Indian actor Anil Kapoor, 66, is one of the most well-preserved talents in Bollywood. The proof was right there when we met him at his hotel suite in Dubai this weekend: his perfectly bouffant and voluminous hair that simply defied gravity. The adage "not a hair out of place" rang chillingly true in this case.
“This is a kind of profession where you have to look good. It’s very, very ageist,” said Kapoor in an exclusive interview. But he said those sobering words on age-centric culture in show business around the globe without a hint of malice or cynicism.
“It’s all about youth and how young you are, how beautiful or good-looking you are. So to be relevant for over four decades, it needs a lot of hard work. It’s not easy,” he added.
Kapoor, who effortlessly straddles Bollywood and Hollywood, often chronicles his constant quest to remain fit and youthful. If anything, Kapoor – now a grandfather after his actress-daughter Sonam Kapoor gave birth to a boy -- seems to have cracked the code of remaining forever young and has learned to use those unrealistic beauty and body standards to his advantage.
During his weekend in Dubai, where he was promoting a new hair transplant unit named ‘Assure Clinic’, Kapoor sported a perfect Elvis Presley-ish pompadour haircut. But is it a result of a snazzy hair transplant?
Kapoor clarifies, “No, what you see is all of my own hair. My dad – who is no more – and my mom both were blessed with great hair. My mom, who's now 86-87, still has wonderful hair … So I represent the kind of hair that everyone can aspire to if they have a hair transplant.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to call upon a celebrity who claims to have never undergone a hair transplant, Kapoor confidently states that he's selling the aspirational dream. “We are telling you that you can have hair like mine … Even today, people ask me if my hair is real or fake or a product of a hair transplant. I even goad them to pull my hair to show them it’s real,” said Kapoor with a laugh.
Kapoor, with a solid body of work including blockbusters and web series in Bollywood and Hollywood, has a simple theory on being a timeless and age-proof talent. “I feel blessed and I feel grateful every day. And that’s the reason I preserve it all [body, hair, face, mind] because I feel God has given me so much. So many people have watched me in so many films and appreciated my work. I want to do my best for those who have given me so much love.”
However, Kapoor points out that being relevant in the entertainment world isn't easy. “I am a constant work-in-progress and I keep working on my craft as an actor – both internally and externally … I try to adapt,” said Kapoor. He remains “constantly aware” that there are many others who are fitter and better than him.
“I look up to them and I learn from them,” said Kapoor, adding that his physical trainer is like his own family. He is often seen traveling with an entourage of yoga instructors and fitness coaches during film shoots.
Kapoor's relentless dedication has paid off, as he continues to be a force to reckon with in Bollywood and beyond. In a career spanning over four decades, he has showcased his versatility in numerous Bollywood films of various genres. In Hollywood, his projects including ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (which won eight Oscars in 2008), “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011), and the more recent web series with Jeremy Renner, ‘Rennervations’, have solidified his status as an icon who constantly reinvents the wheel.
His portrayal of the dapper international arms dealer, Shelly Rungta, in the Indian adaptation of ‘The Night Manager’ remains one of the most viewed web series of all time, with its own fan following. Kapoor refers to it as the ‘Pathaan of web shows’, alluding to Shah Rukh Khan’s 2023 blockbuster that revived Bollywood's box office.
The highly anticipated second part of ‘The Night Manager’, also starring Aditya Roy Kapoor, Tillotama Shome, and Shobhita Dhulipala, will be released on June 30.
Reflecting on his enduring success and staying power, Kapoor shares his secret. “Remember, you can’t start your journey in this field thinking about red carpets, festivals, and how your film will do at the box office. You just have to do your work to the best of your ability and let the film work its magic … Once you release a film into the universe, you just wait for a director or filmmaker who will hire you for an acting job that will excite you,” said Kapoor.
His turns in Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ and the English-language series ‘24’ came about in an organic fashion.
“Sometimes I feel I am plain lucky,” he says. Kapoor feels fortunate that Hollywood didn't typecast him in typical clichéd Indian roles. He played an Iranian President in the American drama ‘24’ who studied in an international college.
“It was a refreshing change for me. In ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, I portrayed a charismatic host … Intriguing roles have come my way in Hollywood,” said Kapoor. He believes that his foray into Hollywood helped him embrace unique characters.
When it comes to Bollywood, his favorite role in his career is from his comedy ‘No Entry’.
“I played a character who is scared of his wife, and that came completely naturally to me,” said Kapoor with a hearty laugh.
While we have to give him credit for being disarmingly honest, he's equally open about how he was considered boring during his early days in his career.
“I was too disciplined and professional. I slept on time and turned up on my filming sets on time. I did not throw star tantrums. At that point, I was considered boring because they could only discuss my work. But now my style of being disciplined has become almost stylish and sexy. So I think I am reaping the benefits of what I sowed in the past. The harvest looks good.”
He's currently in his fifth decade in Bollywood and hopes to make each year count.
“My dad was in films and he had to start from scratch. He was an assistant director who went on to become a producer. We went through a lot of struggles while making films. But I have seen ups and downs, and I have seen it all.”
Nothing comes easy. There are no free lunches in life, and you have to work towards it. Nothing has come easy for me