Anil Kapoor on bringing 24 to the Indian small screen and why he has the best of both worlds
He starred as president Omar Hassan in the eighth season of 24. Now, Anil Kapoor is all set to adapt the Golden Globe-winning crime drama in Hindi, as he slips into the shoes of Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland in the US series). A t2 chat with Kapoor on 24 and his Holly-Bolly existence.
Why and when did you decide to bring 24 to India?
I joined 24 in the eighth season but before I went through the whole process of filming it in America, I saw all the seasons again to prepare for my role. And while doing so, it hit me that the theme was extremely relevant to India. The concept is fresh and I just felt instinctively that it was the right time to bring it to India. I spoke to the producer Howard Gordon and he told me that we would talk about it once we finished shooting. On the last day of shoot, I spoke to him again and he told me: ‘I will do it only if you play Jack Bauer!’ He was joking, of course, but I told him, ‘Of course, I will play Jack Bauer, I will play the lead!’ He spoke to all the writers and to 20th Century Fox and then I got the rights.
What was the experience of working on the original 24?
I have done more than 100 films but I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting and enriching 24 was. The team was extremely qualified and professional. Working with Kiefer Sutherland was a phenomenal experience. Everything was done in a systematic manner… all departments worked round-the-clock. It was like one big family — we all had to stand in a queue and eat lunch at the cafeteria every single day.
Was there a need to unlearn anything while making the shift from films to TV?
Not really, because shooting 24 was almost like shooting a film. The television industry there is big. The who’s who — from (Steven) Spielberg to Tom Hanks to Martin Scorsese — is involved in television. The lines between TV and film are blurring there; it’s like one big industry.
Jack Bauer is a very demanding role. How are you preparing for it?
I want to be physically fit when I am playing the role because it’s a very dynamic role and has an even more dynamic setting. I have two trainers and a physiotherapist working with me. I also have a Tai Chi teacher. Overall, I am working very hard.
Also, we have put together a great team. There’s Abhinay Deo (Delhi Belly) who is directing it and Rensil D’Silva (Kurbaan) who is writing it. Then there is Colors which will air it.
How much are you adapting it to suit the sensibilities of the Indian audience?
We have a template that has been written by some of the best writers in the business. The best thing is that we have acquired the rights legally and whenever we need any support, the international team is always there. Writer Patrick (Harbinson) came down and did some workshops with us. Michael (Klick), the director of 24, is coming in January. We are trying to have the same kind of blueprint, working style and value system that the original 24 has, tempered with our Indian sensibilities.
You will put all other projects on hold for six months while shooting 24 next year. Why is this show so important to you?
It’s a kind of responsibility because India has never had a TV show of this scale. The whole concept of seasons hasn’t been done before here. Also, it’s for the first time that a mainstream Bollywood actor like me has ventured into fiction television. I am anxious and I want to completely focus and give it my best shot.
Television is a taxing medium…
It is definitely not as laid-back as films. Doing TV is almost like theatre, you are always on your toes. In films, you sometimes get bored waiting to do one or two shots a day, but for 24 we had to shoot eight-nine scenes each day. It’s a good change actually and hopefully the taxing schedule of 24 here will make me look and feel younger (laughs).
How much of a fillip have 24 and Mission:Impossible 4 given your Hollywood career?
Phenomenal, phenomenal! The whole rise has been fantastic. Slumdog Millionaire, Mission:Impossible 4 and 24 were received very well. All three of them have become iconic. I was so proud to be associated with Mission:Impossible 4 and my relationship with Tom Cruise and with the director Brad Bird has only deepened. If I hadn’t done 24, I wouldn’t have been able to get the rights for the Indian version. After Slumdog, I am still in touch with Danny (Boyle) and the whole team. It’s been a dream run for me… sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that all this is happening. More than anything else, it’s been a learning curve and it’s opened me up to the world.
Are you actively pursuing roles in Hollywood?
I am taking it as it comes. I have my agents there and I don’t really need to shift base to Los Angeles to get work there. If you do good work, it will be noticed. I am blessed that I have a great network and great people working for me. I can stay here in India and still get roles in Hollywood.
In Bollywood you have Race 2 and Shootout at Wadala coming up…
In Race 2, I again play Robert D’Costa, but he is no longer a cop because he has grown richer and become a club-owner. But his passion for chomping on fruit remains! It’s the kind of film you sit and enjoy… quite a bit like Mission:Impossible with Indian touches, like songs and comedy.
Shootout… is a very commercial docu-drama where I am playing a real character for the first time. It’s a cop called Isaque Bagwan and it’s a serious and dramatic role.
At this stage, how are you picking and choosing your roles?
Anything which I feel would raise the bar for me as an actor and make me work with a great team. The length of my role is no longer important; it’s the kind of impact it creates that works for me. Even if a film is small in scale but has a good director and has something out-of-the-box for me, I will do it. I am doing the sequel to No Entry for my fans who have loved me in out-and-out commercial films, like Nayak and Welcome. And then, of course, are the international films that are offered to me. I actually have the best of both worlds.