Suddenly, Anil Kapoor is all over the place -- completing, signing and contemplating films with everyone from Honey Irani to Sudhir Mishra to Sanjay Gupta to Priyadarshan.
On a muggy afternoon, the Kapoor household wears a look of suave normalcy. Anil is getting ready for appointments with filmmakers. But he is apprehensive of his wife's reaction since Sunday is generally considered family time.
But duty demands dialogue, he tells Subhash K Jha:
Everyone is commenting on how young you are looking these days.
My wife tells me to think positively and not bitch about anyone. It is hard, but I am trying to listen to her.
What seems most exciting to you now?
I am looking forward to the release of Honey Irani's Armaan and Sudhir Mishra's Calcutta Mail in the next couple of months.
My career is a journey that started over 20 years ago. I have always been willing to be adventurous.
If you remember, I had Woh Saat Din [Padmini Kolhapure, Naseeruddin Shah] and Mashaal [Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Rati Agnihotri], and later, Eashwar [Vijayashanti] and Ram Lakhan [Jackie Shroff, Dimple Kapadia, Madhuri Dixit, Raakhee] releasing simultaneously. They were completely different from each other.
Now, there is Armaan [Amitabh Bachchan, Randhir Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Gracy Singh] and Calcutta Mail [Manisha Koirala, Rani Mukherji]. No two films and roles could be more different.
I believe you have the author-backed role in Armaan.
No one has an author-backed role in Armaan. It is director Honey Irani's film. Everyone has a good role.
I play a doctor for the first time in my career.
I would call Armaan a human drama with real emotions. It is rare for a film to be made with a lot of dignity and grace. Every character has followed the script.
Actually, Armaan gave me the chance to do many things for the first time. I got to work with [Amitabh] Bachchan -- though we were in Ramesh Sippy's Shakti together, we didn't have any combined scenes -- and Preity Zinta.
Tabu was supposed to do Preity's role. Then there was talk of Rani [Mukherji] and Ash [Aishwarya Rai].
How was your interaction with Amitabh Bachchan?
What I like about my interaction with him is that there are no confrontation scenes between us. Is picture mein koi kisiko kha nahin jaata hain. Yeh ek shareef picture hai [In this film, no one steals anyone's scenes. It is a decent project].
I am working with a woman director for the first time and I found the atmosphere more work-friendly, sensitive and relaxed. Honey Irani has written one of my favourite films, Lamhe [Sridevi, Waheeda Rehman, Deepak Malhotra]. We go back a long way.
Which are your other favourite films?
Viraasat [Tabu, Pooja Batra], Awaargi [Govinda, Meenakshi Seshadri], Eashwar], Pukar [Madhuri Dixit, Namrata Shirodkar], Mr India [Sridevi, Amrish Puri], Woh Saat Din [Naseeruddin Shah, Padmini Kolhapure].
I hope Armaan will fall into this category.
What about your other release, Calcutta Mail?
I am working with Sudhir Mishra [Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin] for the first time.
The narration and my character undergo constant change. The audience can never tell where the plot is heading. We are very surprised by the kind of feedback we are getting for the promos. It is overwhelming.
But, as Sudhir says, let us hope the film is better than its promos.
We have kept it raw and real at the risk of offending the music company. They wanted seven songs in Calcutta Mail. We insisted on two-and-a-half songs.
Both Armaan and Calcutta Mail are very sensible films. I am waiting to see how the audience reacts to them.
I have Dharamesh Darshan's Bewafaa, where I play Kareena Kapoor's husband. She has carried her role with a great deal of maturity.
You get away from your noble image in Anurag Kashyap's Allwyn Kalicharan.
In what way? I don't have a negative role in this film. It is a very, very positive role of a cop.
It is a conventionally designed film with songs, etc. The difficult part is casting my leading lady.
She has to be a foreigner who can speak in Hindi. She provides the romance in the film's thriller format.
As for getting away from my so-called noble image, I did Taal [Aishwarya Rai, Akshaye Khanna], didn't I? I played quite a rogue in Taal.
But you had said Allwyn Kalicharan is an out-and-out villainous role!
I don't know when and why I said that.
Were you disappointed by the failure of Indra Kumar's Rishtey (Karisma Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty)?
No. I wasn't disappointed. I enjoyed working with Indra Kumar. We have done successful work [Beta] together.
Indu and Ashok Thakeria [the film's producer] are close friends. I had faith in the material. I did argue over a few points.
I believe the director is the captain of the ship. I went with the director's conviction. Well, Rishtey failed.
Did you expect it to do well?
I had my doubts. When it failed, I remembered my initial misgivings. My first instincts are always right. It isn't as if Rishtey didn't work because it was too conventional. Such films, when packaged well, do work.
I thought Rishtey would have worked better if it had been given a period feel. These kinds of subjects work better set in the 1940s and 1950s.
When [Vidhu] Vinod Chopra had come to me, the only thought in his mind was that he wanted to do a love story. He narrated the subject he later made as Kareeb [Bobby Deol, Neha]. I was not excited about it.
I told him I wanted to do a romance that goes into the past. That's how one of my best films 1942: A Love Story [Jackie Shroff, Manisha Koirala] was born.
You seem to be working with a lot of new directors?
Yeah Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Honey Irani and Sanjay Gupta are all first-timers for me. Sudhir has made films earlier. Calcutta Mail is a huge leap forward for him in terms of budget and vision.
I am also committed to do a war film with Priyadarshan. It is a very original drama-cum-comedy. It is hard to categorise it.
All I can say is, it will be totally different from other war films that are being made.
I was offered J P Dutta's LoC [Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Suniel Shetty, Manoj Bajpai, Abhishek Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol]. It came a little too close to Rajkumar Santoshi's Pukar, where I played an army officer.
What I am doing in Priyadarshan's film is far different from Pukar.
How many projects have you turned down?
Quite a few. I am now offered more films than before. The trend is now towards making the kind of films I believe in.
You know, the soft, subtle NRI-centric romantic films may have started recently. But we were doing films like 1942: A Love Story without aiming it at a certain kind of audience. I have been trendy without knowing it.
Are you tempted to work with Vidhu Vinod Chopra again?
Why should I be tempted by any director at this stage of my career? I would be tempted by a good script.
Vinod Chopra and I have grown together as artistes. If he wants to, I would love to work with him.
I am looking forward to working with Sanjay Gupta in Musafir. It is a different kind of character. I am waiting for him to give me the script.