With Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, how versatile Anil Kapoor is pushing the envelope
A look at how Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga actor Anil Kapoor has managed to stay relevant with changing times with his versatile performance.
Anil Kapoor has been around for close to 40 years in the movie business, yet it is difficult to box him in any one category. The one thing that can be said about the talented actor is his versatility. As his new film, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, prepares to release, a look at the actor’s smart and sensitive choices in his career.
To begin with, a bit about the film should help put things in perspective – in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, he plays the father of a ‘bride’ who chooses to be in a same sex relationship. In other words, this is Bollywood trying to normalise gay relationships and that can be pretty unconventional in many ways.
With Anil, however, going against the grain of convention and attempting fresh things is nothing new. Anil came into films when the Angry Young Man phenomenon was reigning supreme. In fact, this genre of filmmaking could rightly be said to have had its debut with Amitabh Bachchan. But the chief criticism against it was that it reduced its female lead into nothing but a mere prop, which is why many leading ladies of the day like Hema Malini worked in such films as it gave them much-needed exposure and popularity but chose to work in family dramas, historical films and comedies for creative satisfaction.
With Anil, all that changed. Yes, he played the conventional hero, who beat up the baddies (the dishoom, dishoom way), romanced his love interest, delivered punchy dialogues, did comedy too. But Anil did one more thing – he let the spotlight shine on his women too. Which is not to say Amitabh didn’t despite all the criticism (recall all the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee) but with Anil, it was to be mainstream Bollywood dramas, where the story would be told as much from the woman’s perspective as the man. So, Beta, Lamhe, Woh Saat Din even Eeshwar fell in this bracket. Barring the last, the rest were commercial successes too (Lamhe incidentally bombed in the domestic market but made money overseas). No wonder, a bulk of Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi’s biggest hits are with Anil. While not to the same extent, but it does bring back memories of the era of Meena Kumari, for whom the roles like in films such Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Bahu Begum and Pakeezah were written.
All along, Anil continued to explore the mainstream narrative with films like Mashaal, Tezaab, Meri Jung, Ram Lakhan, Kishen Kanhaiya to name a few. In fact, it is these films that the term, ‘tapori’ came to be associated with him.
Anil was also early to experiment with roles, ideas and even languages – it may be recalled that he made his cinema debut in the Bollywood multi-starrer Hamaare Tumhare (1979), but his first role as a leading man was in a Telugu film called Vamsa Vruksham (1980), followed by the Mani Ratnam-directed Kannada film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983). He also chose to do middle-of-the-road cinema like Basu Chatterjee’s Chameli Ki Shaadi and Saaheb, while still working in masala films like Feroz Khan’s Jaanbaaz. It was during this phase that he did Parinda, which is remembered even today for the freshness of its treatment, so devoid was it of melodrama.
While many avid fans of south Indian films and Hindi films would refuse to accept this, the truth is that remaking each other’s hit films is a standard practice. And so, a bulk of Rajinikanth’s biggest hits -- Shankar Salim Simon (Amar Akbar Anthony), Billa (Don), Thee (Deewaar), Mr Bharath (Trishul) -- were remakes of Amitabh’s hits, many films of Jeetendra (Humjoli, Tohfa, Himmatwala, Justice Chaudhury) were remakes of Tamil and Telugu films. What may be recalled is that many Surinder Kapoor produced films, starring Anil, were also Southern remakes. These include Nayak (Tamil film Mudhalvan), Virasat (Tamil film Thevar Magan) and Eeshwar (Telugu film Swathi Muthyam). This was in the 1980s and ‘90s, much before Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar would make the trend popular.
A new generation came by and with it came new stars – the late ’90s and the new millennium saw the emergence of the Khans. It was time re-invent. The actor now graduated to making multi-starrers and comedies, often playing a married man with wife and kids. Films like Biwi No 1 and No Entry fell in this category. Later, Anil would continue with slapstick comedies such as Welcome and stay engaged with the audience. All along, he was also part of typical potboilers like Salman Khan’s Race.
Soon, it was time to go international – in prestigious projects like Slumdog Millionaire, controversial bit roles in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series and an adaptation of the hit TV series, 24, Anil Kapoor has ensured that with versatility and re-invention, getting dated can be countered.
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