It is slim pickings for women to find age-appropriate roles in a youth-obsessed Bollywood, but even male talents who enjoyed a flourishing career in their 30s often hit a wall as they age.
But Anil Kapoor, 65, seems to have bucked that problematic trend in an industry that’s notoriously harsh towards anyone who’s over 40. He has still managed to find roles that are tailored for him.
The age-defying star is now a vital part of romantic comedy ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’, out in UAE cinemas on June 24. Produced by snazzy movie mogul Karan Johar and directed by Raj Mehta, the comedy is about a son (Varun Dhawan) who’s on the verge of a divorce from his wife (Kiara Advani) without realising that his boisterous father (Kapoor) is dealing with his own set of demons in his own marriage. Seasoned actress Neetu Kapoor will make her acting comeback as his unsuspecting wife.
“It’s not the son … The son is a good guy here, but it’s the father who’s creating nonsense here. And, that’s what made this story very fresh,” said Kapoor with a laugh. And by ‘nonsense’, Kapoor means he’s playing an indulgent, well-preserved man in his late 50s who’s having a roaring affair with a much younger woman and is hoping to divorce his doting wife. She’s blissfully unaware of his transgressions, but Kapoor’s character Bheem is confident about pulling it all off.
“To be honest with you, our films have always been a reflection of our society that we live in and that’s one of the reasons why people connect and relate to it … My character Bheem Saini is someone who feels he’s done so much for his family and has devoted his life to them. But then he realises that he has only one life and he has slogged enough,” pointed out Kapoor. Bheem is symbolic of all those men in their 50s who feel that life has passed them by without giving them some much-needed TLC (Total Loving Care).
“I have given my family my all and whatever they wanted … A loving home. Now he wants to live for himself. But he’s bored by that same routine. He wants to do stuff for fun, enjoy, and find love … true love,” said Kapoor in his trademark brawl.
Romantic comedies that tap into the heartbreak and angst of the 20-somethings are a dirham a dozen in Bollywood, but relationship troubles that cripple empty-nesters who have crossed their 50s are a rarity in Hindi cinema. Bollywood doesn’t know what to do with men and women in their 50s and above is a complaint that we often hear from ageing actors. And the lack of representation in that bracket makes the glossy ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’ a significant film of our times. Is Bollywood finally adulting and moved away from the narrative of having perfect families with rock-solid scruples?
“There will always be someone who’s dysfunctional in every family in today’s times. I don’t think there’s a ‘perfect family’ anymore. And anyone who says we are a perfect family is lying … Remember, there will always be one member in any family who’s completely off from the usual trajectory,” pointed out Kapoor.
This actor, who made his Hollywood splash with Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, believes he’s the dark horse in ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’. He’s tired of his wife rejecting his amorous advances as she claims she isn’t interested in adding some spice in their marriage.
“I did ask her for a date but she said no! He wants her to be a certain way, but she has evolved in her own way … And maybe, there’s a good chance that’s also feeling the same way about him … Maybe, she’s equally bored with him,” said Kapoor.
It isn’t often in Bollywood that you see on-screen parents who aren’t the portrait of an all-sacrificing, devoted pair whose life mission is to make their young children happy. Bollywood parents know a thing or two about being all sorted and being that sturdy rock for their bratty kids who suffer from quarter-life crisis. And the producer of Jugjugg Jeeyo’, Johar, has famously lionised parents in his star-studded musicals such as ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’.
It’s also interesting that Johar and director Raj Mehta chose Kapoor to play the role of a wayward parent who’s going rogue and needs a bit of schooling. Bollywood film folklore has always pegged Kapoor as the ultimate ‘family guy’ and a doting dad to his three children Sonam, Rhea and Harshvardhan.
“There was a time when being a committed and a married actor was very boring,” pointed out Kapoor. In a few weeks, Kapoor will be able to play with his first grandchild when his eldest daughter and actress Sonam Kapoor delivers her first baby with businessman Anand Ahuja.
“But nowadays it has become sexy to be this committed man in a relationship. But when I started my career in this acting profession, they would call me and ask me why I got married when I had become this young and happening bachelor leading man. But before I could truly make it big, I just got married and settled down. I didn’t wait for two years to produce kids and before I can blink an eyelid, I will become a grandfather soon. I did everything opposite,” said Kapoor with a laugh.
But going against the grain has worked for this versatile actor-producer, time and again. He has famously played by his own rules. After 10 years of courtship, he famously married Sunita in May 1984, after he proposed to her after signing his first film ‘Meri Jung’. It was his breakout role and despite being warned that being married might dent his rakish hero image, Kapoor put a ring on what he wanted. The world just had to learn to catch up with his rules.
“I was just being myself. I felt I should do whatever makes me and my wife happy. I work hard where my career is concerned, but the rest I leave it to the audience. And it has paid me rich dividends. I am reaping the harvest of my decisions now … They still call me sexy and good-looking,” said Kapoor with a laugh.
The inside joke within his fraternity is that his energy, charisma and looks haven’t diminished in the last three decades. And he’s one of those actors who acknowledges that he looks good for his age openly. There’s no artifice or false modesty in those agile bones.
“It’s all looking good … I am looking good. I am loving the way I am looking and my career is doing very well. Initially, when I started my career and life, many people felt I was boring. But I was slowly and steadily looking at the longevity of myself. Now I am at a place where I can enjoy my relationships, my work, my time with my kids … I wanted my kids to grow up and become my friends,” said Kapoor.
This actor, who comes from a family of producers and has constantly reinvented himself with roles like playing the stoic policeman in Netflix thriller ‘Thar’ and playing the grieving lover in the iconic romance ‘Lamhe’, maintains that his life and times as a performer is a product of deliberate planning and brave choices.
“All these things I did for myself, but Bheem in ‘JJJ’ is completely opposite to what and who I am and that’s what makes it thrilling. I am a happy man now,” said Kapoor.
Don’t miss it!
‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’ is out in UAE cinemas on June 24.