This year has been a good one for Anil Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. While Sonam’s latest release has become a box office success — it has entered the Rs 200 crore club — the actor has also shot for a “special” film on late flight attendant Neerja Bhanot. Meanwhile, Anil received rave reviews for his role in Dil Dhadakne Do. Now, the senior artiste is busy working on the second season of his popular TV show. In a freewheeling chat at their Juhu home, the father and daughter spoke to us about their careers, fashion, and more.
Sonam, are you happy that you are a ‘Rs 200-crore heroine’ now?
Sonam: I don’t understand numbers. Since everyone has been congratulating me, I presume it’s a great thing. A few days back, I was in Varanasi for Dev Diwali, and the locals there were calling me Rajkumari (her character from her new film). That’s the kind of impact the film has had, and I guess that automatically translates into numbers.
Anil: As we speak, my feeling is to move on, because I have always believed in what’s next. Of course, I am happy. When a family film, and not a commercial potboiler that is intended to be a big hit, does such big business, it’s much more gratifying. I had the same feeling when films like Mr India (1987) and Beta (1992) did well.
Do you feel these numbers are important nowadays?
Anil: Earlier, it was always Boney (Kapoor; brother) who knew all the numbers. He would tell me about people’s reactions, but I was largely unaware. I feel that’s one of the reasons behind my longevity. I didn’t get excited with big numbers, nor did I get disappointed when the numbers were not so good.
Sonam: You are an artiste, and you are not supposed to [think about numbers]. That’s the producers’ job. Numbers mean that a film has been appreciated by a certain number of people. I also make it a point to read all the reviews, but dad doesn’t. I look at them constructively.
Anil: I only read reviews either six months or a year later. At that time, I can look at them objectively.
You are being called a game-changer in terms of revolutionizing content on Indian TV. Is that pressurising?
Anil: I have never planned anything. This is the kind of person I am. Everyone tells me that I pretend to be a commercial actor, but on the inside, I am the most ‘arty’ actor. But, I need to do both kinds of films. If I wasn’t a mainstream actor, I wouldn’t have able to do this TV show. People are saying it’s a game-changer, but I didn’t do it purposely.
Sonam: TV in the US and other parts of the world is bigger than cinema. India is a nascent market, and if he is pioneering the change, it’s amazing.
Do you two discuss Sonam’s marriage?
Sonam: We do, of course. Everyone does. We are normal people. Dad, you keep saying it’s not needed.
Anil: No, I have never said that. It’s not the be all and end all of life, today. But, of course, it will happen at the right time.
Sonam: If you find the right person, it’s good. But if you don’t, then…
Anil: You can’t get married to the wrong person zabardasti (forcefully), just because you have to get married.
Sonam: Then you end up being unhappy, and he would rather have me be happy. That’s a healthy attitude. Whether you are a girl or a boy, it doesn’t matter. The same choices should be given to both genders.
Sonam, you have taken your time to make a mark in the industry. Did it ever bother you?
Sonam: You get certain endorsements or films, or get to work with certain people, only if there’s a certain value to you. I am smart enough to understand that now. Also, there’s this mentality, where everyone wants to root for the underdog, which is fine. I can’t resent that, because I come from a place of privilege. People think, “She got it all very easily. So we need to make things tougher for her.” But no one knows my struggle. For instance, I just refuse to take my dad’s help. I have never put a pity story out there to get people to root for me. When you come from a place of honesty, no one can pull you down. I don’t feed negative stories about others [to the press]. I make sure that I am always ethical and correct about what I do. Eventually, you can’t demand respect but earn it.
Anil: Be it business, politics or films, the more difficult the path or journey is the bigger a person you become in the end. It’s also because God is testing you. He wants to give you something very big, but he isn’t going to give it so easily. He will make you go through hell for it.
Even when Sonam’s career was yet to take off in a big way, and she was yet to taste success, you were always confident about her...
Anil: I am very objective. The emotional bond of a father-daughter exists, but we belong to a film family first and I am a film person too. It’s in our DNA. For instance, so many of my friends have wanted to get involved in my films, but till they are right for the role, they won’t get picked. I have been very cruel and ruthless. I don’t mix personal and professional matters.
Sonam: The same goes for his daughter (smiles). If I am not perfect for a role, I won’t get cast [in our home production].
Anil: People say, ‘Yeh beti ke liye film bana raha hai. Aisa kuch nahi hai (People say I am making films for my daughter, but that isn’t the case).’ All the films have happened very organically. I am never biased. I have always got great feedback from industry people and the media about her. It was not out of emotion. I used to tell her as well, but she would say, ‘You are saying this because you are my father.’ If she wasn’t good, directors like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra or Sanjay Leela Bhansali wouldn’t have cast her.
Sonam: But I think I still have a long way to go.
Being Anil Kapoor’s daughter comes with several advantages. But does it also have disadvantages?
Sonam: Everything has its pros and cons, but I have majorly encountered the good stuff. There has never been any comparison, as I have made it a point to not be in the same frame with him or do too much stuff with him.
Anil: I guess the comparison [with me] would happen more with a son.
Sonam: Also, my personality is completely different from my father’s. A lot of people feel I have got this or that from my dad, but no one casts you because you are someone’s daughter. It doesn’t work that way. I don’t know which world people are living in.
Anil: There are so many star kids out there, who are yet to get a launchpad. It does have a few advantages, but I feel it doesn’t matter much.
Sonam: After two films, it doesn’t matter. Else, I would have been doing lots of other projects, as my dad has a relationship with everyone in the industry. Eventually, what matters is if you are saleable or marketable. What really helps is that being Anil Kapoor’s daughter, you are really protected and people don’t misbehave with you. That’s the biggest advantage.
Sonam Kapoor says it’s her sister Rhea who tries to give fashion tips to dad Anil Kapoor. (Vidya Subramanian/HT)
Sonam, you have a big support system at home; it must be a huge help…
Sonam: Of course, family is most important.
Anil: You don’t know the biggest support system — Sunita (Kapoor; Anil’s wife). She is the only person to fire Sonam constantly (smiles).
Sonam: Dad, it’s not as if you don’t shout at me. You are making it sound as if she fires me all the time. A lot of people are scared of me too now, as they don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth (laughs).
Sonam, like others, have you ever wondered what keeps your dad going even now?
Sonam: I know what keeps him going, and I have the same genes. Maybe that’s why no one even believes my age too. There’s no attachment to money or power or being a big star. It’s about being attached to your work and being content with what we have. A lot of people tell me that you have to hobnob, and keep a few media people in good humour, but cultivating such things aren’t my cup of tea.
Anil: As for looks, it runs in the genes. She has my looks (laughs).
Sonam: I only have your smile, dad.
Anil: So you feel I am not good-looking?
Sonam: You are, but I surely don’t look like you (smiles).
You have recently said that Sonam’s success makes you happy as well as anxious. Why?
Anil: My anxiousness is about what makes her happy. She is happy when she does good work with good people. The anxiousness is not about whether her next film makes Rs 300 crore.
Sonam: Is it possible? Can a film really make that much money?
Sonam, do you guys seek your dad’s advice?
Anil: I want to [advise them], but they never listen to me (smiles).
Sonam: I do ask you dad.
Anil: Yes, she does. She is the most obedient among all my kids. She calls me up, and enquires if I am tired and had my food [while shooting].
Why have you two not worked together till now?
Anil: Sonam doesn’t want to work with me (smiles).
Sonam: No, it’s about the script. There has to be something interesting.
Anil: I am waiting for a film where she gets excited, and I say, ‘Nahin, mujhe nahin karni hai (I don’t want to do it).’
Sonam, do you ever give fashion tips to your dad?
Sonam: Not really. My sister (Rhea Kapoor) does.
Anil: It’s not important in our house. It’s not like research is being done on it, and hours are being spent giving tips to each other.
Sonam: I don’t get stressed about the fashionista image, because it’s not painstakingly cultivated. It’s natural for me.
Sonam, do you think your fashionista image worked against you initially?
Sonam: No, it was good. What else is there to talk about me? I have my movies and fashion. There are no controversies, affairs or catfights. People have to talk about something. I am happy. Please talk about my clothes and films. I am very happy with my fashionista image.
Anil: It’s all come from me. I am the stylish one (smiles).
Has it been a great year for the Kapoor clan?
Sonam: Yes, it’s been a great year, because I did a biopic on Neerja (Bhanot) and my latest film fared well. Dad’s two films have done well this year. Plus, Harshvardhan (Kapoor; Sonam’s brother) has shot for his movie. But I don’t think we have ever had a bad year as we don’t look at things that way.
Anil: Sometimes films will work and sometimes not; it’s part of the business. But in terms of trade and all, it has been a great year. Yet, we are still getting the same firing from Sunita.
Sonam: I am also happy that Rhea has made a mark as a producer. People recognise that she is doing different things. I am proud of her.
Anil: A lot of mainline studios now want to work with her. Rhea has done it all on her own.