MUMBAI His debut film as director didn't do all that well but Pankaj Kapur is keen to try again -- after he sticks to acting for a couple of years.
"Mausam", starring Kapur's son Shahid and Sonam Kapoor, was a box-office failure in 2011 and he now wants to focus on his acting career.
Kapur spoke to Reuters about his latest film "Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola", his equation with director Vishal Bhardwaj and why India doesn't really need an art film movement.
Q: You have worked with Vishal Bhardwaj since the days of "Maqbool". What is your equation with him?
A: "Vishal did a bit (of) music for a television project for me. It was a pilot episode and I didn't pursue it further, but he did an amazing job with it and he is an amazingly talented guy. By then, he had become a director and offered me roles but due to dates not matching with other actors, I couldn't do those roles. ‘Maqbool' happened to be the first project we worked on together. It's a warm relationship I share with Vishal. He is like a younger brother to me and a good friend. Even meeting him over a cup of tea is a pleasure."
Q: Does his choice of subjects intrigue you?
A: "Not intrigue me, interest me. I think he is absolutely wonderful in that. He has an uncanny ability to pick up subjects which are dramatic, very appealing and provide the scope for an interesting, unusual film to come about."
Q: What intrigued you about this film and this character?
A: "I think this is a very lively character and something I've not done in cinema. I was quite thrilled to read the part. It's a spicy, flamboyant, very interesting guy who is an alcoholic who is into politics, is a loving father and at the end of the day has his heart in the right place."
Q: In spite of having such a huge body of work, do you still look for that elusive role? Is it a struggle to find that "newness" in roles?
A: "Somewhere it is. I'll confess, somewhere it is. I read a lot of scripts and I pick up the ones I feel are interesting subjects and will give me a new dimension as an actor. But you cannot do it all the time. There will be film-makers like Vishal who will come up with subjects like that (which) will be challenging as an actor and they have the ability and the inclination to draw the best out of you."
Q: What about the scripts that don't inspire you? Do you still do those films? \
A: "Yeah, some of them one does, not necessary that you have to strain yourself all the time. Sometimes it is necessary to walk through a garden. Sometimes you feel, yes this is a simple script, but being simplistic in a certain context is not always easy. There is certain demand. Sometimes it is nice to walk through a part."
Q: You had a great run on television with "Karamchand" and "Office Office." Do you intend to go back to TV someday?
A: "My great body of work on television is huge because that's where I found an opening for doing different roles. After ‘Office Office', I haven't done anything because the way television is today, I didn't think it suited the kind of work I wanted to do. And that kind of work is being offered in cinema now. There has been a role reversal as far as I am concerned. Not that I am averse to doing television but only if something fantastic comes my way and if I am assured that the channel won't interfere with the creative process."
Q: What has gone wrong with Indian television?
A: "It is difficult for me to analyse that but I think today's television reflects a 70s and 80s south Indian Hindi film that was being made. The kind of characterisations, the gaudiness, the clothing, the inter-relationships … This is 90 percent of the work. Of course there is 5-10 percent within these parameters which is also good … But by and large I am not finding a place for myself in television. The way television has become -- five days a week, it's too demanding and it's too repetitive. As an actor I would rather play a part, get out of it and then get into another one, rather than play the same role for two years."
Q: When you started out, there was a very noticeable art house film movement in India. Over the years, that has petered out. Do you think the art house movement has any relevance?
A: "I have always believed that film-making is a combination of commerce and art. Even the smallest film is made with 2-3 crore (20-30 million) rupees and that's not the kind of money that can be forgotten or thrown off. There needs to be a balance of the two. Whether it's a small-budget film or a big budget and has something fresh to present to audiences in terms of people or characters. As long as better films are being made and as long as they able to meet their end, which is to get audiences to theatres and earn money, it will provide a wider platform. It was actually in a way branded -- there were people who made a point to call it art house cinema. It's cinema, at the end of the day."
Q: Are you thinking of getting back to direction?
A: "At some point, yes. I have a few scripts and I have something going on in my head, but at the moment I am more involved in acting. Because I had a three-year break and acting is my first love, so I wanted to act a bit before I get into direction again."