In a country like India, where primetime television slots are dominated by family drama and reality shows, Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor brings a crime thriller. The actor, who has managed to look the same over the past decade, crossed over to Hollywood with Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, and followed it up by the role of Middle-eastern president, Omar Hassan, on Emmy Award winning American series 24.
As he brings the series to Indian television this month, Anil Kapoor — at JW Marriott, Chandigarh, on Monday — talks about playing ATU chief Jai Singh Rathore, the secret to looking young and more.
Q. Do you think the Indian audiences and channels are ready to accept a spy-thriller series like 24? Would it revolutionise Indian television?
A. I am nobody to revolutionise Indian television; it is the audience who has to decide the fate of the show. In terms of channels, I did a lot of research one-and-half years ago and discovered that our channels are ready to accept change.
Q. What made you bring 24 to India?
A. It was when I was shooting for the fourth and fifth episode of 24 in the US; I started reading the material and it clicked me — why not in India? Before 24, I got many offers to be a reality show judge. But, I always thought to myself — would Anil Kapoor fit in that slot? I am not ‘Anil Kapoor’; people know me as Mr India, Naayak, Lakhan or, more casually, Jahakaas!
Q. To be an ATU (Anti-Terrorist Unit) chief, what training did you undergo?
A. The ATU chief in Mumbai is a dear friend. He and his team taught me a lot. As Jai Singh, I had to carry a gun 24X7. So, to get into the character, I started carrying a licensed gun even off sets to get my body comfortable with a weapon.
Q. How similar is the Indian version to the American one? And how successful have you been, playing the role of Kiefer Sutherland — CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agent Jack Bauer?
A. I am happy to have brought a successful American show to India. But, since Indian values and emotions are different from the west — after a lot of brainstorming workshops with Indian writers and the director — we have managed to keep the Indian sensibilities intact. On the technical front, there is room for improvement. But as an actor, if I can be even 70% of Jack Bauer, my job is done.
Q. What is the mantra behind looking so energetic and fresh at the age of 56?
A. I am a Punjabi; we are blessed with a personality that stands out in the crowd. Another factor that keeps me going is that I am not competing with anyone; I’m not unhappy with anyone’s success. I just work hard in my own realm and aim to do something unique. My dream now is to make something original that matches international standards. I want makers from the UK and the US to ask for rights of our shows.