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The Peter Pan of Bollywood




THIS year evergreen actor Anil Kapoor celebrates 40 years as a leading man and with no signs of slowing down, the hard-working star is still enthusiastic as ever to create that next character.

Instead of looking back on his achievements, which included becoming the undisputed king of Hindi cinema and cracking Hollywood, the actor who doesn’t seem to age is continuing to live in the moment and look ahead to his next challenge.

The Peter Pan of Bollywood has high-profile films lined up as an actor and is continuing to develop exciting projects as a producer. He will next be seen in soon-to-be-released action thriller Malang, which once again sees him step out of the comfort zone and add weight to another prominent Hindi film. When Eastern Eye caught with popular star Anil Kapoor to talk about cinema and his incredible journey, he was friendly, down to earth and clearly passionate about his work.

This year you celebrate 40 years as a leading man. How do you look back on your journey?
I have come a long way, and it has been a beautiful journey, but I still have so much more to do. I have learnt a lot from my past, and I hope to use those lessons to improve even more in the future.

Looking back at your extraordinary career, would you have done anything differently?
(Laughs) I probably would have done a lot of things differently. But then again, if I had done them differently, they wouldn’t be the life lessons I needed to learn at that point and grow as an artist. Sometimes, wrong turns lead you towards the right path because they teach you something. Overall, I am happy with my journey, which is still ongoing.
Did you ever imagine reaching such great heights when starting off all those years ago?
I didn’t set out with a fixed destination or zenith in mind. I just made my life’s work to do what I love. It still feels like a beautiful dream that I live every day, and I am really thankful for each moment, and especially to audiences who have appreciated me.

Which film or role was the first big turning point for you?
Mashaal was a turning point in my career. But, I treat every movie like it’s a turning point, because in one way or the other they all are. You learn something on each project.

How did it feel when you became the number one actor in Bollywood in the 1980s?
I was too busy working to think about it. I was just grateful to be getting the good work and focusing on giving it my all. I was blessed to have the love of the audience then, as I am now. I still feel I am living the dream.

Which movie taught you the most during the early days?
Right from Woh 7 Din till now, every movie I’ve ever worked on, including ones that may have not done so well, taught me a whole lot about myself and my craft.

You managed to move with the times. What’s your secret?
It has been just hard work. As simple as that.

I think one of the secrets is your versatility. You have done diverse genres, but do you prefer one?
As an actor, you have to attempt different genres and characters. I look for good stories and great teams, regardless of the genre.

You also broke ground for Indian actors internationally with your work in Hollywood. How proud are you of that?
It feels good to have gotten Indian cinema its well-deserved international recognition, and it is wonderful to see so many collaborations happening. I am looking forward to many more because cinema is universal.

What advice would you give young actors?
You have to enter this profession for the love of acting, not stardom. You have to work hard and be willing to learn every step of the way. Aim to be better than you were and count your blessings. Never take your craft or the audience for granted.

You have played so many memorable roles, but which of your characters has been closest to your heart?
I honestly can’t pick one. There have been so many that I’m still so fond of and thankful I got the opportunity to play them. I think it is up to the audience to choose a favourite. What is your favourite, Asjad?

I still smile when thinking of your Woh 7 Din role. In terms of great writing, Lamhe had a huge impact on me, so those two movies. Which character would you love to revisit, in a sequel?
I think Mr India and Nayak, since my fans have been requesting for their sequels for several years now.

Is there a character or film you regret turning down?
If I had wanted to do a role I would have done it. I don’t regret my choices. All the films are part of my journey and have taught me a lot. I am always looking forward, so there is no time for regrets.

You have worked with stunning leading ladies across your career. Who have been your favourites?
I think I’d have to say Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi. Although, I do consider myself fortunate enough to have worked with amazing artists, they stand out for sure and working with them are moments I still cherish.

What kind of roles are you looking for now?
I am always looking for parts that are exciting, relatable and challenging.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
We all want to do a lot of things, but unfortunately, not everything is possible. But my greatest ambition was to be an actor, and I get to be that every day, so I’m very lucky.

What inspires you today?
My family and friends are a constant source of inspiration for me. I also learn so much from the younger generation about adaptability and creativity. Of course, my audience will always be a huge inspiration because they motivate me to work hard.

How much has the love and support of fans meant to you on your journey?
It’s been the biggest support system. Without their love and support, we are nothing. It’s the driving force. Fans have that power to uplift you and make you work harder.

Finally, why do you love being an actor?
I love being able to bring joy and warmth to people’s lives through my art. It’s the most gratifying feeling in the world.

Malang is in cinemas on February 7


SUPERB performances by the versatile star Anil Kapoor across the years

Woh 7 Din (1983): The classic comedy drama that first got the actor noticed saw him play a loveable musician in what turned out to be an unpredictable love story that was filled with laughter and emotion.

Mr India (1987): Arguably, the first superhero film from Bollywood to become a major blockbuster saw him play someone who struggles to look after orphaned children, but is also a crime-fighting invisible man.

Ram Lakhan (1989): Although, he had smash hit films like Mashaal (1984) and Tezaab (1988), Ram Lakhan became iconic and brought him huge global attention. He brilliantly plays a son on the wrong side of the law, who slowly sees the errors of his ways.

Lamhe (1991): The classic Yash Chopra directed romance arguably remains the most original love triangle in Bollywood history. The multi-dimensional performance saw him play a young man in love with an older woman and then an older gentleman, who gets connected to the now deceased woman’s identical looking daughter.

Beta (1992): The biggest hit of 1992 was a forerunner to the family dramas dominating Indian television today. The award-winning performance saw him play an uneducated heir to a fortune, torn between an evil stepmother he loves dearly and a street-smart wife battling for him.

Virasat (1997): The powerhouse performance saw the actor show off his full range as he plays a man educated abroad, who returns to his ancestral village and gets tied up in local politics. The transformative journey taken by his character, who must sacrifice everything, including the love of his life for the betterment of others, struck a chord globally.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008): The Oscar winning film brought the Indian star to international attention with his brilliant portrayal of a quiz show host, who is not what he seems. The universally appreciated role enabled him to smash open doors in Hollywood for Hindi film stars.