Rajat Kapoor does not aim to achieve fame or mint money through directing or acting in movies. When he was a teenager, he decided to make films because he fell irrevocably in love with the craft. He also knew that, as a creator of offbeat (and award-winning) films like Ankhon Dekhi (2014) and Raghu Romeo (2003), he had chosen the non-commercial route. So, it’s not surprising when Rajat tells us that he still struggles to find producers for his scripts. “There’s no part of film-making that I don’t like, except the money part. That’s painful,” he says. And when his scripts aren’t taking off, he likes to adapt and direct Shakespeare’s plays. But, the actor-director is anything but disheartened. “This is what I always wanted to do,” he says.
The latest film you’ve acted in, Kapoor & Sons, has done really well…
I’m very happy for Shakun (Batra; director). It’s his baby. To find appreciation of this kind is really special. Once in a while, something just touches people somewhere, and Kapoor & Sons seems to have done that. What has been nice this year is that films like Neerja and Airlift, which fall under the category of mainstream cinema, but are slightly different, have done well. A lot of so-called masala films, which tried to tap on the masala part, didn’t do well. That’s a little encouraging.
You’ve often said that you don’t like mainstream cinema. Why?
Mainstream films, even in Hollywood, are boring. They’re predictable. For instance, Batman V Superman was terrible. I want movies to take my breath away. Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan and the Coen Brothers are my favourite film-makers. I’m very envious of Allen. He makes a film every year, and he’s close to 80.
Are you working on any new projects?
There is one film that I’m very excited about. It’s by a first-time film-maker – Nicholas Kharkongor. It’s a small, low budget, independent film, and is wonderful. I have no idea when, and how, it will get released, or if anybody will watch it. The movie also stars Kalki Koechlin, Adil Hussain and Shiv Pandit.
Do you receive a lot of acting offers?
I refuse everything that comes my way. I get at least two offers in a month, and about 15-18 in a year. But, I only do one or two films in a year.
You started out wanting to make films. But you have acted more than you’ve directed. Why?
Acting happened to me accidentally. I have acted in more films than I’ve made, obviously, because it takes me two years to make a film, and two more years to get the money for it. To act in one takes 30 days. So, the chances of you acting more often are higher. I’m constantly writing, and I’m always raising money for my films.
Besides film-making, what do you enjoy the most -- theatre, writing or acting?
Theatre is a tremendous joy. I enjoy rehearsing and travelling for plays.
How do you balance your time between theatre and films?
In the last two years, I wrote three scripts [for films], and met a lot of people. I was desperately trying to raise money. But since that is not happening, I thought, “Let’s start a new play.” Doing that is easier. It doesn’t need money. So, we just opened I Don’t Like It. As You Like It.
You struggled for 10 years after you graduated from FTII in 1988. How has life changed since then?
I’m still struggling. But yes, the first 10 years were really dark. Also, there were no multiplexes at that time. So, today you can make a Masaan (2015) or Titli (2014), and you can have some kind of a release. In 1995-96, there was no way you could make films like these, and release them. When the multiplexes came up, the first five to six years were good. But now, things have become quite bad again. Independent cinema has been pushed to the side. Mainstream films have made a big comeback. There is no space for us. So, the scenario is better than what it was in 1995, but it is not better than what it was in 2005.
Why do you say that?
In 2006, we released Mixed Doubles. It was made in Rs 60 lakh. And we had a P&A (prints and advertising) budget of Rs 30 lakh. So, we made 20 prints, and did no publicity. Yet, we found a decent release; we found shows. Today, you can spend all the money you want, but you can’t get a release. When Ankhon Dekhi (2014) released, we had no shows, because we were fighting with Ragini MMS 2 (2014) and Queen (2014).
Did you ever want to give up film-making?
Never, because this is what I have always wanted to do, and I’m very grateful for being allowed to do it. I always knew that I wanted to make a certain kind of cinema, and that it wasn’t going to be easy. I have consciously chosen [to do] this. Nobody put a gun to my head to make this kind of cinema, and not make, say, Dabangg (2010). It’s a choice, and so, I have no reason to crib.