MUMBAI — One is an actor who has stayed relevant 37 years after his lead debut. The other is a writer of over 28 years’ standing who has been a director since 1995 and remains relevant today.
Anil Kapoor, actor who has also been producer and singer, has been acting in cameos since the late ‘70s but made his first mark in his 1983 home production “Woh 7 Din.” Since then, the variety has been mind-boggling, as widely known, and there is virtually no genre he has not done, no role he has not played. Rather proud of himself, he smiles cockily when we mention that we recall his characters very vividly, come Lakhan, Munna, Eeshwar, Majnu and more.
Anees Bazmee has written or co-written so many hits including “Shola Aur Shabnam” and “Aankhen” before directing films like “Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha” (1998), “Deewangee” (2002) and “Singh Is Kinng” (2008) and “Ready” (2011) besides crazy ensemble comedies like “No Entry” (2005), “Welcome” (2007), “Welcome Back” (2015), “Mubarakan” (2017) and now is set to release “Pagalpanti.”
The two insist on giving the “Pagalpanti” interview together, and Kapoor has been a part of all of Bazmee’s ensemble cast comedies.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Anees-ji, you have made many comedies with single heroes, but whenever you have an ensemble comedy, this gentleman—Anil (Kapoor)-sir walks into it.
Anil Kapoor: You are not feeling bad about it, na? You are also not trying to remove me from his future films?
Anees Bazmee: Whenever I make a film, I have to deal with 25 different temperaments among the actors, and at that time, you feel you must have a kindred soul that walks with you! Someone who will defend you and take your side in an argument with another artiste! (Grins) That’s Anil! And I don’t think any actor can play Kishan in “No Entry” or Wi-Fi Bhai in “Pagalpanti” better than Anil can. People still remember him as Kartar Singh too, in “Mubarakan”!
Q: What is the biggest challenge for you in making films?
AB: In an exam, if you do brilliantly, you cannot get more than 100 percent. But in films the people can give you 200 percent. Someone’s heart liking your film is special. But we have to make the film honestly. This journey has been one of the most memorable of all, and the way the entire team enjoyed this will always remain special for me.
Q: You got a nice title in “Pagalpanti.”
AB: We were thinking of a couple of other titles earlier, but as I keep writing the script, the madness and mad characters increased, and I thought that “Pagalpanti” was apt. The title on top of that was catchy, but without revealing anything about the story, like, say, an obvious one like “Main Intequam Loonga.”
Q: What is the greatest challenge in writing a comedy?
AB: To not be repetitious and yet maintain my stamp. That is the hardest part. Writing is difficult as it is, but besides the dialogues, we must convey what is not said, the feel should come.
Q: You are supposed to be an actor too.
AB (Smiles): I never write scenes, I narrate, I try and act like my actors — how they will speak, where they will pause. I think that an actor should not feel he is following a writer. So I record what I want to tell the actor, an assistant writes, I tweak it here and there. So Nana Patekar’s lines cannot be possibly interchanged with Anil Kapoor’s, or Anil’s with Feroz Khan-saab’s.
Q: Very few people know that you once assisted Raj Kapoor.
AB: Yes, and he was such a great filmmaker that working one day with him was like a year in film school.
Q: How do you handle multiple artistes in a single film?
AB: Their characters’ foundation and development must be meticulous. For example, when I narrated the script of “Aankhen” to Govinda, he said, “Great! This whole movie is on me!”
When I narrated the story to Kader Khan, who also had a double role, he too told me, “Mine is the most major role. What are the other actors doing?” A similar story happened with Raj Babbar, also in a dual role, who said, “Oh, this film is in my hands!” So everyone should think their roles are fantastic. Whether you have eight artistes or eighteen or more!
And then there is the contribution. Anil as Kartar Singh in “Mubarakan” declared that he was NOT a Sardar from Punjab but had spent 20-25 years in England. He said, “Main Queen ki kasam khaaoonga (I will swear by the Queen)!” So when you have good people with you, one and one become eleven! Like the spectacles that folded into two in the centre in “Mubarakan.” That was Anil’s idea too!
Q: When are you doing to see a great thriller like “Deewangee” from you?
AB: Very soon! Ajay Devgn, for whom I have a soft corner as the hero of my first three films, and I discussed the idea of a “Deewangee 2.” Here the villain will soon be more dangerous and evil as 20 years have passed!
Q: Why is comedy not taken seriously?
AB: People are changing. They know how difficult it is to write and make such films.
AK: That is why more total comedies are being made. The public, the critics and the trade are slowly beginning to understand this. There are so many films that do not get a fair deal, but that’s part of show business. Like my “Lamhe.”
AB: I think critics should also like my work. I examine their remarks and try to measure up to them, but then my films would end up becoming too serious. And today, when someone blesses you, he or she says, “Khush raho (Be happy).” Who does not like to be happy? And if I can do that, I think I am doing a good deed. If a man firgets his daily stresses and has a nice time for two and a half hours, it’s great, right?
Q: Why is this old-school kind of ensemble entertainer losing its appeal but for a few directors who still work at such movies?
AB: Because it is very difficult to write such films. And one has to take a film to the end with everyone in the right mood all through. But such films never become old or stale. If today’s generation also loves “No Entry,” than how we can call tehse kind of films dated or old? Many such films are watched 10, 20 or 25 times!
To be continued. With Anil Kapoor solo