How Bobby helped Dimple Kapadia survive
There is something decidedly different about Dimple Kapadia.
Unlike other stars of her ilk, she comes across as a stern and no-nonsense woman -- she rarely gives interview and the chances of her promoting her own movie are few and far between.
"Personally, I feel like a vendor while promoting my film," she confides.
Sitting at the Viacom 18 office on a day crammed with interviews ahead of the release of her new film What The Fish!, the veteran actress claims that she doesn't give interviews because she 'blabbers a lot and says anything that comes to her mind’.
Despite all that self-conscious banter though, once she gets talking, you realise that Dimple Kapadia is actually quite fun to talk to.
In conversation with Rediff.com's Patcy N, Dimple talks films and costars, among other things.
You have recently acted in films like Dabbang and Patiala House, but you have never promoted a film before…
I don’t promote films, but these people are pushing me beyond my limits.
Are you the protagonist in the film?
No, I am not. I am just a known face in the film.
There are other actors in the film who have good roles, as well defined as mine. But I have to carry this burden on my tender shoulders.
Over the years, marketing and promotion of films has changed drastically. Do you understand marketing strategies? How are you dealing with it?
I don’t understand it and I don’t believe in it.
As a viewer, I decide when I see the promo of a film whether I want to watch it or not. No amount of marketing can convince me otherwise.
Maybe times have changed. Obviously they are getting results and so producers are doing this marketing thing.
Image: Dimple Kapadia
'Actors have become like vendors today'
When Bobby (her 1973 debut film) released, how was it promoted?
I don’t remember. Rajsaab (Raj Kapoor) was the face of the film. I didn't have to do anything. I was a newcomer.
There was a muhurat and a premiere and that was it.
No initiative for interviews came from producers or production houses. Magazines approached us directly for interviews.
What do you think about promoting a film?
Actors have become like vendors.
Hum apna thella lekar nikalte hain aur bolte hain ‘hamari picture lag gayi hain, aake dekhlo’ (We take our carts out and shout out, ‘Our film has released, come and watch it’).
Actors used to concentrate on acting, but today they are businessmen too and think about the numbers game as well.
They multi-task very well. It’s admirable that they have this ability.
Are you happy that after so many years a film will be sold on your name?
I think it is great.
But I feel Razia Phas Gayi Gundo main (laughs) I have no choice in this matter.
Image: Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby
'We do some films for money and some for creative satisfaction'
Today, what do you look for when you're signing a film?
Good money. Where can I earn money if not from my work?
We do some films for money and some for creative satisfaction.
Older actors get lead roles written for them, like Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra, but older actress like you and Sharmila Tagore don’t get meaty roles…
I don’t think that’s really true. Stories have changed today and there is place for many more characters and we have the opportunity to play them.
If we were stuck in the old format, I don’t think we would have work at all. Audiences are looking for different films, not run-of-the-mill films.
They want quirky and different films and that is a boon for us actors.
Image: Dimple Kapadia in What The Fish!
'People in the industry believe that once you are married you are not desirable to the audience'
Do you think there are better opportunities for married actresses now?
I made a comeback when married with two children in the film Saagar.
It is not the audience who rejects us; it is the people in the industry who believe that once you are married you are not desirable to the audience.
I think I proved them wrong. If the audience likes you, your work and the way you look, they will want to see you whether you are married or have two children or not.
We had Nutanji and Sharmilaji working before me who were married and had kids.
Even men (actors) in those days would hide their weddings and wouldn't want to be linked to anyone because they felt that it would affect their popularity.
Image: Dimple Kapadia with Kamal Haasan and Rishi Kapoor in Saagar
'Today's directors are assets to the actors'
You said you enjoy doing comedy, but you haven’t done many comic roles.
People who know me know that I am very clumsy, always fumbling and I talk rubbish most of the times. My kids and even my son-in-law says all the time, ‘Ma, you should be in a comedy film.’
They are right but I tell them that I can't do comedy (laughs).
I have always had an aversion to sad roles. I don’t like to play ‘hai main dukhyari’ type roles.
I enjoy essaying different characters. It’s much more fun now because directors are all young, they have such great ideas and they have so much to offer to you.
Guru Dutt and Mehboob Khan made classic films.
Then we had this whole time in between (when south remakes like Tohfa, Justice Choudhary, Himmatwal, Mawaali were made) where there were four songs, four dances and that was it; direction went for a complete toss.
I was unfortunate. I had worked with Rajsaab, who was a director in the true sense. He taught you how to walk, talk and how to look, everything was designed by him. But during my comeback, there were directors who just said ‘action’ and ‘cut’. I was like a fish out of water.
I had no experience other than working with this great man (Raj Kapoor). I was used to that kind of direction and here there was nothing that even remotely resembled his process. I was completely lost.
I don’t know how I managed for those 10 years.
Then came this whole new lot of directors, who was fantastic. They know exactly what they want, and they know what direction is all about.
Today’s directors are assets to the actors.
Image: Dimple Kapadia with Rishi Kapoor and Akshay Kumar in Patiala House
'I have never enjoyed working; I am too honest'
You have acted in so many films. Which one of them did you enjoy the most?
None! I have never enjoyed working. I am too honest. I have a problem with myself all the time and I am always cribbing. I am always nervous.
My heart rate increases even when I am fully prepared. As soon as I am in front of the camera, I start fumbling, stammering and I go blank all of a sudden. I also forget all my lines in the process.
Every shot is a matter of life and death for me, so I don’t enjoy that process.
You don’t like any of your movies?
I don’t watch any of my movies. I don’t even go for trial shows. I don’t even go for premieres.
If by mistake I go for a premiere of my film, I hide behind a chair. I cringe when I see my work.
Had there not been such a long gap between Bobby and Saagar, do you think your career would have been better?
When you made a comeback, Sridevi was in…
(interrupts) Yes, Sridevi ne aakar mujhe hunter se maara jo, main wahin gir gayi (laughs) hunterwali ne mere zindagi barbad kar di (Sridevi came and hit me with her hunter and I dropped right there, referring to Himmatwala).
Image: Dimple Kapadia with daughter Twinkle Khanna
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'My life wasn't just about films, it was also about living'
But seriously, if you hadn't taken that break, would things be different today?
If I had worked after Bobby, I may have had burnt out in ten years from then, you can’t really say.
I am happy I had my own pace, I enjoyed my life. It was not just about the films, it was also about living my life.
My experiences were much more vital for me, which, honestly, gave me much more joy.
For me, filming has always been like the birthing pain. My family knows that and they make fun of me. My kids tell me just go and enjoy myself since I don't have to prove anything to anyone.
After Bobby, you had signed some films, but they went to other actresses since you got married. They were not good films…
Roti was a lovely film and had a good director, Manmohan Desai.
Rajesh Khanna was to be my costar. It would have been very nice, I think. (Her role went to Mumtaz).
Yes, Paap aur Punya was a downer (Sharmila Tagore eventually played the role).
Image: Dimple Kapadia with actor son-in-law Akshay Kumar and daughter Twinkle Khanna at the unveiling of Rajesh Khanna's statue
'None of my films have been as big hits as Bobby'
You worked with Rajesh Khanna in Jai Shiv Shanker. What was it like working with him?
It was very nice. The film shaped up very well, but there were financial problems.
One time he was not well while we were shooting and he was supposed to come out on the balcony and wave to the press.
I handed him my shawl and sunglasses and told him nicely, ‘Kakaji, when you go out, don’t look straight, your side profile looks better.’
He just looked up at me and said sternly, ‘Ab tum mujhe sikhaogi? (now you will teach me?).'
I got so scared, folded my hands and apologised (enacts the whole thing).
Oh what a star! (smiles)
Bobby was a huge hit…
I'm still thriving on that film's success.
None of my film have been as big hits as Bobby.
It has given me a lot in life in the last 40 years. It is the strong foundation on which I stand today.
'Between Vinod Khanna and Akshaye, I like the son better'
Who did you enjoy working with?
Kamal Haasan, while shooting for Saagar. Rishi Kapoor is one of my favourite actors.
Saif Ali Khan is a delight to work with (Dil Chahta Hai, Being Cyrus, Cocktail). Boman Irani is fun to work with (Being Cyrus, Cocktail).
Was Dil Chahta Hai a turning point in your career?
Yes, I was lucky to have done that movie. It was a great break.
You worked with Vinod Khanna and then you worked with his son Akshaye too...
It is so strange. Akshaye and I are very good friends. I am very comfortable working with him. He is a very fine actor. People say he is difficult to work with but I think he was fun.
Between father and son, I like the son better.
'I am a huge Salman Khan fan'
What are the disadvantages of being a star?
There are no disadvantages. If people like to peep into one’s personal zone, let them peep. What is there to hide?
Did you ever go on a concert tour?
I did go for a concert tour against my wishes. In those days I looked down upon it.
But it was very lucrative. We actors have such a short shelf life, it would be really stupid not to do it.
What are your favourite songs?
I love my songs from Bobby, Rudaali, Lekin, Janbaaz.
How do you spend your free time?
I am a hands-on grandmother. I spend a lot of time with the kids, I enjoy that.
I love listening to Sanskrit shlokas and then I try to memorise them. You could say that is my passion.
I love reading and painting too.
And I like watching Bigg Boss. I am a huge Salman Khan fan.
Are you open to working in a television some time?
I don’t have that kind of discipline. I can do something for 30 days, but I can’t do a year of shooting. I will die.
Image: Dimple Kapdadia in Rudaali