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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

The Kapoordom

Anil Kapoor today has scored over even Dev Anand in two spheres: Dev was always Dev while Anil exults in his chameleon-like versatility

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 27.06.21, 12:53 AM
Anil’s son Harsh made a weird debut in Mirzya and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

Anil’s son Harsh made a weird debut in Mirzya and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero File Picture

Two days after I watched Anil Kapoor dubbing for Eeshwar (1989), he was perturbed that I hadn’t commented on his performance. Anil was elated that he had been chosen by veteran director K. Vishwanath (now in his 90s, reportedly ailing in Hyderabad) to play the title role of an intellectually disabled person, an assignment that’d normally have gone to Kamal Haasan or an actor from arthouse cinema. So when I watched snatches of Eeshwar, Anil expected a gush about his performance. As he described it with his usual buoyancy, the role required him to reflect innocence and vulnerability on his face.

Undoubtedly, Anil excelled as Eeshwar but those were the awful 80s when such films didn’t perform well at the box office. That, however, didn’t quell Anil’s enthusiasm, though he wrestled with one dilemma for a long time — to aspire for heroic stardom like his contemporaries Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt or establish himself as a substantial actor. The two goals of saleable stardom and acting prowess were often mutually exclusive with Shabana, Naseer, Om Puri and their ilk being branded good actors who were not necessarily commercially viable.

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To be accepted as an artiste but avoid being pushed into the parallel cinema niche was Anil Kapoor’s struggle and insecurity. But if push came to shove, his desire to be respected as an actor always hovered a few inches above commercial stardom. That intense longing combined well with the exuberance of his Eeshwar days to give the well-maintained 64-year-old the evergreen tag that Dev Anand once sported.

But Anil today has scored over even Dev Anand in two spheres: Dev was always Dev while Anil exults in his chameleon-like versatility. Anil’s success has also unwittingly spawned an unprecedented family team of 11 actors in the Hindi film industry. When his brother Boney signed up to play Ranbir Kapoor’s father in an untitled Luv Ranjan film, we did the count. Boney was the 10th and Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya (whose debut was announced by Karan Johar’s banner) stepped in as the 11th. The others were Sridevi, Anil, Sanjay, Sanjay’s wife Maheep (who acted in a film with Raaj Kumar’s son Puru and was seen in Bollywood Wives), Sonam, Arjun, Janhvi and Harsh Varrdhan. All Kapoors plus Boney-Anil-Sanjay’s sister Reena’s son, Mohit Marwah. Mohit has done films like Raag Desh, based on the court martial of Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA officers.

Sridevi may no longer be a playing member but with Janhvi’s sister Khushi all set to make her entry, the team only gets bigger and bigger. Even the extended family of Sharmila Tagore, Saif, Soha, Kunal Khemmu, Kareena, Karisma, Ranbir and Sara Ali Khan can’t match this Kapoor branch in sheer numbers.

Incidentally, Anil’s son Harsh made a weird debut in Mirzya and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. Weird because a mask and hair all over his face hid what he really looked like. That was no way to introduce a new face. But it looks like he’s third time lucky, after discounting his fleeting shots in AK vs AK.

He makes a proper appearance in Netflix’s crisply titled Ray, an anthology of Satyajit Ray’s short stories. Playing the somewhat true-to-life character of a film star who is irritable and entitled, one finally gets to see what Harsh looks like. He does well as an actor whose forte is his look, crinkling his eyes a la Rajesh Khanna to charm the pants off his audience.

Ray provides a platform that gives Harsh respectability without having to shoulder the responsibility of saleability. But it also demonstrates how Covid-19 has changed the terms of engagement. At one time it would’ve been impermissible for a celebrity kid to appear on the small screen in his fledgling years.

But life is unpredictable. The Anil Kapoor who was dubbing for Eeshwar would have also not imagined that he would one day foster the largest family team in the film industry.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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