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Mr India reveals his secrets

As part of the session ‘Masterclass with Mr India’, noted Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor sat down for a chat with his producer daughter Rhea Kapoor to talk about his journey, the film industry now, and why he is still a work in progress


For Anil Kapoor, wanting to be an actor was something that he decided early on in life. And he never deviated from it.

Speaking at the ‘Masterclass with Mr India’ session at IFFI 2018, Anil revealed that his journey commenced when the father of a friend in school mentioned that there was an audition happening for the role of a young Shashi Kapoor and asked him if he would be interested. Anil of course hopped on enthusiastically. “So, I landed at the studio in Dadar without taking my parents’ permission and I was selected for it,” he revealed.

That said, Anil acknowledges that while he may have known early on what he wanted to be, everybody’s journey is different. He illustrated the example of his own daughter actress Sonam Kapoor.

“I inherently knew that Sonam could be an actress”

“When Sonam came back from Singapore after finishing her university, she joined Sanjay Leela Bhansali as she wanted to be a director. “However, Bhansali saw the actress in her. He felt that she had that presence and that persona,” he said, adding that he too knew that Sonam could be an actress. “I inherently knew that there was something about her and that she could be an actress, but I didn’t want to say it or push her. I wanted her to find herself. I knew this journey was a tough journey and I just wanted her to be happy,” he said.

Further talking about himself, Anil revealed that he too was initially rejected when he wanted to study at FTII, Pune. “We had to do a written entrance exam for this, and I failed it. I was initially very depressed about it because the institute has seen some fine actors like Jay Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and Nasserudin Shah,” he said.

“They told me I was too skinny”

When he first started out in films too, Anil stated that a lot of people told him that while he could act, he didn’t have the looks. “They told me that I was too skinny, my eyes were too small, I was too hairy. I was also told I was too young and so I started to keep a stubble to look more macho. And now every young actor has this stubble. So, that is my contribution to cinema,” he joked.

And while there may be a lot of courses that one can do now, Anil believes that one needs a mix of both theoretical knowledge and going by instinct to succeed.

“Everything can’t be studied, analysed, planned and brooded on. Sometimes I think today the younger generation take too much time. I used to make quick decisions, sometimes these would go right, sometimes not, but I was ready to fail because I know I can work even harder when failure comes. Of course, today it’s much trickier and the stakes are much higher than earlier,” he said.

What’s important though, he says. Is that one should never stop working on their craft. In fact, Anil   learnt semi-classical singing so he could lip-sync during his film songs, he revealed.

“Today there is more attention to looks”

“Today, I feel that there is more attention being given to the external looks rather than trying to be a better actor. If you just focus on looks, you may stagnate and a time will come when you have nothing inside left to give to the audience, the writer, the director, the role,” he said. “You have to travel, you have to read, you have to watch as many films, you have to observe, take a break. From the time, I decided to be an actor I have constantly been working on myself, on my craft, on being a people’s person. And I am still a work in progress, still learning from everybody.”

While he may not have been regarded for his looks earlier on, today Anil gets a lot of love especially from the female population for looking so great. And Anil admits that this all came along with the process of trying to be a better actor.

“To a certain extent, I worked on my physicality because I needed the strength, the energy and the stamina to portray all these different characters. And in trying to get that stamina and have that energy, I started looking after myself working out, exercising,” he said.

“I constantly study other actors”

Having been in the industry for 38 years now, Anil has had his share of bad reviews and flops, but he always tries to look at the positives everywhere, he says.

“I constantly study other actors – their career, their life – both in Hollywood and in India. I read their old interviews, old reviews and sometimes I am totally surprised. The great Dilip Kumar in the initial stage didn’t get favourable reviews. When Madhuri Dixit started out she was told that she should be given sister roles only and she went on to become the ‘Dhak Dhak’ girl. I think you need to just believe in yourself. It will take time for people to accept you,” he said.

And one should not be moved by the comments people pass about you.  “You have to take criticism but only from genuine people – your close friends and family – they will tell you whether you are right or wrong. So surround yourself with the right people,” he said.

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