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Anil Kapoor and Harsh Vardhan Kapoor: Nobody in our family is a fan of anybody.

Anil Kapoor

Anil Kapoor and his son Harsh Vardhan Kapoor, who will appear in the Netflix film Thar, discuss how the dynamics alter or do not change while working on a movie with a family member.

It’s not every day that this Bollywood father-son combo talks about each other, their relationship as co-actors, and their off-screen camaraderie. While Anil Kapoor is more “energetic and agitated,” Harsh confesses to being “cool and controlled.” As they prepare to share the screen once again in Netflix’s Thar, two years after their first on-screen appearance in AK versus AK (2020), the two talks open about what it’s like to cooperate with someone from their family, and whether it changes anything in front of the camera.

Excerpts from a conversation:

Your short yet touching companionship in AK versus AK was well received by audiences. And it’s just going to become larger and better with Thar. When members of the family appear on a film together for a project, there is usually more talk than normal. Is it any different for actors? Is there any more comfort or nervousness?

Anil Kapoor: What drew both of us to be a part of Thar, at least me, is that we’re not playing father and son. The roles are played by us. And with Sonam (Kapoor; daughter), I played her father in both films — The Zoya Factor and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (both 2019). (onscreen). If given the chance, I’d rather do a film [with my children] in which we’re genuinely strangers and our ways of thinking, our ways of doing things are entirely different; how we meet and how our paths cross. This adds to the excitement of making the film.

Also, when I hear Harsh speak, it reminds me of how I used to speak when I was working with older actors many years ago. People used to ask me, ‘Are you afraid?’ ‘Do you feel apprehensive or anxious?’ And, as Harsh said, I used to say, ‘No, I’m playing my role, I’m engaging with my co-actor, and whomever he is, that is offset, but on set, he’s the character.’

HARSH: not It’s the kind of picture where you see a difference [when working with a family member]. When you do a more star-driven picture, you’re a bit more mindful. But since Thar is a character-driven picture, you simply attempt to accept your place in the universe.

Harsh, how does it feel to be superstar Anil Kapoor’s son on a movie set? Is it true that the filmmakers look at you differently, as if they’re thinking, ‘Okay, he’s the son of such a great actor, we need to direct him in a certain manner?’ Or have you seen any changes in the attitude of others around you?

HARSH: To be honest, the filmmakers I’ve worked with couldn’t give a damn. I don’t believe (filmmakers) Vikramaditya Motwane, Vasan Bala, and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra are bothered by the fact that I am the son of a celebrity. They’re not star-struck in any sense; they’re simply focused and pleased with their job. So they want to make sure that whether I’m the main actor or play a supporting part in the film, it will enhance the picture. Furthermore, I’ve never played a star, so the ambiance and attitude on those sets are more like we’re all just students working together and everyone is equally eager about making a film. I’ve never done that kind of film, so I don’t feel like I’ve been treated differently; I’ve simply been like any other actor on set.

Two of your children, Sonam and Harsh, chose the same career as you, and things have changed dramatically since you began out in the 1980s. What were the specific pieces of advice you offered to each of them when they first joined the film industry?

Anil Kapoor: You’d be shocked, but I don’t offer my kids much advice. I delegate authority to them and then step back. I had no involvement in any of the films — Mirzya (2016), Bhavesh Joshi (2018), AK versus AK (2020), Ray (2021), and now Thar — for Harsh. He’s got these flicks all by himself. Sonam also has her films, whatever they may be. I believe my father, to some part, simply let me be and be independent, have a mind of my own, make my judgments, make my errors, and learn from them when I was younger. That’s what I’ve gotten from him somehow, and it’s helped me become who I am now. And now I let my children do what they think is proper and enable them to make errors and learn from them.

It might be tough to explain to people when they inquire, ‘Tu Apne bete ko samjhata Nahi?’ Usko bol thodi commercial film karne ke liye ke liye ke liye ke liye ke liye ke ‘Why doesn’t he take on such high-profile roles?’ And I tell him, ‘He’ll do it when he just feels like it.’ I’m not going to tell him you do this, you do that, or anything else.’ I feel I should allow my children to pursue their passions. I’ve never gone out to converse, spoken, or asked my children, ‘Aisa Karo, wait Karo.’ They’ve done everything themselves, even hiring Rhea (Kapoor’s daughter) as a producer. If I see anything going wrong, I jump in and say, ‘Bohot Badi Galati kar rahe ho, Magar Karni hai to Karo, main kya kar Sakta hu.’ I’m not going to stand in your way.’ So I’m not one of those dads that sits with a stick and offers gyaan or counsel. The whole family is like this… They are quite autonomous, with their point of view and likes in everything — films, cuisine, clothing, and aesthetics — and everyone is distinct. Nobody in our home is a fan of anybody else.

That seems to be a one-of-a-kind film based on the trailer. We know Harsh was the first to sign on for the project, and he persuaded his father to join the cast. How did you find the process?

HARSH: That was a long voyage. For a long time, I’ve been collaborating with filmmaker Raj Singh Chaudry to ensure that this occurs. I joined in 2018, and my father joined at the end of 2019. It was filmed last year and is now scheduled to be released.

And, Anil, did you agree to the film just because of Harsh, or were you persuaded by the script?

Anil Kapoor: It’s usually a mix of whom I’m working with, who the director is, and, of course, the material needs to be fantastic. Also, I like to work with younger talent and have them guide me rather than me trying to manage them. Not just Thar, but even in AK versus AK, I believe Harsh was so intimately identified with Vikramaditya Motwane that they felt a little more comfortable asking me to make the film. So, I believe I’m getting a chance to collaborate with younger filmmakers via Harsh.

Also, the characters you’re both playing in the film, as well as the dialect you’ve chosen for it, are completely different from anything you’ve done before. Given that such genre films have a highly committed fan following, what did you think would truly resonate with fans, especially given that it’s premiering on the streaming site Netflix?

HARSH: First and foremost, the trailer is purposefully trimmed to avoid revealing too much about the film or the characters. Nowadays, we see a lot of fairly informative trailers, with a lot of the storyline and story delineated and emphasized. With Thar, we wanted to emphasize the tone, mood, atmosphere, and universe of the film, while casting a shadow over the characters and who they are. And we have to thank Netflix for allowing us to take that route since they believed in us and the film.

My role is more of a city dweller, while my father’s part is more local to the setting of the film. My character is intriguing in the sense that he is unable to and is not in a position to share too much about himself and where he comes from. He’s a somewhat calm individual. And the problem was actually how to create a character like that attractive and captivating while yet holding the viewers’ attention without saying or doing much or revealing about yourself or your goals.

Anil Kapoor: I just finished reading the screenplay, and if I can read a script in one sitting, it’s one of the first things that entice me to say yes to a picture. And when I met the filmmaker, I realized he had a vision, had lived with the tale, and had been wanting to create this picture for a long time. Of course, when I initially read the screenplay, I loved my character, but not as much as it has evolved. The film was delayed by a few months due to the epidemic, so we had time — Harsh, Raj, our whole crew — to put our heads together and develop everyone’s characters so that we were all on the same page when we began.

You’re also the producer of Thar, so what happens when you take on that position in addition to acting? Do you have anything else going on in the back of your thoughts while you’re delivering a shot in front of the camera?

Anil Kapoor: I’m not a producer while I’m on set; I’m simply the actor. And I have a fantastic staff. We had a terrific team, particularly with Thar, Harsh pushing the project, and our company’s CEO. I was just recently cast as an actor in the film. I just followed their vision. And all I had to do was show up on set and do my thing. Of course, after the picture was over, even if I wasn’t a producer, having spent so much time in this profession, forget this film and all the other films that I’ve done, it could be any other. And I’ve discovered that the larger the director, the more open he is. So they are because they want to know how I feel about it, and then I make ideas, and if they accept them, I’m pleased; if they don’t, I’m also glad. I’m not the most invasive or aggressive person. I finish my film and go on to the next.

HARSH: There is undoubtedly a larger duty to ensure that things are exactly as we imagined them to be. There is no space for laziness or wasting time on a film set since time equals money. You’re attempting subversive film, which is also not inexpensive. As a result, you must have all of your employees operating at full capacity. The more video you collect, the better; it will aid in the editing process.

Because we had so much time before the film’s release, I was more active in the pre-production with Raj. We knew we weren’t going to shoot during the initial wave of Covid and when the Delta version arrived, so we worked on enhancing the narrative and fleshing out the characters, so the film is more interesting and compelling.

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