1 November,2014:Â Annu Kapoor, 58, may have dropped out of school after Class X, but he is extremely well-read and agnostic, after having read the Vedas, the Upanishads and even the Quran, as many as 14 times. He is emotional, loyal and aware and feels strongly for his family, society and country. Over an hour-long conversation with Bombay Times, ahead of his upcoming film ‘The Shaukeens’, he talks to Bombay Times about his beginnings as a nautankiwala, his big regret in life and why he would never cheat his wife Anupama. Excerpts:
How did you come into films?
I was born in Bhopal. My father was a Punjabi and my mother, a Bengali Brahmin. My father originally comes from Peshawar, Pakistan, and motivated her to learn Urdu, Persian and Arabic and ultimately, she became a teacher of Urdu and retired like that. At that time, the Punjabis would write in Urdu, be it Prem Chopra sahab, Dharmendra or Gulzar sahab. My grandfather Dr Kripa Ram Kapoor was a doctor in the British army and my late great grandfather Lala Ganga Ram Kapoor was hanged by the British government as he was a revolutionary. My maternal grandfather served the state of Tikamgarh as the pradhan. A friend of my father made him get into the glamour world by getting him to invest 25,000, that was very big money in 1947, and he started a folk theatre company, even though he otherwise had no connection in theatre. We were seen as nautankiwalas and our family was ostracised and people looked down upon us.
My dadi chucked him out of the house. So, my mother always tried to keep all her four children away from theatre, art or culture. Hence, I wanted to become a surgeon or an IAS, but never an actor. Due to our financial crisis, I had to quit studying after Class X. The social ostracisation that we had to go through was not a good feeling. There was no stability of income, no thikana about roti there, and a lot of uncertainty about life. We kept shifting from one place to another place, living the life of a gypsy. My mother’s salary was just 40. She had just two saris in which she would travel 13 kms, walking to and fro from school to teach and earn her salary. Life was very tough. I then ran a tea stall, sold churan ke note for a while, ran a fire cracker shop with just 42, post which I started selling lottery tickets, when my babuji said, ‘If there is nothing else happening, join my company.’ And I joined his theatre company. My mother cried a lot and perhaps, I also felt sad for myself. But I started doing theatre every night. It was not amateur theatre, but was hard -core professional theatre. If you didn’t perform on a particular night, people would not come, and if they didn’t come, there would be no money and therefore, no food. It was as simple as that. My older brother Ranjit Kapoor then joined NSD and he asked me too to train in drama, given that I was anyways doing theatre. I joined NSD in 1976. From there, my brother did a play in which I was there, playing a character of an old man and we brought this play to Mumbai that was sponsored by Shabana Azmi’s IPTA. Mr Shyam Benegal saw that play and when I went back, he was kind enough to send me a letter saying he was making Mandi and was thinking of casting me in it. In the meantime, my brother had moved to Mumbai and asked me to come here. On June 25, 1982, I gave my friend `100 to buy me a ticket to Mumbai. On June 29, 1982, I landed with my bag and baggage at Borivili station. Mandi was the first film. Since then, it has been 32 years.
What are you like?
I have the realisation of how great a fool I can be. I am emotional. I am rational and am aware of the mistakes I have made. Josh ke saath, mujh mein hosh hai. And this hosh I have not only for myself, but also for my country. I am very passionate about my motherland and my society. The feeling of nothingness is the major achievement one can have. One fine day, the disciples of Socrates approached him and said, ‘Master, there is an oracle from the temple of Delphi that has pronounced that Socrates is the wisest man on this earth. Master, what do you think?’ Socrates said, ‘The oracle from the temple of Delphi is right. Socrates is the wisest man on this earth, as he knows that he knows nothing.’ I know nothing.
Talk about your wife Anupama?
She is from America and 13 years younger to me. We are both contrasting people. While she is an American, I am a desi ghaati aadmi. But I guess there is attraction in that only. I am very emotional about her and my kids. As a male chauvinist Punjabi, you want to marry a girl who is wife material. You need to feel comfortable that she will not leave you despite your 10 mistakes. Joh tumhari dus galtiyan maaf kardegi, par saath todke nahi jayegi. I can forego the world’s most beautiful women for her. I once asked my wife, ‘If someday, you find me doing a mistake with another woman, what will you do?’ She said, ‘I will be shattered.’ But then she added, ‘But I will not be able to leave you as I love you so much.’ This was 17 years after my marriage. She saying this was enough for me. That was her nobility, her kindness and believe me, it is better to die than to cheat her. I am loyal and can be short tempered, but I am an open book and there are no complications in my life. I am a seedha simple person and I know that my wife likes me for my honesty.
Which was your lowest period in life?
Regrets bahut hain life mein, magar abhi tak zindagi mujhe bojh nahi lagi. The son of the famous Dr Christiaan Barnard (the first surgeon to transplant the heart), Dr Andre Barnard, who was also a famous pediatrician himself, committed suicide. And Dr Barnard said, ‘Zindagi jeene ke liye hoti hai, dhohne ke liye nahi.’ And I firmly believe in that. The day I feel I am dragging my life and that life is a burden, I will stop living, and that is why I am in favour of euthanasia.
Do you have friends in the industry?
Lot of people betrayed me not just financially, but also emotionally, so let us not talk about friends. Main achcha aadmi hoon. I am a Punjabi Jat and if I commit myself as a friend, I am committed for life.
How was your experience working with Abhishek Kapoor in The Shaukeens?
All five of us, be it Anupam Kher, me, Piyush Mishra, Abhishek Kapoor (director) or Tigmanshu Dhulia (the writer) are all fruits from NSD. There was no one-upmanship between the three of us actors and each one of us was in our character. No one tried to over shadow the other and it was a lovely experience.
Talk about your mother?
In the summer of 2010, I was going to Europe with my family for holidays from Montreal, when Jenny from my office called and told me about an Antakshari show in Jaipur on May 20, 2010. She said, ‘Sir, do the show no. It will take out the expenses for your holiday. Madam can be there. You come for the show and then go back.’ So I took a flight and reached Jaipur on May 19. Now came May 20. I did rehearsals and post lunch, at 3 pm, I went to rest telling my assistant to wake me up at 6 pm. The temperature was 47 degrees centigrade. Look how destiny had pulled me to come there. My mother stayed 300 kms from Jaipur in a town called Jhalawar. When I got up, I called up one of our family friends called Farhad bhai just to ask him how he was and he said, ‘I am okay, but didi (my mother used to be called didi by all as she was a teacher and poetess) is not okay.’ I asked him who is with her and he said, ‘Noni (my younger brother Nikhil) is with her.’ I was in Jaipur and she was about to board the train from Kota Junction and I called my brother asking him about her and he started crying, as she had gone. He told me that his AC had conked off while bringing her from Jhalawar to Kota station, so on reaching the station, she told him, ‘I am not okay. Make me sit somewhere.’ She was so fit that she could walk 5 kms even at her age. She sat on the chair in the waiting hall of the station and she passed away without giving trouble to anyone. She died very peacefully. After maa expired, I felt like an orphan. You realise the importance of your mother only when she is not there. She was my mother and I owe everything to her. I could not look after her as much I would have liked to and will always have the regret that main unki seva nahi kar paya. There can be nothing greater than a mother. But it gives me happiness that she was very happy that I did good work, that I didn’t do vulgar work and that through the medium of Antakshari, I got to promote the positive side of Indian culture and civilisation. I come from a family of patriots. Patriotism is not a perfume for me that I wear while going for a party. India is my motherland. I belong to this country. And be it the sign-off on my show or wishing my makeup man for 18 years, I am proud to say Vande Mataram.
Source:The Times of India