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Verve People
May 12, 2009

One rocking voyage

Text by Mamta Badkar. Photograph by Joy Datta

After forgettable forays on screen and an unremarkable directorial debut, Abhishek Kapoor is riding high on the success wave of Rock On!! Talking awards, his collaboration with Farhan Akhtar and his aspirations, Verve finds the director living out his rock anthem Sinbad the Sailor as he continues to follow his passions and navigate untried waters

Abhishek Kapoor pulls in for his interview at his suburban office dressed in a crisp white shirt paired with ripped, stonewashed denims, sneakers and a well-worn beard. Surrounded by Rock On!! paraphernalia, he ardently swats at a mosquito and finally settles in his recliner. His easy demeanour masks the critical success of his latest film. Kapoor’s rather precarious career path immediately reminds me of the movie’s carpe diem anthem Sinbad the Sailor. While the song about chasing your dreams and treading uncharted waters ties neatly into the storyline, it also seems to be a perfect metaphor for Kapoor’s fortunes.  Kapoor’s hard-won victory comes from following his dreams despite doubts voiced by many in the industry. “When I made my foray into acting, the business was very different. There was mainstream Bollywood cinema and the art space didn’t exist. I made some bad decisions then and didn’t feel like I was going anywhere…. People were very hesitant because I didn’t do well as an actor and they thought, ‘Ah now he’s just trying his luck at direction’. The thing is, if I find something I believe in, I’ll follow it.” He readily admits we can see parallels with him and his characters. “When you write characters, they’re all from real life. You pull them out of people you know. You’ve been one of these characters or had friends who are one of these characters.”

Even as he revels in his triumph, the box-office success, the cult following, the gleaming trophies and the parties, he remains unaffected by the storm his movie has kicked up and remembers it wasn’t too long ago that he was still working on a breakthrough. Like his characters whose lives are in some way shaped by failure, be it monetary, vocational or even familial, he admits it has played an important role in his life as well. “Success drives me less than failure. Failure can really isolate you,” he says, having experienced a fair share of it with botched acting attempts in the 90s with films like Uff! Yeh Mohabbat and Aashique Mastane and his directorial debut Aryan. “But failure also puts you in a dark corner where you can apply yourself internally and pull out whatever there is in you, to go out there and achieve what you want. Success can distract from your main focus,” he elaborates.

Gattu, as he is endearingly known, is visibly thrilled at winning awards but also thinks singling out one winner is ludicrous. “I don’t think any one person should win an award. The truth is you just can’t compare.” He does admit it’s reassuring to be recognised by his own fraternity, though. “Filmfare is a special award because I’ve seen black and white pictures of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Javed saab winning them and they are a part of this history of cinema and you feel like you are a part of it too. What I’m most proud of is that Farhan Akhtar won an award for best debut and called me on stage and gave it to me,” he reveals.

Reports insist Farhan stole the limelight as producer, actor and singer, but Kapoor maintains the young ensemble cast is getting hard-earned praise and that the brouhaha is media created. “The man winning all the awards for his role as a supporting actor is Arjun Rampal. In my opinion, the second half of the film was driven by his character because he still has a battle to fight.” He does, however, confess that having Farhan on board was fantastic. “I had this hunch he would be fabulous on screen. He had made Dil Chahta Hai and had a big impact on a certain audience which has grown considerably over the past few years. I understood this script had a similar flavour. Too many things were bang on, his personality, the fact that he had made Dil Chahta Hai, his voice…. I didn’t want him to work with a new music director who wouldn’t know his potential. I knew he had worked with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and that collaboration would be immediate. Actually I didn’t know Farhan could sing. He came for the audition with his guitar and sang songs I’d shortlisted. I was blown away. When something’s well begun, it’s half done,” he says.

The director insists his is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. That means he has to be on top of his game at all times. “I’ve been more of a failure than a success and I’ve enjoyed my failure now. One success can make your failures worth their while. It’s an inherently risky profession. You can’t escape that so you might as well exploit it. I’d rather do things that are different than do something that somebody else is already doing,” he declares. In the midst of two new scripts which he isn’t loose-lipped about, he’s throwing caution to the wind and sailing off again. We await Sinbad’s next voyage.

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