He belongs to the first family of the Hindi film industry- 'The Kapoor Khandaan' and is the son of one of Hindi cinema's finest actors Shammi Kapoor. With such an illustrious legacy, films had to happen to him one day or the other. He has already directed 3 English cross-over films but the thing that is getting him all excited these days is his acting debut. Yes Aditya Raj Kapoor is all set to make his presence felt in front of the camera with a very realistic and intelligent film called Mumbai 118. Bollywood Hungama spoke to the director turned actor who truly believes that age is all in the matter of one's mind.
Shakespeare once said, “What's in a name”? Quite a lot I say especially if you have a name like Kapoor in the Hindi film industry…You are the son of one of the finest actors in Hindi cinema - Shammi Kapoor and come from what is often referred to as the 'First Family' of Hindi cinema… How does it feel?
(Smiles) Its feels terrific and it feels like destiny taking its own path finally.
Unlike your father you call yourself as Aditya Raj Kapoor…any particular reason?
When I was very young, I was in boarding school and the principal asked me my middle name (family name) I somehow thought Raj is my middle name (since my grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor was alive at that time) Moreover, my father's real name is also Shamsher Raj Kapoor. So I thought let me hang on to that and since then the middle name has been there and I never changed it. So here I am Aditya Raj Kapoor, three different names but one person
You are now all set to make your acting debut with Mumbai 118 at a comparatively older age. What took you so long to decide that this is the right time? Didn't you ever consider about acting as a child?
See this is something probably I would have liked to do a long time ago but I decided to mature and get to know and understand business and see the other side of the world before coming here. I did pretty well with my business, and even set up a video studio. I worked on many projects abroad and in India. But one day I decided to do only films. I finished making 3 English films and then came to Mumbai to make Bollywood films and in the middle, I had a gap of three months and my writer offered me this film He even conned me into acting (laughs). I thought who is to define what is the right age for a man to do something? I felt progressively this should be the next evolutionary step in my life.
Let's talk about your film Mumbai 118, what is this film all about?
The film is basically about an elderly builder (played by me) who falls in love with a very young bar dancer and how he comes in terms with life. It's a very realistic story and a very intelligent film. In fact it's a very unusual story for me to take up as my first film and my entire family was wondering what the hell I'm going to do in it? They were very shocked but it's a very cute film and its very realistic in the sense I'm not singing and dancing under a tree. I'm playing a real man who leaves his family and goes to a bar girl and how does he conducts his life after that.
Mumbai 118 is about an elderly builder who falls in love with a very young bar dancing girl and how he comes terms with life.
The title Mumbai 118 is quite unusual; does it signify something in particular?
118 is where the bar girl lives, it's the room number or in 'Mumbaiyya' lingo her kholi number.
So who is starring opposite you in the film?
There is a new girl called Kohinoor. She is a very pretty girl, devastatingly good-looking and has also acted very well. She is going to win a National award for this film, I have already blessed her. This is her first film but she is simply superb.
Who is directing the film?
The film is directed by Surendra Verma. He is J.P Dutta's chief assistant. It's a very well directed film. The director has tried not to make it very filmy and it's more like a European or a French film which is aimed at the festivals. It gives you 'Mumbai ka haal', very similar to the films Mahesh Bhatt used to make 20 years back like Arth.
Who else form a part of the cast apart from Kohinoor and yourself?
There is Kiran Jhanjiani who is a popular T.V. actor. He is a thorough professional and has done an excellent job in the film. He plays the antagonist in the film.
What's the status of the film now? How much is left to be shot?
It's finished. I am going to dub now and in two months time it should release. We only shot for 15 days in Mumbai and wrapped the film. It's a bunch of professional people that I worked with. The executive producer is Mr. Rajiv Ruia who earlier made My Friend Ganesha and the producer is Mr. Umesh Gandhi a very prominent builder.
Don't you think a love story between an older man and a young girl has been witnessed quite a lot in the recent past especially in films like Cheeni Kum and Nishabd?
It's not just a plain love story; it's a proper earthy subject which every rich man can identify with. What happens to a person if such a thing happens in real life? How does he deal with it? Cheeni Kum is a different kind of a film. It was a cynical romantic comedy. This is not a comedy; it has high drama and is very high on emotional quotient.
What was your dad (Shammi Kapoorji's) first reaction when you told him about your decision to act?
He said “You must be crazy” and asked me if I have lost my mind. But then, he knows that I'm a very practical guy. So I when told him that I'm losing weight and getting into shape for the role he said go ahead and do it.
So is this like your first brush with acting?
Absolutely, I have never acted before or faced the camera. Of course I have done some plays when I was in school (laughs) but that was a long time back. This is my full-fledged acting debut and now I am going to get really serious about my acting career. It's like a tiger has been unleashed in me now.
Let's talk a little about your early days, not many people know that you started out as an assistant director with the legendary Raj Kapoor Saab. How was your experience?
Yes you are right; in fact let me put it as I did my film schooling with Mr. Raj Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor. I joined Raj Kapoor as an assistant at the end of Bobby and did Dharam Karam with him. In fact J.P Dutta and Kuku Kohli were assisting along with me. We are all colleagues. J.P. is elder than me and he then left for Delhi and went on to do his first film Gulami. Kuku continued for one more film and then I became Raj saab's chief assistant in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. That film helped me to understand what direction is all about. During that film Kumar Gaurav was also assisting us for a brief period. He (Bunty) of course went on to become a film star and I was going to be launched by Raj Saab as a director. On the premiere of Satyam Shivam Sundaram, I just turned around and said I want to do business. I wanted to do something different in my life. So I turned my face to the entire film industry and did business for nearly 25 years non-stop.
So what sort of business were you into?
Basically I've been a management guy. I set up a video studio and even built 8-9 amusement parks in the country. I also started one of the first ever video magazines called Shammi Kapoor Presents Manoranjan. That was produced by me and we used dad's brand name. In fact we were the first people with fixed camera set-ups which T.V. channels use today etc. We ran it for 2 years and even had a tie up with Reliance and with Pritish Nandy long time ago. I then produced one of the first tele-films called Gawahi, which was a small budget film and did reasonably well. I have been dabbling every now and then with films and T.V.
You even directed few films; how and when did direction happen?
I migrated to Dubai in 2001. I was setting up my Television studio in Dubai when one of my investors ran away. The Arab guy told me why don't you direct considering you have assisted Raj Kapoor. I never thought about it actually till that moment and you won't believe but I thought I should give it a shot. I started writing and directing and before you knew it, I had finished directing 140 episodes. I then decided that I am not going to do management any more. Then I wrote my first film called Shamaal (which means Sandstorm). It is not yet released but is Dubai's first English film.
Which other films did you direct post Shamaal?
After Shamaal, I directed Sambar Salsa and Don't Stop Dreaming during my days in Birmingham. Both my films starred Rishi Kapoor and are cross-over English films. I then decided to come to Mumbai last year (2007) to do mainstream Bollywood films and here I am.
Did these films Sambar Salsa and Don't Stop Dreaming release in India?
Both the films are in English and they did release in the western world. If the producer wants to dub it in Hindi and release it here, they will do it. Basically it's not in my hands and since I had just started my career then, I didn't insist on anything
So what else do you have lined up apart from Mumbai 118? Any other films which you are directing?
I am making a film called Baltidevi Queen of Southall for which I have signed Rakhi Sawant. I am yet to finalize the male lead though.
Baltidevi Queen of Southall is quite an unusual title. What's the film all about?
Balti Devi, is about a 'low on luck' woman living in London, who is a cook in a dhaba and an alcoholic stock broker and how they are held together to understand the true meaning of life. They are two different people with personality disorders and how they cross paths and help each other in spite of an age difference.
Rakhi hasn't really played the main lead yet in any of her films and is known more for her item numbers….What made you cast her in the lead role?
I cast her because she is damn good. I am sold on her. I believe Rakhi Sawant is the next Mumtaz of the Hindi film industry. In fact when Rakhi asked me how I liked her film Buddha Mar Gaya, I told her, “Rakhi don't try to be Hema Malini , don't try to be Madhuri Dixit, don't try to be Madhubala. Only remember one woman in your life- Mumtaz “ I say this because Mumtaz was a powerful and vivacious actress who gave the others a run for their money. The same will happen to Rakhi, you mark my words. In fact, I believe even Yash Raj has signed her in their forthcoming film starring Shahid and Rani Mukherjee
So who is playing the male lead?
I haven't yet finalized because its very difficult to get a main lead against Rakhi.
When does Baltidevi Queen of Southall start rolling?
We start rolling sometime in the next couple of months. My pre-production is almost complete. I wrote the script and the whole film is clearly visualized in my mind. I also have an incredibly talented music director called Siddharth Kashyap who is composing the music for the film. So once I find the male lead, we should start shooting.
The Kapoor legacy continues with Ranbir and Kareena Kapoor (the 4th generation of Kapoors) making a mark in the industry. How do you feel about that?
I feel very good. I feel proud to be part of the same legacy started by Prithviraj Kapoor. I would love to work with them someday in the future.
Finally you are making your acting debut at the age of 51. Do you think the audience is ready to accept their hero as someone who is in his fifties?
The content level in India has now matured and you now have character lead artists. Something like what Mr. Sanjeev Kumar did during his time and which Amitji is doing so well now. In fact we owe Amitabhji a lot because he took the lead and has indeed helped people over the age of 50 plus do something different. Moreover today's audience relates to a real, natural character. So you won't see me running around trees and dancing. I am playing a character which is close to my real age. I have white hair in real life and even in my film Mumbai 118 I have kept my hair white. I have not dyed my hair. If Richard Gere, Michael Douglas don't feel the need to dye their hair, why should I?
On a parting note, of all your father's films which one do you rate the best and why?
Teesri Manzil because by that time dad had matured into a terrific actor and Vijay Anand's direction was simply superb. And with Helen and Asha Parekh it was a terrific team. Teesri Manzil is what I would call a cult film and is one film which even dad is proud of. In fact, lot of today's dark thrillers still copy bits and pieces from Teesri Manzil.
Lastly what are your future plans, more focus on acting or direction?
Right now I am listening to a couple of scripts for my acting career which is somehow overtaking my directorial career (laughs). I have no set mindset as of now that I will only act or only direct. I have also written my play and will show it in Prithvi theatre by the end of this year. I am taking things as they come and hoping for the best for my debut film Mumbai 118.