bindra.’ And Sonam is there in ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga,’” he said.
Kapoor is also working after long gaps with his ‘80s heroines Madhuri Dixit-Nene (in “Total Dhamaal”), Juhi Chawla (in “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” itself) and after 18 years with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in “Fanne Khan.” Despite his continued commercial standing, it is he who (as he told a prominent newspaper) is fortunate “as they have agreed to work with me. All of them are beautiful and talented ladies, and they have their own styles of acting.”
Again, there is a strange déjà-vu of Bachchan’s later career, which got him to do films again with favorite heroines like Hema Malini, wife Jaya Bachchan, Raakhee, Zeenat Aman and some others. Shrugged Kapoor as he looks heavenwards, “It is all destiny.”