At a global level Anil Kapoor is undoubtedly one of the most recognized figures in the Indian film industry. From the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire to an acclaimed performance in US television series 24, after three decades of fame as a Bollywood actor, Anil Kapoor has attained what very few Hindi film stars manage to achieve: crossover success. For his next release, the star has taken on the mantle of producer, with Aisha hitting cinemas 6th August. Coming out under his Anil Kapoor Films Company banner, the Sonam Kapoor-Abhay Deol starrer promises to be an un-missable romantic comedy that will appeal to audiences across the world. Bollyspice caught up with one of our favorite film heroes in London to talk Aisha and more.
What was it about this project that made you take it on under the Anil Kapoor Films Company banner?
I think it was ultimately the content, the script. My daughters were the first ones to really listen to it, and the writer and the director both wanted Sonam to be part of the project. They convinced me to look at it, and I liked it, and said, ‘okay, fine I will make this film’.
The film is being touted as the first ever Bollywood ‘chick flick’. Why do you think the genre has not been attempted before in Hindi cinema?
It has been attempted. There have been female orientated films, where the main protagonist is a woman. But there has never been a fun film. We have these fun flicks for boys and men, but with women it has always been about emotions and sentiment. This is a romantic comedy, there is fun, confusion etc. Most of all it’s made by women and it is about women.
Aisha releases 6th August. Do you feel more nervous as an actor or producer as the first day first show approaches?
As a producer it is worse. As an actor I am not that stressed, but as a producer, especially when you know both of your daughters are involved, one as a producer and one acting in it, I am more anxious. When I started the film I thought if I can just support them making the film that will be good enough, as I was away shooting for 24 in LA. Then I came back and saw the rushes and then the first print yesterday. Now I have become slightly ambitious about it and feel people should see the film as it has shaped up very well.
There is a scene in your brother’s film Luck By Chance where complaints are made about the wardrobe budget. As a producer did you ever question the cost of some of Sonam’s designer dresses in the film?
When the film started we met with the designer who did the costumes on Clueless, but realized that although she was tremendous, this is an Indian film, and we could not afford her. So, the female costumes were then done in-house by a young girl from Delhi, Pernia Qureshi, who did the girls and Kunal Rawal who has done the guys. They went to New York, they sourced all the material and made all the costumes, and although I don’t think everyone was a ‘professional’ professional as such doing the costumes, the result is tremendous and better than having a professional. But still it is slightly more than it should be.
In recent years you have achieved international fame in your roles in the Academy Award-winning, Slumdog Millionaire and hit TV series 24. How will this worldwide recognition impact the international reception of the film?
I don’t know. I have got the exposure of these two ventures, but I’m not sure how much it will help with promoting Aisha. Like for example with Slumdog Millionaire, everyone was new when the film started, nobody knew Dev Patel, nobody knew Frieda Pinto, nobody knew me as such internationally. Then the film released and it just exploded. It’s the audience which helps to decide the fate of the film. Of course, like all my films I will be there to say this is a good film and we have worked hard on it, but ultimately if the audience likes the film they make it a success.
How do you think Sonam has done in this, her fourth film? She really seems the perfect person to play Emma aka Aisha.
If you ask me, as a father I would want her to improve more. There’s a lot of room for improvement. But as an actor I feel she is fantastic. As an actor watching another actor doing just her fourth film, she is terrific. But as a father I would want her to become better.
Abhay Deol as co-star. How did the actor come on board for the project?
Well, I didn’t want him for the film. But it was Rhea, my daughter, who produced the film and Devika Bhagat who has written the screenplay, they both were very keen on him playing the role of Mr. Knightley. I had not seen much of his work. But then they showed me his work, I liked it, and then I met him personally when he came to see me in my office. You know sometimes when you make a film you have to go with the conviction of other people, and in this film I have gone with the conviction of these youngsters. Sometimes it is necessary to listen to youngsters, and I did that with the script, and also with Abhay. If people like him in the film, I won’t take the credit, but will give it to those who made me sign him.
The film has a very glossy, international look, is it targeted towards the urban multiplex audience or the diaspora audience? Do you have a certain demographic in mind when working on a film?
I think it is basically for young people. We just made the film, and let’s see how far it goes. The intent is the Indian diaspora all over the world, and if it crosses over that will be a bonus. But yes, the look is very international, it is glossy and a lot of hard work has gone into the aesthetics of the film. The costumes, the production design and the performances of Aisha are of international standards. You can compare them to an international film definitely.
Do you feel Bollywood films present India in a different way to how international directors film it?
Of course. When I made a film called Gandhi, My Father I had a British DOP David Macdonald and he came and shot the film. They see India in a different way to how I would see it. Just as when I come to England I see the country in a different way to how someone British might see it. It also depends on the script. So, Slumdog Millionaire had to be shot in the slums and in the studios, with Aisha the script demanded that we had to capture the Delhi which is glamorous, which is glossy, but still slightly artificial.
Filmmakers often show snapshots of landmarks such as India Gate or Connaught Place to present the capital, without really exploring the real Delhi. Aisha is set in Golf Links, is the intent to present South Delhi culture?
Yes, it is about the high class and rich and famous of Delhi, so we show all those South Delhi places Golf Links, Greater Kailash, Defence Colony, and I don’t think any film before has really captured the essence of that. So, you don’t see Chandni Chowk and India Gate. No Red Fort.
The film is also shot in Rishikesh. I saw the shooting of Salaam-E-Ishq with Govinda in Rishikesh and there were thousands of people watching the filmmaking process. How was the shooting of Aisha?
It is creative chaos. We thrive on this energy, and we are used to seeing millions of people around us, trains, buses, cars, and traffic jams. India is about people. We are used to it. If there are no people we feel there is something wrong somewhere. That scares us. What scares you all is so many people, you might be taken aback by so many people, but we are relaxed, we are calm.
Race, No Entry, Biwi No 1, Tashan, Humko Deewane Kar Gaye – your films often have massive musical success. What is your favourite soundtrack or song from one of your films?
I think the soundtrack from 1942: A Love Story done by RD Burman was phenomenal, and then Taal and the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, which were both done by AR Rahman. These are exceptional, and you can compare these tracks to any music composer in the world. They have not only pleased Indian audiences but somehow touched a chord with international listeners.
Mr. Yash Chopra, when asked who was the future superstar of Hindi film, said Ranbir Kapoor. Who do you feel is the next big star?
You can never predict something like that. I think any superstar in the world just comes out of the blue. You can never predict who it will be. It will always be someone who comes out of nowhere to become a superstar. So at the moment he looks the most promising, but I feel there will be someone else.
I can’t see him right now, there is no one there. It will be someone from out of the blue. But out of who is there now, Ranbir looks the most promising amongst all the actors.
BollySpice had so much fun catching up with the charming Anil Kapoor in London. As our photos show, the Bollywood star looks younger than ever. It has been 5 years since we first met the actor at Karjat studio outside Mumbai, and we are hoping he will share the secret of his eternal youth. Check out our forthcoming review of Aisha, arriving in cinemas worldwide Friday 6th August 2010.
Photo credit: Eleanor Halsall