Rishi Kapoor is one of those actors from the 80s and 90s who is doing relevant and incredible work. He redefined himself in the past few years and has been doing some amazing work that has established him as a veteran actor with a difference. In the fast paced Bollywood world, it’s difficult to retain oneself especially when age plays a factor but that doesn’t seem to be the case of Rishi Kapoor. After playing Rauf in ‘Agneepath’, Dawood in ‘D-Day’, Dadu in ‘Kapoor And Sons’ in the recent times, the chocolate boy of the 80s and 90s is reestablishing himself by playing an aged character of Babulal Vakharia, the son of a man aged 102 aiming to be the World’s Oldest Man. In this Umesh Shukla directorial ‘102 Not Out’, he pairs with his contemporary Amitabh Bachchan and not just shares the screen space but essays the character of his son.
Here are some excerpts from his interview with us:
Q. Is the film a message of age just being a number through the film ‘102 Not Out’?
Rishi Kapoor: I’m very happy to tell you that I’m 65 and shall be turning 66 this September. I have no qualms about it. I do think I’ve had a better period in my life than this. I’m enjoying every moment and every bit of it with great work. I’m enjoying doing the work that I am and yes age is just a number. If you see Mr. (Amitabh) Bacchan and the way that’s he’s performed, and he’s playing 102 years of age and that is what he tells his son as well that age is just a number. There’s a very solid social message in the film which cannot be parted with the audience right now because it would give out the story, that’s the main crux. I feel like I have to tell what we’re doing what we are in the film but I just cannot.
Q. You seem to be very old school in the film. Are you like that personally too?
Rishi Kapoor: I don’t consider myself very old school. It’s a duty and a role that I’m playing. It’s the character that you see talking through me.
Q. What does it take to become a great actor?
Rishi Kapoor: It doesn’t take you anything to be that. It’s inbuilt in you. It’s either there or not there. The madness has to be from within. I’m very fond of acting. I’m often questioned why don’t I direct but honestly I’m doing so much work as an actor and there’s almost no time left to direct. There’s so much already on the plate even personally that I don’t think I’ll be able to a lot time towards direction.
Q. You’ve recently tried to maintain a new look for every role that you take and a lot of prosthetic seems to be involved. As an actor, how do you find the whole process?
Rishi Kapoor: A lot of prosthetics went into my character for ‘Kapoor And Sons’, the make up artist was from Hollywood and his name was Greg Cannon. It used to take me 6 to 6 and a half hours daily. And I shot for around 24 or 25 days so I had to put it every single day. I used to come in at 6 am, so my make up and by 12 pm I used to commence shoot. And the shoot would go on till 8 pm and an additional hour to get the make up out. It would approximately take 24 hours. You require an undying passion to do this. I’m someone who is really impatient. A creative person’s mind campy stagnate, he feels like he has to keep doing something or the other. But because here I was developing myself and getting into my character, each and every bit that was being done for me, it gave me a high as an actor. As far as ‘102 Not Out’ is concerned, we did not heavily depend on prosthetics. In ‘Kapoor And Sons’ I had to play a 90 year old and look funny as well because I play an endearing dada. If you notice in film, every family member is fighting each other. It was only my character that was given a relief. It was mine and my director’s (Shakun Batra)’s decision to make the character look cute and funny. If you seen a family picture of the film he looks like an old doll. So we’ve achieved all that by prosthetics. For ‘102 Not Out’, I just had to wear a bald wig and not really much with regards to make up.
Q. What made to say ‘Yes’ to doing this role?
Rishi Kapoor: It’s a very interesting character. The film is focused on the relationship between a father and son. What I really like about it is that there’s an old father trying to send his old son to an old age home. I play a father who has been abandoned by his son. The father wants to break the world record of being the oldest man alive and for doing so, he doesn’t want a depressing or boring atmosphere around him. And all those qualities happen to be in my character, his son. His clothes are full of crease and his shoulders ae akways down. He’s so tensed all the time and is in denial. He brings negativity around him. His father doesn’t want him to be around. He declines to go to an old age home and that’s when the father puts some terms and conditions for him to be at home. These are the countours of the film.
Q. You consider acting easy or difficult?
Rishi Kapoor: Acting is not easy or difficult. It’s a certin kind of individual experience.
Q. You’ve worked with Umesh Shukla twice now and he’s said that he’s learnt a lot from you. What do you have to say about that?
Rishi Kapoor: I don’t think that true! He must be lying. He’s so good himself. What is there that I could have taught him? He’s a great director and very impatient. He comes from a theatre background and he’s focused towards his work. I haven’t found him being bullied by me or (Amitabh) Bachchan Sahab. If he want something, he will get it. Sometimes you wouldn’t be able to dare to say an Amitabh Bachchan that he’s going wrong somewhere. It needs a lot of courage to correct an actor like him. I give him credit for doing what he had to do to get a quality product. Amitabh Bachchan is a disciplined guy and to direct him takes guts. I’m not disciplined at all. I’ve had a lot of fights with my directors. That way he’s a very controlled director.
Q. As an actor of a certain age, are there any roles that you’d avoid doing?
Rishi Kapoor: I wouldn’t want to do the role of an actor or actresses’ father. I’m too expensive for that. I’m open to doing character roles in films be it big or small. I sometimes surprise myself with the characters that I do, be it Rauf from ‘Agneepath’ or the character in ‘Do Dooni Char’, be it Dawood in D-Day or the grandfather in ‘Kapoor And Sons’. I don’t want a pat on my back from people, there is no Rishi Kapoor in my characters. Even if it’s the song ‘Badumba’ from ‘102 Not Out’, I’ve not danced in it as Rishi Kapoor, I’ve danced as the character. His stance is very awkward and he wears big clothes. He keeps his clothes ready for his oversized imaginative self in the future. It is for people to realize what I’ve done. I never sang in my life but Umesh (Shukla) and Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan) insisted me to do this. I’ve always been fooling my audiences by lip syncing but I thought of giving this a chance. I sang it because the character in the film had to sing, not because Rishi Kapoor had to. It’s a promotional song that gives out the jest of the film’s storyline. It’s not just a story about old men. It’s for the youth to come watch and realize the message of the film. There are two other songs in the film which have been remade from classics which help in the narrative of the film.
Q. What is a quality of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan’s that you’d like to adopt?
Rishi Kapoor: It’s too late to adopt anything now but he’s such a pleasure to work with him. He’s a very disciplined actor and I feel I am a student od cinema and I’m learning from my juniors and seniors. We have connected after 27 years. We’ve done 6 films together and the 5th film was ‘Ajooba’ which was 27 years ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge. Lots of years have passed by and we’ve grown with our experiences. What I’ve observed of him is how he flirts with his character and gets into the character. He romances his character. How after one or two shots in, he’s found his level and his bingo on his role. I’ve told him as well that this is what I’ve learnt from you. He’s ever so modest. He’s a delight to work with because you tend to do your best because you’re working with the best. Acting is reacting. He acts so briliantly that you react to him. When you’re parring with a Bachchan, your work gets much better.
Q. What is so different about you and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan that you both tend to do roles that are so unusual from what your contemporairies are doing?
Rishi Kapoor: I think it’s geninely because the audiences like to see us. We aren’t stagnating or being stale. We aren’t looking the same in every film. We are variating, and atleast I see myself and Amit ji doing that. We keep ourselves fresh in the minds of the audiences.
Q. Do you think you’re more liberated as an actor in the current period of cinema as opposed to the times when you were the ‘Hero’ in your films?
Rishi Kapoor: I didn’t used to get the kind of work that I’m getting now, back then. I wouldn’t even expect to get such work. These kind of films wouldn’t be made and the audiences never demanded such kind of cinema. Today is a different time. Then the audiences were forgiving, the actors of 70s and 80s and even a iittle bit of 90s had every hero doing a film based on the connceot of lost and found. They would be lost in their childhood and would return to meet their family by killing the villain. The audiences didn’t have a choice and were forgiving. Or the other concept would be of a rich boy and poor girl or vice versa. I’ve done the same thing all my youth. If the story was any different then I wouldn’t get to do the part. The horizon of the audiences has gone so big. Social media, internet and technology has brought so much exposure. They are aware of different content now, they’re seing pictures on Amazon, Netflix, Television and everything. The rate of liking something has gone very high. You have to match up to their level. Different cinema is being made because of the existance of multiplexes. Single screens also have their own set of films. But a ‘Dangal’ will work in both type of screens. The content for multiplexes are different and they can afford to pay 300 or 400 for a ticket and have a certain calibre that will not match a rickshaw driver. He may want to pay 40 for a ticket and see some action, with maybe cheap songs and now the audiences are changing. Education is expnading. There’s a demand for better theatres and cinema. The sound has to be terffic and the technology has to be as good as American films. Acting has to be great as well. We also tend to rise with changing cinema. A film like Ranbir’s (Kapoor) ‘Barfi’ would have not worked in our times. The choice of the audiences has become different.
Q. Do you think Promotions draw only a certain kind of audience?
Rishi Kapoor: Promotions may bring the crowd, I worked in a film called ‘Besharam’. Ranbir (Kapoor) made 21 crores in one day but 2nd day it went down to 6 crores. How do you explain that? So, content has got the major role to play. Somebody has to break these shackles of all the actors. They feel promotions has got to help the film, No! The film should be good. We make a good film and we get the audiences anyways. Promotions are a burden on the cost of the picture. Nobody understands that.
Q. Was there a moment in this film that instantly reminded you of your father?
Rishi Kapoor: You see I totally believe that acting is basically a tool of observation. You observe in life, in reality, characters, situations, happenings, dialogues and you store it in your mind. It’s like a bank and whenever you get a character that reminds you of certain things. When I used to do make up for ‘Kapoor And Sons’, it took me 6 hours to complete. I used to feel so engrossed and so excited every minute of the process of make up. So it was very challenging and I used to enjoyed being made into a Senior Kapoor. Likewise when I did make up here (for ‘102 Not Out’) I was automatically becoming that character and then somewhere in the bank of your memories where you store, you try and sort it out. What suits in this, what should I do, what should be my body language, what should be my way of walking, how should I react in a particular manner and the most important thing is that you have to shadow your imaginations into yourself. I don’t know, I’m told that I don’t have a style in acting. Many actors like Johnny Lever whose a big impersonator, in my profession we all actors can copy the other but we can never copy ourselves. If I ask someone ‘Why don’t you copy me?’. I feel bad to get a response that ‘You dont have any style only what do we copy’. I was not a stylized actor, I was a spontaneous actor and so I feel that the moment you drop your guard, I don’t want to take name of the actors, they have that guard. There’s that insecurity! I have my style, I’ll talk that way. What is acting? Acting everybody does, even a waiter can act. Its the way you do it which brings a difference and people like it on the screen. The way you present yourself, that is how you become a star. Handsome is what handsome does, its not just looking good that is going to make you a star. Dropping that guard is very important, this is my thinking. I’m a spontanous actor, I believe in that kind of school and I feel that’s the best way to achieve. There are various ways I’m not declining any other school of acting. Everyone has a right to take something from some school and put something in his craft and put forward his acting. But my source and way is unique, I respect all the schools though.
Q. Talking about your association with Mr.Bachchan, is there any one particular film of his that you enjoy?
Rishi Kapoor: ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ by lengths. Just yesterday there was some journalist who said she has an 8 years old son and that he enjoys watching ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’. That just proves my point. This is nearly the 3rd generation after that film released. That film released in 1977 and it serves like a Charlie Chaplin film for the Indian audience. Such a film is enjoyed by every generation. When I watch it, I get so nostalgic, I love seeing that film. There’s so much of entertainment, endearment even if its so illogical, that makes it even more terrific. There has been so many books written in English publication about illogical things but yet are so welcomed by the audiences. So ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ is an evergreen film which is appreciated by all kind of ages.
Q. While doing these films, with regards to their story or screenplay, as an actor you ever felt, these films were going nowhere?
Rishi Kapoor: None of the films, be it even ’Amar Akbar Anthony’ they do not head anywhere as a story. But it’s undeniable that the film had got lot of entertainment. In Hindi films, I wasn’t making a film for it to go somewhere. Our Hindi films are pre-dominantly to entertain, we are not here to educate.If you want to make educational or information films, then make and put it on television and show them for free. Why are you taking entertainment tax then? There’s no entertainment in informative films. If you trying it make an art film, you make that for television. Don’t make it for theaters because nobody’s going to see it anyways. My arguement is always that this medium is about entertainment. There’s an entertainment tax, it’s not called an educational tax or a film. So you talk about a decent film, I only beleive in entertainment and non-entertainment films. If there’s a film which is just boring but aesthetically very good, that’s good but then show it for free on TV. Why charge money? Nobody’s going it watch it anyway. And this is the argument I have been giving for last 40 years to people and that holds true because you don’t have parallel cinema anymore. All the parallel cinema actors have become mainstream actors today. Films are arithmatic also it’s commerce. I want the money back, I don’t want to sacrifice the money. You have to multiply and give it back. So if the basics are clear with the audiences, it’ll be better.
Q. Have you ever enjoyed films of certain directors like Shyam Benegal?
Rishi Kapoor: Yes, (Shyam) Benegal Saab has made wonderful films, but there are some directors whom I’m not going to name but they make boring films. Why shall I torture myself watching such films?
Q. Which is one quality you like about your character that you are playing in ‘102 Not Out’?
Rishi Kapoor: How much he is in denial, how much he’s depressed, how much he is troubled and how he’s got great love and respect for his father. Even in conflict times, he doesn’t go out of his limits. Even when there’s drama with him, even the time he says I’ll take you to court, he doesn’t loses his culture, his tradition of his respect and love for his father. There’s this one quality which they have kept in that, I even had an argument at this point this man will breakdown but no, he should not leave that respect and I quite agreed on that. It’s a subtle notion.
Q. Have you ever wanted to watch the Gujarati play on which this movie is based?
Rishi Kapoor: No, I wanted to watch that but it was never free when it was playing. When I wanted to watch it, it was playing in Baroda or Ahmedabad. We have this wonderful actor Jimit Trivedi, he has a wonderful role in the film. Bascially there are only 3 roles in the film, Amit ji, myself and Jimit. And Jimit is so good and so instrumental in driving the film. You’ll see the film and you’ll understand his importance in the film. I had suggested even so did Amit Ji that you could have taken any star to do this role since there’s no heroine and we could have taken any young star. But I don’t think Umesh (Shukla) wanted a star. he said he didn’t want a star to distract the film as people would expect that some heroine and songs will come or something will happen. That man has got his role and his length in the film. But no distractions between the main two protagonists, the father and the son. And he could have easily created a girl either. So on my insistence, Umesh has created a Bai’s role otherwise there were no women in the film.
Q. Why is the Glamour quotient missing here?
Rishi Kapoor: This film is meant for universal audience. This film is not for them who look for gloss. And this film probably is from them who understand good cinema, good story and good acting. There’s even a social message in the film. If I tell you anything about the film then the story comes out
Q. When you portray certain characters, is there anything from that character which stays with you?
Rishi Kapoor: I have done those films being a switch on and off actor. Once I do a film, its over. I’m not a method actor, I don’t have a method. I’m not from the method acting school. I’m not a stylized actor. I’m sorry if I’m lacking in that department, If that makes me a bad actor then I’m a bad actor. I can’t follow any method, with all respect to all the schools But I don’t believe in that.
Q. You think at any point as an actor you felt unappreciated?
Rishi Kapoor: Yes, that’s a nice question. I’ll tell you why, there’s a reason for it and it’s my fault because I never gave the critics and audience to like me for doing something. I was romancing to heroines, running around trees, singing songs in Ooty, Kashmir, and Switzerland. That’s where my grade was going up. I was wearing jerseys, they used to call me sweater man all over the world. I never got real characters to play where as other actors, my contemporaries they had all kind of roles to play. I’m not complaining, I did 25 years of romance. I may not have been the biggest star in this country but I was always among first 5 stars of country and I’m very happy to say I lasted for 25 yrs and there are people who did some genuine thesis and said no actor, not even Dev Anand had survived non-stop for 25 years. Today ofcourse all the Khans have done it because it’s much easier. But no actor even Jeetendra, Kaka Ji (Rajesh Khanna), even Amit Ji (Amitabh Bachchan) gave a gap of 3 years. This is to my credit. But I feel I didn’t get any credit as an actor because its my fault I never gave them a reason to appreciate me. I was only singing songs, I got lovely songs to sing, I only got a few roles like Tawaif, Damini, Prem Rog, all these where I had something to do. Otherwise I was doing nothing in other films.
Q. Everyone makes mistakes and learns from it. What made you do a film like ‘Sheshnaag’ in the days?
Rishi Kapoor: Let me tell you, I’ve done a lot of work close to a film like ‘Sheshnaag’. There’s one called ‘Sher Dil’. They are all my classics. When I’m gone from this world, these wil be my classics. I make fun of it myself on Twitter. I sometimes question myself that compelled me to do such films.
Q. What was your mindset at that time?
Rishi Kapoor: There was Jeetendra and myself, we all were friends. That trend was you know was fast changing. It was Yash Chopra who changed the trend in the 90’s. He came to me with films like ‘Heena’ and ‘Damini’. The South Indian influence on Bollywood was coming down. I wish I hadn’t worked a few films that I did. It was the worst phase of my career.
Q. Do you think the audiences demanded such film in those times?
Rishi Kapoor: But the audience never told me to work in a film like ‘Sher Dil’, I tortured them by working in such a film.
Q. Have you watched the teaser of Sanju? How did you like it ?
Rishi Kapoor: It was good. Genuinely the stuff is good. I have seen that boy (Ranbir Kapoor) work day and night. Every 6 weeks, he took to look a different part and did that. He grew his hair. I was only scared for him. I hoped it (Sanju) doesn’t become caricatur-ish. I was very concerned but then when you have a director like Raju (Rajkumar) Hirani, he’s probably helped him out throughout. I have not seen the film, so I can’t say much.