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'Emotion is missing in today's times'

January 23, 2024 13:38 IST
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'You have to fight your own battles and I fought mine.'

IMAGE: Sanjay Kapoor was seen in Sriram Raghavan's Merry Christmas. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

After a promising start in the mid-1990s with successful films like Raja (1995) and Sirf Tum (1999), Sanjay Kapoor's career appeared to slow down around the 2000s.

In 2009, he had a second innings with Zoya Akhtar's MLuck By Chance, but it didn't last long.

His career got a new lease of life when OTT gave him opportunities like Lust Stories, The Fame Game and Bloody Daddy.

Sanjay was recently seem in Sriram Raghavan's thriller Merry Christmas.

"I was born in the industry, so I know what the audience can relate to. I've watched a lot of things very closely. It is always the impact of the role, never the length of it," Sanjay tells Mayur Sanap/

What was the most fun bit about being in a Sriram Raghavan film?

The first thing that drew me towards the project was Sriram sir himself.

When I met him, and heard the role of Ronnie, I knew he is a very integral part of the film. The film takes off after his entry.

It was a no brainer for me working with a great director and doing a great, fun role.

It's never the length of the role, but the impact it makes. I knew this role would make a great impact, so I grabbed it with both my hands.

Your character is what I would call a surprise package in the film. I really enjoyed this quirky, pompous, almost foolish side that you bring to this character. What was your brief for the role?

It was exactly what you said.

It was a fun-loving character. He was the most honest and genuine character in the film because he was not lying about what he is. He was an open book.

And the situation in itself so funny, you have to be true to yourself and believe in that character.

I also improvised a lot, like that line, 'Khaya piya kuchh nahi glass toda barah aana' or 'Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hain?'

Sriram sir was very open to that.

One thing great about him is that if he knows that the screenplay is moving ahead, he's not so bothered about the lines as such.

IMAGE: Sanjay Kapoor with Sriram Raghavan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

Is it true that Sriram doesn't narrate the entire story?

Yeah. There was nothing like a hard-bound script, but he gave me a thing...

I've been here for 30 years, so you get to know the gist of the character, its importance, and what you're doing.

I knew my entry is in the second half, but I also knew once I come, you won't be able to take your eyes off that character.

As a star who have been a part of this industry for so long, you don't seem to dwell on things like length of role, screen time etc.

No, I am never worried about that.

Some 20 years back, when my brother Boney (Kapoor) produced a film called Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe (2002), I played a negative character for the first time.

When he bought the rights, he wanted me to do the hero's role, which eventually Aftab (Shivdasani) did opposite Esha Deol.

I thought the negative role had a more impact as it had more meat to it. So I said I'm going to do the negative role because the hero's role was a conventional one.

I was born in the industry, so I know what the audience can relate to. I've watched a lot of things very closely.

It is always the impact of the role, never the length of it.

What's the best thing about a Sriram Raghavan set?

The positive energy!

Sriram sir is such a quirky director, he has his own way of coming out with thrillers.

All his characters are interesting. Like in this film, my (on screen) wife (Ashwini Kalsekar) has one scene, but she leaves an impact because it's so well written.

That's the greatest quality of Sriram sir.

When you're on set, the whole pace is easy. There is a lot of calmness on set. And he's got a great team, including Pooja (Ladha Surti; Sriram Raghavan's co-writer), who's like a right hand.

She's the editor, she's sitting behind the monitor.

She has co-written the screenplay. She's an integral part of Sriram's team and they make a formidable team.

That combination is fabulous.

Sriram sir is also very open to ideas; he is not rigid at all. If he thinks it's not disturbing the flow of the film, he lets you do what you want.

IMAGE: Producer Ramesh Taurani, Pooja Ladha Surti, Katrina Kaif, Sriram Raghavan, Sanjay Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

How was your on-set equation with Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi?

I have never worked with Katrina before, but when I met her on set, it didn't feel that I was meeting a stranger. I have known her for more than 20 years. I had that comfort level with her.

With Vijay Sethupathi, yes, I was meeting him for the first time, but we did a lot of readings and workshop.

By the time we started shooting, I kind of knew him. So there was a lot of comfort level there.

It was very easy to work with them and the credit goes to Sriram sir. Because of him, there was absolute smooth sailing on set.

IMAGE: Vijay Sethupathi, Sanjay Kapoor, Pooja Ladha Surti and Vinay Pathak. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

Even though comedy looks easy, as many actors say, it is actually pretty tough to pull it off on screen.

It is definitely the toughest.

As Ronnie, it was important not to do buffoonery to create laughter because that's a very old technique.

Earlier, comedians were cast to bring laughter on screen.

But the situation has changed now.

You are playing a character that could be funny or the situation is funny. And you are just being yourself.

Do you think OTT has empowered today's actors to go all out and try something new?

The best thing is that the star system is not there on OTT.

If you are not talented, you will not get that part.

This is the reason OTT has given some great actors to Indian cinema.

OTT gives a chance to good talent, which definitely used to be tougher earlier.

IMAGE: Sriram Raghavan, Katrina Kaif, Vijay Sethupathi and Sanjay Kapoor. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

Your co-star Vijay Sethupathi recently said that he fears over exposure as an actor. Do you feel the same? How do you maintain that balance?

You can only get overexposed by social media, but with films, it is all spaced out today.

You're doing one film at a time.

There was a tendency to get more exposed earlier because actors were doing two to three shifts in a day.

People were doing 30-40 films.

I remember a lot of actors, without taking names, had two films releasing on the same Friday.

That's the reason those talented actors burnt out.

I find that difficult.

Back then, there used to be only a certain types of roles written for both male and female actors. Do you think that has changed in today's Bollywood?

Maybe majority was like that.

But if you see, there were well-written roles for Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil.

Movies were made where woman characters were important.

Earlier, it used to be like put in one action scene and one item number or else, it won't work in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh.

If there's no action, it won't work in Punjab.

Now with OTT and multiplexes, you can cater to a certain kind of audience and don't have to please everybody.

When we made Merry Christmas, we knew it's for a niche audience and that audience is loving the film.

IMAGE: Sanjay Kapoor with Priya Gill in Sirf Tum.

What do you miss about the '90s?

There are pros and cons of everything.

Everything is corporate in today's times, so a little bit of heart is missing.

Everybody's doing their work, everything is very professional... Earlier, there was more to life than just films.

Today, you don't even meet with the producer, you're dealing with an EP (executive producer).

When we did Sirf Tum (1999), even though it was produced by my brother, I was a part of every marketing strategy because Boney was busy.

I remember when we were giving out the music, Bhushanji( Kumar, T-Series CEO) used to say the Dilbar song should come first. But I'd say, 'Sir, the story is about Priya Gill and me, it won't suit the image of the film.'

Today, you don't have a say.

A person from the marketing team, who's not involved in the film, will decide how to market the film. I think that emotion is missing in today's times.

But to add that, I'm enjoying this phase more because there's more professionalism with the kind of work ethic we have today. That is helping everybody.

IMAGE: Manav Kaul, Sanjay Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit in The Fame Game.

There was a time in your career when you were doing few films. Was that a conscious decision?

There is always a transition period for an actor.

A few films of mine didn't work at the box office.

I was getting a lot of offers, but they were not good enough for me.

I didn't want to be part of the riff-raff, where the film is big, but I'm not doing anything in it.

So I chose to get into production.

Also, the star system was there.

If you are a star, you will get a good part, otherwise you will not play anything important.

It was a phase where I chose not to be in front of the camera just for the sake of it.

But when I got a chance with films like Luck By Chance (2009), I did it. I also did an ensemble cast in Shaandaar (2015).

Then OTT came and I did Lust Stories (2018).

I've not looked back since then and now I'm working with the best directors in the business.

IMAGE: Sanjay Kapoor in Bloody Daddy.

Do you have certain goals on how your career should shape out now?

I don't plan too much.

I believe it may take time, but you will get what you're worth.

My main goal is not to lose focus, and to keep working hard.

I'm getting the fruits of my earlier work today.

I was appreciated in Luck By Chance, but I didn't sign a single project for three years after that.

But whenever people talk to me, they talk about Luck By Chance. Even today, I'm getting work because of that film.

In 2015, you got into production with Tevar. But that did not work at the box office. What did that experience teach you?

I have seen production all my life. My father (Surinder Kapoor) had been a producer for 55-60 years.

I've seen production very, very, closely.

Tevar was a great experience, we had great fun making the film. It's a part of the thing, only 10 to 12 per cent films become a hit.

Arjun (Kapoor) was fantastic, Sonakshi (Sinha) was very good, Manoj (Bajpayee) was great and the director (Amit Sharma) was very good. That's the reason he is still one of the sought after directors today because he was very talented. He did Badhaai Ho, which was such a big hit.

Success or failure aside, you just have to do your job. These are hurdles and you have to jump them, and move ahead.

IMAGE: Sanjay Kapoor with Anil and Boney Kapoor and Ramesh Taurani. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sanjay Kapoor/Instagram

Do you think comparisons between your brothers and you somewhere affected your career?

It has got nothing to do with that.

A lot of people who were compared have done very well in their career.

The expectations are more when you are coming from film families because people already know you. They don't judge you as a newcomer because they are expecting more out of you.

What advice did you receive from Anil and Boney when things were not working in your favour?

Nothing really.

We all go through highs and lows.

I'm old enough and educated, nobody can advise you. You have to fight your own battles and I fought mine.

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