The enthusiasm with which Anil Kapoor discusses 24, his first TV show, brings back memories of the young Anil at 24.
He speaks a different language now he is more articulate, mature and actually lets you complete your questions, unlike the boy we knew from two decades ago. But he is still firing on all cylinders.
An entire generation of stars who came after you - Aamir, Shah Rukh, Salman, and Akshay - have all ventured into TV. What took you so long?
I felt that the offers were not right for me. There were others who could do that stuff better. People would reason with me, `Do the shows; jo dikhta hai, wohi bikta hai.' But I went with my instinct, like I have done by endorsing only Mont Blanc pens and no other product.
My instinct has brought me so far, and I am happy following it. When I was doing 24 (the international version), I instinctively knew that it would make for good TV here too, and I pursued it. The real hard work starts now.
Indian TV leans heavily on soaps. As the producer-actor of 24 what gives you the confidence that such an action-packed show will find an audience?
24 can't be dubbed purely as an action show. It's a hybrid mix of action, thrill, fiction and drama. The challenge is in adapting it to Indian sensibilities. Ritesh (Sidhwani) from Excel, Mukesh (Ambani) and Ashutosh (Gowariker) discussed the pros and cons of TV shows with me and I told them it is a great medium to get into right now.
You produced the critically acclaimed Gandhi, My Father. When should one expect another film as a producer from you?
After 24, my daughter is ready with three bound scripts! I didn't make a film for sometime because zameen (scripts) hi nahin, toh ghar (film) kahan banaunga? The three scripts are being cast now, and will happen one after the other.
Is your approach to acting different when you are doing a Hollywood film?
I started my career in 1978-79 and have never enjoyed my work as much as I have in the last 10 years. I have found the right way to grow as an actor - I am more receptive and a great listener now. But this whole process started here (in Bollywood) itself. When I do international projects, I am able to use my accumulated emotional memory, physicality and intellect to the optimum.
International attention can be very overwhelming. What has it done to you?
When one meets people from varied walks of life, countries and work cultures, one's mind opens up. It has been a learning curve.
How much of your energy goes into looking young and fit?
The audience accepts you if you age gracefully. But they mind if they see a tired, fat, ugly actor. Since you are paid a vulgar amount of money and showered with adulation and fame, you owe it to the audience and your producers to take care of your looks. If you can't do this much for them, you are not fit to be in this business. International actors can put us to shame - they give their all to their roles.
This is your fourth decade in films. Are you still intimidated by box office figures?
The more the numbers, the happier I am. You don't have to enquire about figures; they are constantly being thrown in your face. You can't get away from them.
How different is Race 2 from its prequel?
Race 2 is a genuine sequel. The only difference is in the sequel I am richer; class thoda badh gaya hai (laughs).
How much of a hand do you have in your children's success?
I let them find their own way. All three of them are very strong and individualistic people. Sonam and Rhea have already started carving a niche for themselves.
What about your son, Harshvardhan? I heard he has been cast in a film opposite Katrina Kaif's sister.
Are you crazy? My son is too young. That was just a student film which another student wanted to make when they were in school. It was supposed to be shot in New York.
So can one assume that Harshvardhan is an actor in the making?
You never know. He has done a course in film writing from Chapman University (California) but it is too early to say whether he wants to be a writer. But yes, he is going to be in films.
But actors make far more money than writers.
My children don't have to worry about money. I think I am capable of providing for them.
You were born on Christmas Eve. Are you as benevolent as Santa Claus?
I admired Yash Chopra. He was there for everybody. I try to give as much as I can; but one can never give enough. I want to emulate him.
You have shared that your wife Sunita had advised you to become more compassionate and that will make you happier. Are you happy today?
I am the happiest person! I have never been so happy. Things have just gone right for me. Especially on the family and health front. Professionally, I feel this is just the beginning. The world has opened up.