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Designer daddy!

“I am going straight to Hollywood! It’s fantastic!” laughs Anil Kapoor after checking his pictures on the t2 lensman’s camera. In town to launch Raghavendra Rathore’s first store in Calcutta, the actor chatted with t2...

Your daughter Sonam Kapoor’s connection with Calcutta is Anamika Khanna. What’s yours?

Haan... I just spoke to her (Anamika). Anamika, by the way, is my friend! And my daughter and my wife (Sunita) have stolen her from me! I always remind her (Anamika) that! Now, she is no longer my friend! That’s a grouse I have. Now my friend is Raghavendra Rathore! I am going to tell her this — she has been ignoring me and treating me badly. So, I have shifted my loyalties to Raghavendra Rathore (he does tell Anamika this when the designer calls a little later!). That’s why I have come all the way to open this store. I have been coming to Calcutta since I don’t know how many (years)... almost 28-29. I came here for the first time I think in ’79-80. My everlasting memories of Calcutta are from the early ’80s. Calcutta has been very nice to all my films.

You have three very dynamic and stylish people (daughters Rhea and Sonam and wife Sunita) at home. How tough is it to keep up with them?

See, actors get into a role. We are basically nomads. So for us to adjust is not really very difficult. And in my family, we all are friends and no one is a boss. There is no patriarch. We all have independent views. Of course the mother still controls; I must admit that! In fact, my life has become easier now. I am here (in Calcutta) because both my daughters said that, “You have to go!” The children always win.

Do they ever tell you “Papa, you cannot step out in this!”

It happens quite often. Rhea is more into my wardrobe. Sonam herself is so busy... she is like, “I don’t have time for anybody else!” She is very candid: “I am very selfish dad!” (But) she has a heart of gold... so generous, so sensitive, so innocent. It is unbelievable. Sometimes I think, “Oh! God... how can I make her a little more street-smart”. Very simple... and the best part is that she doesn’t know how good she is. She will ask, “Really? Really?”

She is known for great style, but often faces flak for acting. Do you agree with all that is said about her?

See, sometimes what happens is when a person is very beautiful, like for example Salman Khan, people don’t take them seriously as an actor. Or Brad Pitt... not that I am comparing her... the looks sometimes overpower! All my life people kept telling me “You are just an actor, not a star.” I used to get very upset — I am charging more than all these other actors and my films are a huge success! I know what I went through for the first 10 years of my career. She is going through that stage. (People say) woh feel nahin hai, she doesn’t fill up the screen. I tell her not to take it seriously. I tell her, “You know that you have done well and I know that you were fantastic in Mausam, terrific in Saawariya for your first film. You were phenomenal in Delhi-6. Every close-up... any actress who can give a close-up and you can keep on watching it, that’s an actress.

Aisey jor jor acting karna... people say kitni free hai yaar! I have done it!

Do you think she is headed the right way?

Of course! In such a short span she is known and everybody loves her, despite the fact that none of her films are blockbusters. Imagine what’ll happen once she has a blockbuster? Imagine?! What is important is whether you have been accepted or not. When I am with her, the media is not interested in me. I feel great! There are great actors... koi poochhta nahin hai un logon ko... (Laughs) Everybody has a path and her path is the best path.

Coming back to fashion, is there anything that she’s bought you that’s become your favourite?

Well, she is the only one who gives me presents now! She bought me a nice suit bag for my last birthday. And not only for me... her siblings and also her staff... when she shoots for a film, she is very concerned about all the people who are there in the unit. She is different.

What does Rhea want you to wear?

Rhea knows what she wants. I remember as a kid she would sit alone and dress up dolls. Always... constantly... she loves dressing up. She enjoys it (styling). It’s like me going in front of the camera and acting. For her that’s a high. I have to ask her, “Would you please dress me?” Besides styling, she is also into cooking.

An example of your daughters having their say in what you wear...

I was at an event a few days back where I was in a suit. Then another event came up a few days later and I wanted to wear a suit again. They said just wear simple trousers and a grey Raghavendra Rathore piece. I asked them, “Don’t you think I am underdressed?” They said “No... simple will look nice.” And they were right.

How have you stayed so grounded?

I keep telling myself to be normal. I just don’t want to get deluded. I love my work so much that I don’t have the time to think about the trappings. I finish one and am hungry to get into my next. That keeps me going.... Sometimes you sit in the evening and have a glass of wine.

I started from Chembur. I am very proud of my roots. Going to the city was like going to New York and London. So, it has obviously been a great journey. Bachchansaab’s father was a great poet... Shah Rukh Khan’s father was a freedom fighter. My father was great, (but he had a humble background) was a film producer who started as an assistant. I am talking about the exposure. For me, every step has been a learning experience. I am not very educated. I dropped out of St. Xavier’s after two years because my father fell ill. I feel grateful to God. There are people who are more talented and intelligent. Sometimes, things don’t go right for them....

Now Race 2 is a big hit, it has crossed Rs 100 crore, but I haven’t been able to celebrate. And I am already stressed about 24 (the Hindi adaptation of the Golden Globe-winning US crime drama series 24, being produced by AK, who also plays the lead Jack Bauer). Then there is Shootout at Wadala.

24 is your baby...

Tomorrow is the first look test. I am nervous. It is a responsibility. I have a great team. Abhinay Deo is a phenomenal director. And there is Rensil (D’Silva) who is the writer. The young team is raring to go. We are giving it an Indian look. Majority of the actors are new.

Finally, what is the secret to your boundless energy?

First, it is your mind. Then, family. Their support keeps me going. And I work out regularly, control my diet and sleep. I took up exercising from the time I did 1942: A Love Story. When he (director Vidhu Vinod Chopra) wanted me to play the romantic lead, I was the father of three children. “Manisha Koirala bachhi hai” I told them. Usko ho gaya bees-panchis saal... abhi bhi kar raha hoon romantic (roles)! (Laughs) I have pulled it off and how!


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