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Anil Kapoor and Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor: Nobody is anyone’s fan in our house

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It’s not everyday that you have this Bollywood father-son duo talk about each other, their equation as co-actors and the bonding they share off camera. While Anil Kapoor, in his own words a bit more “energetic and anxious”, Harsh admits to being “calm and composed”. As they gear up to share screen one more time in Netflix film Thar, two years since their first onscreen outing together in AK vs AK (2020), the two get candid about how is it like to collaborate with someone from within the family, and if at all it changes anything in front of the camera.

Excerpts from an interview:

Audiences loved your brief yet endearing camaraderie in AK vs AK. And with Thar, it’s only going to get bigger and better. Wherever members of the family come together on screen for a project, there’s always more buzz than the usual. As actors, is it any different? Is there more comfort or any sense of nervousness?

ANIL: What really excited both of us to be part of Thar, and at least me is that we’re not playing father and son in this film. We play the characters. And with Sonam (Kapoor; daughter), in both the films — The Zoya Factor and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (both 2019) — I was playing her father (onscreen). If given a choice, I’d rather do a film [with my kids], where we’re actually strangers and our way of thinking, our way of everything is completely different; how we meet and how our paths cross. That makes doing the film much more exciting.

Also, when I hear Harsh talk, it’s exactly the way I spoke many years ago when I was working with senior actors. People used to ask me, ‘Are you intimidated? Are you nervous or anxious?’ And just like Harsh said, I also used to say, ‘No, I’m playing my character, I’m interacting with my co-actor and whoever he might be, that is offset, but on set, he’s the character’.

HARSH:Thar isn’t the kind of film where you sense any difference [while working with a family member]. When you do maybe a more star-driven film, then you’re kind of a little more conscious. But Thar is a character-driven film, so you just kind of try and submit to the world you’re a part of.

How is it like to be superstar Anil Kapoor’s son on a film set, Harsh? Does the directors look at you any differently, like, ‘Okay, he’s the son of such a big star, we need to direct him in a particular way’? Or do you notice any changes in the approach that people around you have?

HARSH: The truth is that the directors I’ve worked with couldn’t care less, to be honest. I don’t think (filmmakers) Vikramaditya Motwane, Vasan Bala and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra really pay attention to that kind of stuff [that I was a superstar’s son]. They’re not starstruck in any way, they’re more kind of just focused and very proud of their work. So, they want to make sure if I’m the leading actor or playing some sort of a role in the film, then it it’s going to elevate the film. Moreover, I’ve never done any starry kind of roles, so the atmosphere and ambience on those sets is more like we’re all just students, working together and everybody’s equally passionate to make a film. I’ve never really done that brand of cinema, so I don’t really feel like I’ve been treated differently, I’ve just been any other actor on set.

Two of your children — Sonam and Harsh — opted for the same profession as you are in, and things have really changed from how they used to be when you started out in the 80s. What were those certain advises that you gave to both of them, early on when they entered the film industry?

ANIL: You’d be really surprised, but I don’t give much advice to my kids. I give them responsibility and I just let them be. All the films — Mirzya (2016), Bhavesh Joshi (2018), AK vs AK (2020), Ray (2021) and now Thar, I had no contribution for Harsh. He’s got these films on his own. Sonam also has got, whatever films she has done, on our own. I think my father, to some extent, when I started off, just let me be and, and be independent, have a mind of my own, take my decisions, make my mistakes and learn from them. Somewhere, that’s what I’ve taken from him and it helped me, to make whoever I am today. And now, I let my kids do what they feel is right and allow them to make mistakes and learn.

Sometimes it is very difficult to make people understand when they ask me, ‘Tu apne bete ko samjhata nahi? Usko bol thodi commercial film karne ke liye. Why doesn’t do those starry roles?’ And I say, ‘He’ll do when he simply feels that he wants to do it. I don’t want to tell him you do this, you do that, or anything.’ I believe I should let my children do what they believe in. I’ve never really gone out to talk or speak or ask my kids, ‘Aisa karo, waisa karo.’ They’ve done everything on their own, including Rhea (Kapoor; daughter), as a producer. Here and there if I feel there’s anything that’s going completely wrong, I do step in and say, ‘Bohot badi galati kar rahe ho, magar karni hai toh karo, main kya kar sakta hu. I’m not going to stop you.’ So, I’m not those fathers who sit down with a stick and give gyaan or advice. In fact, the whole family is such… very independent, and they have their own point of view, own tastes in everything — films, food, clothes and aesthetics — everybody’s different. There’s nobody who’s anybody’s fan in our house.

Thar is a very unique-looking film from what’s visible from the trailer. We know Harsh came on board for the film first, and he convinced his father to join the cast. What was this process like?

HARSH: It was quite a long journey. I’ve been working with director Raj Singh Chaudry, to make sure that this happens, for quite a long time. I came on board in 2018, then we got dad on board towards the end of 2019. e shot it last year and now it set to release.

And for you Anil, was it only for Harsh that you said yes to the film, or was it the script that you were convinced about?

ANIL: For me, it’s always a combination, who I’m working with, who the director is, and of course, and then of course, the material has to be good. Also, I always want to work with younger talent, and want them to navigate me, rather than I try to navigate them. Not just Thar, even with AK vs AK, I feel Harsh was so closely associated with Vikramaditya Motwane that it just made them slightly more comfortable to ask me to do the film. So, somewhere, I think, through Harsh, I’m getting an opportunity to work with the younger filmmakers.

Also the characters you both are portraying in the film and the dialect you’ve picked for it, are very different from the usual you’ve done in the past. Given that there’s a very loyal fan base for such genre of films, what did you think would really connect with audiences, more so because it’s releasing on the streaming platform Netflix?

HARSH: The trailer, first of all, is cut quite intentionally to not reveal too much about the film or the characters. In today’s times, we see a lot of trailers that are quite revealing, where a lot of the plot and the story is outlined and underlined. With Thar, we wanted to really focus on the tone, the mood, the atmosphere, the ambience, and the world of the film, and somewhat shadow the characters and who they really are. And we have to thank Netflix for letting us kind of take that approach, you know, because they believed in us, and believed in the film.

My character is actually more of a city guy and dad’s character is kind of more local to the place that the film eventually takes place. My character is very interesting in the way that he’s not able to and isn’t in a position where he can reveal too much about himself where he comes from. He’s quite a quiet kind of character. And the challenge was really how does one make a character like that interesting and magnetic and yet hold the viewers’ attention without being able to say or do much or reveal about yourself or your motivations.

ANIL: I just read the script and if I can read a script in one go, that’s one of the first things, which really excites me for me to say yes to a film. And when I interacted with the director, I knew that he has a vision and lived with the story and has been wanting to make this film. When I had first read the script, of course I liked my character, but not as much as what it has become now. Due to the pandemic, the film got delayed by a few months, so we had time — Harsh, Raj, our entire team — and we put our heads together, and we improved everybody’s characters and made them such that we’re all on the same page when we started.

You’re also producing Thar, so what changes when you take that role in addition to being actors? Especially when you’re giving a shot in front of the camera, do you have other things going at the back of your mind?

ANIL: When I’m on the set, I’m not a producer, I’m just the actor. And I have a great team. And especially with Thar, Harsh was driving the film, and our company’s CEO, we had a great team. So for me, it was just like a cakewalk. I have just been part of the film as an actor. I have just gone with their vision. And I just had to be on the set and do my thing. Of course, once the film was ready, then have a look, even if I was not a producer, having spent so much of time in this industry, forget this film, but any other film, also, all the other films, which I’ve done, it might be any other. And the bigger the filmmaker, the more open he is, that’s what I’ve noticed. So, they are because they would want that what I feel about it, and then I give my suggestions, and if they take it, I’m happy if they don’t, then also I’m happy. I am not a very intrusive, or a confrontational kind of a person. I do my film and I move on to my next.

HARSH: There’s definitely a greater responsibility to make sure that things were how we dreamt them to be. There’s no room for complacency or to waste time because time is money, especially on a film set. You’re trying to do subversive cinema and that’s also not cheap. So, you need all your people working at 100% capacity. The more footage you get, the better; it helps in the edit.

For me, it was more [as a producer], I was more involved in the pre-production with Raj because we had so much time before the film took off. During the first wave of Covid and when the Delta variant came, we knew we weren’t shooting, so we focused on improving the writing and the characters are better fleshed out, then the film is more engaging and gripping.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@monikarawal

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