To write that Anil Kapoor is the hottest film personality today - both in Hollywood and Bollywood - would be an understatement. Quite at ease on both coasts of the US - in his newest venture as a featured guest star on Fox TV’s sizzling show ‘24? shooting currently in LA or while promoting the latest film release by his successful Anil Kapoor Films Company, ‘Short Kut’ in NYC - the man, the legend, the amiable Superstar remains the darling of Indian cinema as well. And through it all, he has continued to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground, ever the gentleman, always the gracious host.
This past Monday, members of the media were blessed by Mr. Kapoor’s presence at an in-depth press conference held in NYC eatery Pranna, presented by Studio 18, sponsored by digital media distribution company SAAVN, favorite Asian network AVS TV and even my flight carrier of choice, Continental Airlines. Between the undeniable radiance of Mr. India himself beaming across the room, the Indian food and the wonderful vibe of companies all working to promote something that is SO close to my heart - championing Indian cinema throughout the world - the evening was a resounding success.
‘Short Kut – The Con Is On’ - a Studio 18 Indian Films release - is set in the behind-the-scenes, bigger-than-life world of Bollywood. The film tells the story of two strugglers, Shekhar and Raju, played by the deeply complex Akshaye Khanna and the subtly funny Arshad Warsi. While Raju makes it big as a superstar after stealing a script, Shekhar struggles to make it as a director after his script is stolen. Full of the charming comedy of errors, relationship triangles, rocking soundtrack and fabulous costumes we have come to expect from a Bollywood blockbuster and even boasting an item number featuring Anil Kapoor himself, the film promises entertainment to the max. As Mr. Kapoor pointed out “Right now in the world we need feel-good films, films that make us laugh, make us smile, make us happy!”
When asked about his favorite aspect of working on ‘24? and thoughts about Hollywood, Mr. Kapoor replied “Everything about the experience has been fantastic! My work in Hollywood simply proves that anyone can work in any film, that nothing is impossible and everything is possible. I just finished shooting my fourth episode of ‘24? and am going back to Los Angeles to shoot the fifth. When I accepted the role in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, I didn’t do it for the paycheck but for what I could learn from another genre, another director. I am also on ‘24? as a learning process, to take back to India and say ‘This is how it’s being done in Hollywood’.” When questioned about his character on the Kiefer Sutherland-produced series, Mr. Kapoor did not put an end to any of the speculations that have been playing in the media but simply fueled the mystery and fed the frenzy of interest that has surrounded him lately with a vague answer.
A generous man and known philanthropist, along with his wife Sunita, Mr. Kapoor pointed out that “What makes me happy now is giving. I am going through a phase where I feel I want to give more than receive. We contribute to charities that fight child abuse and care for needy children”. When asked if he could share his own secret shortcuts in life, he chuckled and then answered “In real life, there are no shortcuts. The truth is you have to work hard, be sincere and believe in what you do. The film is very entertaining, but there is a message in there.”
Asked about the untimely death of Michael Jackson, never far from anyone’s mind these day, he answered with class “Michael Jackson was the greatest icon, star, the world has ever seen. He has inspired generations all over the world and was unique in being loved by so many, ALL over the world.” Particularly poignant word by a man from Jackson’s generation.
Finally, I had a couple of questions of my own for Mr. Kapoor. The first - posed to him during the press conference - had to do with his liberal use of the word ‘Bollywood’, a term often frowned upon by other Indian cinema personalities and insiders. He didn’t miss a beat in answering “The word is here to stay, whether we like it or not. We have to live with Bollywood as these days it’s a term recognized the world over”. The second question I was fortunate to ask him at the end of the afternoon, during an extraordinary quiet lull in his otherwise hectic schedule.
CHIC TODAY: Mr. Kapoor, how do you feel about being named the official - and unofficial - ambassador of Bollywood?
ANIL KAPOOR: Have I been named that? Really? (laughs)
CT: Of course!
AK: Who has named me? (chuckles)
CT: Everyone! What kind of an impact do you think that carries?
AK: I am just doing my job, I am enjoying this whole process and doing my best.
Spoken by the fantastic Anil Kapoor in his typical style and grace! ‘Short Kut’ opens in cinemas worldwide on July 10th and will have a special NYC preview screening organized by the IAAC on Thursday, July 9th.