Indian film producer Boney Kapoor is on a roll.
The prolific talent, who has backed more than 100 films in his career, has thrown himself into his work with a vengeance.
And, he has a lot to show for it. With more than 10 ambitious film projects under his watch including his Telugu feature ‘Vakeel Saab’, premiering in UAE cinemas on April 8, Kapoor is on a relentless path to purchase the rights of blockbusters that are likely to do well in other Indian languages.
Pawan Kalyan’s ‘Vakeel Saab’, also featuring Shruti Haasan, is a remake of Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Pink’. Kapoor had also remade it into Tamil with actor Ajith.
But the hands-on producer and husband of late icon Sridevi isn’t willing to limit himself to production alone.
At 65, he tried his hand at acting for the first time in director Anurag Kashyap’s inventive film ‘AK Vs AK’, in which he played himself. In his cameo, Kapoor played a dominant family patriarch — albeit an impatient and a crabby one.
His next film is with director Luv Ranjan and though he is forbidden to talk about the film, he calls it ‘pure fun’.
“I have been on Luv Ranjan’s set for almost 18-20 days. I enjoyed every moment of it … As a producer, I was always watching out for everybody and if everybody is comfortable. I was concerned about how the job is being done and if the actors and directors were getting all the support … But for the first time, I was on the other side of the cinema. It was good to experience it,” he added.
Kapoor, who was born to a family of producers and actors, has purchased the rights of Hindi drama ‘Article 15’ and Malayalam thriller ‘Helen’ to be remade in other languages. He has also purchased the rights to the Egyptian romance ‘Hepta: The Last Lecture’ to be made into a Bollywood film. For an incorrigible romantic who has built an emotional shrine for his late wife, this widely-adored Middle Eastern love story that explored the seven stages of love stirred his interest.
“It’s a love story that will be identified in every country and every walk of life … Everybody has been in love … Sometimes it turns sour, sometimes it’s bitter and sometimes it’s bittersweet … It’s just love, love, and love. And for me, it has always been about love. I identified strongly with the entire film and I want that story to be told in Hindi and then in other languages.”
Kapoor believes that love for Sridevi, who died in Dubai due to accidental drowning in 2018, and his four grown-up children propel him in life. At this point, he aspires to make films in multiple Indian languages. He has also dabbled in Marathi movies.
“My next target is to make Kannada, Malayalam and Punjabi films too … I am on this journey to make films — some films will work and some will be a misfire … But I don’t want to think about anything else. I just want to be motivated with my work, but my children come first and then my work,” he said.
While his production plate is brimming with star-studded films, Kapoor is keen about his new film 'Valimai' with Tamil superstar Ajith.
"It's one of the most anticipated films of the year. As soon as I revealed the first look of 'Valimai', everybody has been keen to know more about it. We are consistently trending on social media with so many asking me about this film ... That's the power of Ajith," said Kapoor.
Excerpts from our interview with Kapoor as we talk films and his spat with ‘RRR’ director SS Rajamouli...
Q: You are currently producing more than 10 films, including your Telugu language courtroom drama ‘Vakeel Saab’ premiering on April 8 … Clearly the pandemic hasn’t slowed you down?
A: I believe that you have to be occupied all the time, especially during a pandemic. I wanted to be constructive and purchased rights for making films in different languages. I wanted to make Hindi films to Tamil or Tamil to Telugu and Malayalam. I wanted to branch out in every language possible as a producer. So far, I have made films in Telugu, Tamil and Bengali.
My next target is to make films in Kannada, Malayalam and Punjabi … I want to see where this journey takes me because I want to be busy 24/7. I don’t want to think about anything else. I just want to be motivated by my work. First on my list is my children, followed by my work.
Q: You have become good at making remakes … Even ‘Vakeel Saab’ is the Telugu remake of Hindi hit ‘Pink’, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu, which was also made into Tamil in 2019 with Ajith in ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ …
A: Yes, but let me correct your sentence. I am good at making films and not just remakes. Some were flops and some were hits even though they were not necessarily remakes. My production ‘Maidaan’ with Ajay Devgn isn’t a remake of any film. So far, I have done around 17 or 18 remakes and I will continue this trend. I was one of the first producers from Mumbai who began remaking films.
It’s practical because you know you can’t go too wrong with it. But how right you go depends on your faith in that film. With a remake, you may know the exact number of days you need to film the project, but the rest is tough … I insist on purchasing rights because I don’t want to take away the credit from the makers of its original works. In the past, there were many filmmakers who were ‘inspired’ by Western films. But now the copyright act is strong and nobody can just be inspired! You can get caught red-handed and be penalised heavily for being ‘inspired’.
Q: Recently, ‘Baahubali’ director SS Rajamouli announced that he will release his magnum opus ‘RRR’ on the same date as your production ‘Maidaan’, starring Ajay Devgn, on October 15 … Your thoughts on the clash.
A: I feel it was unethical. We had announced ‘Maidaan’ release date much earlier and we have Ajay Devgan as our principal hero of the film. In ‘RRR’, Devgn has a guest appearance … They have just not wronged me and my film, but they have wronged Devgn too in a big way. In ‘Maidaan’, he has given his life’s best performance and they [‘RRR’ makers] are trying to stifle it or at least attempting to do that … It’s unethical and in bad taste. They didn’t want to clash with a James Bond film [due to release a week earlier than ‘Maidaan’ in India], but they don’t mind releasing it on the same day as another Ajay Devgn film. Where’s the brotherhood here?.
I have three films up for release and I could do the same thing to some other director … ‘Maidaan’ is a big-budget film and its budget has gone up because of the lockdown. I had a 16-acre plot where I erected an entire stadium with a football field and seating arena. Everything had to be dismantled due to COVID-19 restrictions and put up again due to the pandemic … I was one of the few producers who paid their workers even while the shooting was halted.
Q: But aren’t such clashes imminent because there is a glut of films up for release ... What’s the way forward?
A: The sense of brotherhood among producers is missing. Everybody should ideally realise the potential of their film and try not to stamp on each other, especially if one producer has announced the date with the same hero.
I reached out to [Rajamouli] and he was kind enough to call back [and say] it wasn’t in his hands and that his producers were under immense pressure... This instance was an eye-opener. Unity and brotherhood don’t exist in our world …
My movie would have gotten more shows if it had a chance to release solo. They didn’t want to clash with the Hollywood James Bond film, but have no problem clashing with my film ‘Maidaan’ which has the same actor in ‘RRR’ on October 11,
Q: Moving on … it’s been such an eventful 2020 for you. You also made your acting debut at 65 in director Anurag Kashayap’s neo-noir ‘AK Vs AK’ and rolled out your web series with Amit Sadh on Zee5 too…
A: I am not done yet. In my next acting project, I play Ranbir Kapoor’s father in director Luv Ranjan film. It’s very rare for someone to choose an acting career at the age of 65 and I did it! As an actor, your personality comes through since the camera catches everything. But the roles that I play should ideally matter. In ‘AK Vs AK ’I was playing myself and was Anil’s [Kapoor, the lead of the film] brother. I was playing the family head and that role came to me naturally. It was easy. But the character I play in director Luv Ranjan’s film is completely different from who I am in real life.
Q: Bollywood and Indian cinema has taken a big hit this pandemic with several big releases being stalled, delayed and actors falling ill … What’s the way forward now?
A: We have lost a lot of time and every film has been delayed. There were a few films that chose OTT as an outlet to premiere their films, but a major chunk of films have been held back. Recently, Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi’s ‘Masters’ released and it did brisk business at the box office even though it was dropped on an OTT platform quickly … Today, we have a new stream of revenue for films. In my eyes, both OTT and theatrical business will survive. Also, remember that viewers are now open to watch new content from across the world. Language is no longer a barrier, thanks to subtitles. We are now exposed to all kinds of films and world cinema. It’s a win-win situation.
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‘Vakeel Saab’ will release in UAE cinemas on April 8.