‘You have your own inherent style of acting and now, you have your own space as a senior actor where roles are etched for you, whereas most in your age group have faded out or chosen to take a backseat…
I am happy to have work at my age; work that I choose to do, want to do and love to do. I’ve been experimenting with my look in every film I try, and portray different characters. Though I don’t want to play a daddy man! Please! That’s so boring! I’ve done it and had really nothing much to do in the films.
Back then, when I was younger, it was singing songs around trees, romance and Fair Isle sweaters! I feel no one called me an actor; I don’t think I got my just dues then. Now of course, it’s always kind praise coming my way for every film I do. Honesty towards my work and the love of the audience has got me this far.
I’ve no regrets in my life – even though my name is not there in the top names. I didn’t wait for stardom – Bobby was an instant hit in 1973 and it was after that, that I had to struggle to match its success. I’ve been working for 25 years as a leading star from 1973-1998 after which I got bored, gained weight and felt I couldn’t compete with the younger lot. I gave the money back to filmmakers I was going to work with and sat at home for three months. Then I decided to direct Aa Ab Laut Chalein with Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan and Akshaye Khanna. Then Ajay and Veeru Devgn convinced me to get back to acting and I did Khatti Meethi and Raju Chacha with them and went back to acting all over again.’
‘Ranbir is famous as your son, and not the other way round like most star parents nowadays. What do you make of that?
That is true. But sometimes, I am introduced to little kids as Ranbir’s dad and I feel very proud. Ranbir is the first male actor from the fourth generation of the Kapoors.
I am not a fantastic father or anything, but it makes me very happy to be called Ranbir’s dad. In our days, like most of the actors, due to our long and hectic schedules outdoors, I was not at home that much. Ranbir is closer to his mother. I am always there for him and I only give him advice if he asks me for it.
What makes you get up and go to work every day? What’s your motivation, your drive, having seen it all?
I’ve been working for 39 years. I started at the age of 16 with Mera Naam Joker. It was my uncle Shashi Kapoor who noticed I wanted to be an actor because I used to take pencils and make fake moustaches on my face and pull faces and loved hanging around RK studios. Once, my mother had slapped me and I ran to the mirror to see what I looked like crying! I got a zero in my English exam when I was doing my Senior Cambridge as I wrote 14 full scap sheets for a précis! Those days our papers were marked in England and so naturally, I flunked! I was very disheartened so my father (Raj Kapoor) told me not to lose heart and work as an assistant director in Kal Aaj Aur Kal. And then acting followed. I was a hero by default.
Dimple Kapadia, who was the sexy star of Bobby got married and I was showered with all the attention thereafter. The film was about her – and I didn’t burn the screen with some horse or bike entry, like typically macho hero entries. I would have been a Chartered Accountant somewhere had I not become an actor.
Did you date Dimple Kapadia when you were filming Bobby together, as stories go?
I was never in love with Dimple as it was made out to be. I love her like a good friend; I am fond of her. But in those days, the magazine Stardust was launched and they did this cover story on Dimple and me being a couple. And that time, I was dating this very beautiful Parsi girl, who just broke up with me after the article came out! She was clueless about the filmy ways and I didn’t get much of a chance to explain any of it. I was heartbroken. I lost my girl because of Dimple!
Who would you like to play a romantic lead with amongst the new heroines today?
Chitrangada Singh! She is something else! I would love to work with her. I’ve worked with every young heroine – except my nieces, Karisma and Kareena Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Mallika Sherawat and Preity Zinta in my career, and that’s saying something, isn’t it? None of my films with Madhuri Dixit worked, but with Sridevi, all of them worked – Chandni, Nagina and Banjaran.
Khel Khel Main is being remade… what do you think of that story working in today’s scenario and the old faux blackmail plot?
You mean Khiladi (Akshay Kumar, Ayesha Jhulka) is being remade! It’s already been done. I have nothing more to say. And Ranbir is never going to do a remake of any of my films. He doesn’t think it’s necessary at this point. He is doing his own thing.
Do you love anything else more than acting?
I don’t think so. I make faces all the time anyway, so I’d rather make them in front of the camera! I am 59 now and I am getting tattoos done for my roles, growing a beard for my next film, playing an antagonist in another — I have the passion for acting and I feel very proud of myself. I’ve done more than 150 films so far and I’m still recognised and am actively working in the business at my age.
What are the films you are working on right now?
I play a filthy, f*$%ing bastard in Agneepath that releases on 26 January. I am a kasai – a cold-blooded one in the film. It is the first mean role I have ever done in my career and I must say, it was pretty enjoyable. Then I have Housefull 2 releasing on 5 April, I am filming a remake of Chashme Baddoor with David Dhawan and Student of the Year with Karan Johar in which I play a gay principal – Yogendra Vashisth – yogi bear! It’s damn funny! I feel men’s abs on the covers of magazines, which I stash away in my office drawer and sigh looking at them! It’s not lascivious; more funny I think and I am subtle in my portrayal. It’s not a loud character, more like a Mama’s boy at that age and my mama is Sushma Seth. After all these years, she’s still playing my mother! Some of my major hits have been with Sushma who’s played my mother in Chandni, Nagina, Prem Rog.
There is another film being planned with Amitabh Bachchan and me, about two friends, directed by Sudhir Mishra.
When you look at your younger self in films on television, what goes through your mind?
I switch the channel. I am not underplaying it or anything, but I am embarrassed watching myself on screen. I don’t know if there is an opposite word for narcissist… but that’s how I feel watching my films. I can admire my physical self as an actor, but not my body of work.
Do you cook?
Yes, I can cook stories! Unfortunately, I can’t cook, but it is pretty evident I enjoy eating good food.
The one thing you don’t like on a film set…
I don’t like to be disturbed on a set because that is my office and there are boundaries. But people don’t understand. Buy my film tickets and see what I am doing on screen, but not on my sets. It pisses me off! Today our sets are much better than before and they are quiet and have air conditioning.
5 bad habits you can’t shake off – back then and even now…
1. I eat too much.
2. I drink too much.
3. I snore too much.
4. I’m too hyper.
5. And, I have no good habits!’