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Rishi Kapoor: I was always charged up to take on challenging roles, but I never got an opportunity

He was the ultimate lover-boy of the 70s and 80s. Good-looking, charming, talented and believable, along with the enviable touch of the mighty Kapoor lineage. He had that effect on screen that made the lovely ladies go ‘oooh’ in the aisles. That was Rishi Kapoor. Cut to current day, those covetable traits haven’t lost colour, but within that same actor, a new one is born. Rishi Kapoor reloaded. At 65, he’s picking his roles with relish and shining in characters that are challenging him like never before. The upcoming 102 Not Out, directed by Umesh Shukla, starring Amitabh Bachchan along with him, is another proof of that. The actor talks to BT about his learnings from Mr Bachchan, the audience’s changing appetite in cinema and how he can’t help but call a spade a spade, whether he’s talking about films, fans or family. Read on... Would you say that at 65, you are at a superb stage of your career? Do you find yourself challenging the actor in you now more than ever? I have never been offered such characters and roles in my entire career. The first 25 years, I was only singing songs and serenading the heroine; enough of playing a lover boy, I am over the hill for that now. The roles that I am doing currently are varied and challenging. I find it fantastic that someone like me can do such contrasting films like 'Do Dooni Chaar' (2010), 'Student Of The Year' (2012), 'Kapoor & Sons' (Since 1921) (2016), and even play characters like Rauf Lala in 'Agneepath' (2012) or Dawood in 'D-Day' (2013). These roles are tough, but that’s the beauty of it, as I have never done this in my life. This is what challenges and excites me as an actor. The fact that you don’t have to conform to any type of role or genre, in order to cement your success or reinforce stardom, makes it even better, right? There was a spell in between when some people wanted me to play a father, but I didn’t want to. There is nothing in it for me, and I told them that I am too expensive for it, and I can’t play a father, who is reprimanding his son or daughter. So, I don’t do those roles, unless they are very prominent like the one in 'Patiala House' (2011). It has to be a well-defined character and it has to be one of the most prominent characters in the film. Right now, I am happy with what I am doing. My plate is full; I have films like 'Mulq', 'Rajma Chawal', 'Jhootha Kahin Ka', and some other projects in the pipeline that will go on floors soon. I feel like I am internally and externally all charged up. In fact, why now? I was always charged up to take on challenging roles, but I never got an opportunity. Today, good parts are being written for actors. Prominent filmmakers are pushing their boundaries and taking chances with subjects, unlike what we have seen in years. The leading man can be anything from 20 to 75 years old, it doesn’t matter… (Cuts in)… Yes, because today, content is king. Earlier, cinema in India was only youth-oriented; it was all about song, dance and romance. Now, the people who watch films at multiplexes go with a different sensibility, and the rickshawala who watches films in a single-screen theatre has his own sensibility. That audience (single screen) will always be there in India, the maar pitaai and even the crude humour will always remain. But the audience that has emerged because of the multiplex wants better films. They want different content, as they are exposed to social media, world cinema and international shows. The world is their oyster. Today, our content is directly in competition with Western cinema; hence, we need to give the audience the best. We have made a film like '102 Not Out', which challenges the basic norms of filmmaking. There are 76 and 65-year-old actors in the lead, there is no female lead, no romance, song or dance. We are waiting to see how the audience reacts to it. Talking about your 76-year-old co-star, Amitabh Bachchan, was it nostalgic working with him again after a gap of 27 years? Our journey began 42 years ago with 'Kabhi Kabhie'. Thereafter, we have played brothers, friends and now, father and son. When I heard the story idea, it was very exciting to see how a father sends his son to an old-age home. Later, when I heard the whole script, I was bowled over. To have Amitji as a co-star is always a dream. I don’t even need to say it; he is such a wonderful co-artiste, friend and relative. We worked together after 27 years, but the moment we rehearsed, we knew that we were on the same wavelength. Of course, we are older and our reflexes might have jaded, but I learnt another lesson from Amitji while working on this film. Generally, when I am working, I tend to learn from my seniors and juniors. Every time, I take a lesson home from some actor or the other, and this time, it was him. It is amazing to see how he enters into a character, and how he romances and flirts with it. That is how he fine-tunes it and brings out the nuances. After the first few shots, it is bingo! Throughout the film, he conversed with our director Umesh Shukla, in the little Gujarati that he knows. The script of this film was endearing and new. For me, the challenge was how I can develop this character and what his body language should be. I am not playing Rishi Kapoor anymore, so I had to look different, too. In your autobiography, you have said that in your younger days, you worked very hard to measure up to Mr Bachchan’s level of performance. After 27 years, did you push yourself as hard while working with him to bring out your best? Yes, Mr Bachchan is such a professional that there is no mediocrity about that man, though some people might say so. They are absolutely wrong. He challenges you to perform better. While there are several professions that have a retirement age, the beauty about being an actor is that as long as someone is writing a role for you, you can keep going on… It wasn’t really like that earlier; it is something that is happening now. With actors like Mr Bachchan who are still doing such great work because roles are written for him, things are changing. Earlier, as actors grew older, they would retire and sit at home. But now, the whole trend has changed, like it is in the West. Look at actors like Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford; Eastwood did a romantic film like 'The Bridges Of Madison County' (1995) along with Meryl Streep, at the age of 65. Coming from such fine lineage, which is deeply rooted in Indian cinema, did you ever take anything for granted in your 20s and 30s? Or did you strive and struggle to get the best that was out there? Nothing comes easy. People say there is nepotism, but I beg to differ; there is nothing of that sort. You are actually chosen by the people. There can be producers pushing their sons to become actors. They make five-six films, but when none of those work and they still keep pushing them, it is stupidity. They are probably talented, but sometimes, the audience just does not accept you. They don’t want to see you. Maybe I was lucky that people liked me in my films and I worked hard and kept doing more work. You can’t force yourself to become an actor and you can’t force yourself on people. An actor is the choice of the public, and they will make you what you are. They have to appreciate you and like you. When you do your first film, you will be compared to your predecessors, and that’s an ordeal for any young actor. The audience has to choose you; otherwise nothing works in your favour to become a star. '102 Not Out' is a film is about a father and son. While raising your kids (Riddhima and Ranbir), did you see traces of your father (Raj Kapoor) in you? My father was a very busy man. We spent most of our childhood with my mom (Krishna Raj Kapoor), not that my father did it on purpose. He would work in films outside his banner, and whatever he earned, he would put it into his own films. Of course, we were never deprived of basics like love, comfort and good schooling. We were taught how to deal with the world. Whenever my father had the time, we would travel with him to places like Japan and London. So, he tried to make time for us, but we were mostly with my mother. Similarly, while I was a busy actor, I would never work in the month of May, when my kids had school vacations. Twice a year, we would go on family holidays, I have never deprived them of that. When Ranbir and Riddhima were very young, they would come to my outdoor shoots, so that we could spend time together. When they started growing up, I thought that they needed more exposure, so I took them around the world. When my children were ready to fly, I let them and then they were on their own. Talking about your son Ranbir, he is a huge star who has made different choices right from the start of his career. You must be proud of the kind of actor he has grown into… Of course, I am proud of my son’s choices, they might be off the curve, but he was very clear at the beginning of his career that he didn’t want to do what the others did. If I had to guide him, I would never let him do films like 'Wake Up Sid' (2009) and 'Barfi!' (2012). But he did those films and proved his critics wrong. Every actor has ups and downs, you win some, you lose some. That’s okay, as long as you are a good actor, and you have the potential to be a star, that’s what matters. Do you ever sit down and have discussions with Ranbir about love and life? No, we don’t talk about love, life and all that. I can’t be very informal with my son as I was raised that way, I don’t know if it is good or bad, but I am like this and my children know it. Of course, I give them all my love, they are my children, but I am not that kind of an informal father, who can crack jokes and talk about girls with my son. You took a brief break (23 days from Twitter), did you miss it? There are very few senior actors like Mr Bachchan and you, who have taken to this medium with such keen enthusiasm. How do you find this new-age way of connecting with your fans? I was holidaying in the US when I was cut off from Twitter, because someone tried to hack into my email account, and when that happens, they temporarily discontinue the account. I don’t really chat as much with my fans. In fact, most of the time, I am fighting with them. I am not a pleasurable guy on Twitter, who is out there pleasing his fans. Honestly, I am terrible at it. I don’t even promote my films as I don’t find that exciting. I know I should do it, but I have no patience. Earlier, I hated giving autographs and now everyone has a camera, so everyone wants photographs. That’s even worse. Though everyone will agree that on social media, you come across as extremely expressive, funny and fearlessly vocal about your views… Well, I am that way; even my autobiography is like that. I am an honest and blunt man, and I believe that a fact is a fact. If something has to be said, I will go ahead and say it. I always call a spade a spade. ORIGINAL POST:

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