I'm bored of being seen as a saint: Anoop Jalota
Wine glass in hand, 'bhajan samraat' Anoop Jalota cuts a different figure as he gets ready for a slew of acting roles
When we meet Anoop Jalota at his Andheri West studio, he is in the midst of applauding Virat Kohli's blazing unbeaten 89 runs off 47 balls in the match against West Indies. For each boundary, Jalota breaks into a song. And, to go with the mood is a glass of sparkling wine on the table. "I don't believe in doing anything on the sly. I love wine, and I have no qualms sipping it in front of you," he says with candour.
Anoop Jalota will play a double role in comic caper, Happy Singh
The 'bhajan samraat' is here to break his much-cemented image acquired over the years. Giving light music and bhajans a break, Jalota is set to start a career in the movies at the age of 63. "Every person has a keeda inside them…you know, that burning desire to do something on your own. When I would sing in movies, I felt that I need to have my own film where I am not just producing it, but am also involved as actor," he says. Jalota has already signed six movies — Happy Singh, Black Birthday and Luchhe Lafange will release over the next three months. He says the decision to take up movies dates back to when he was offered the role of Satya Sai Baba in Vicky Ranawat’s film, which also releases this year. "I'm an ardent devotee of Baba and people say that I look like him. So, when the producers offered me the role, I agreed.”
We remind Jalota that in a past interview, he had said he wouldn’t act in out-and-out commercial films, 'even if it's a film with Katrina Kaif'. He feigns ignorance. "Oh I meant, I won’t sing in Bollywood movies, which I have quite consciously refrained from because I love live concerts. When you see people saying, 'wah wah' in person, it’s a different high."
What got him to jump headlong into acting was the process of filmmaking and facing the camera during the making of Satya Sai Baba. "Despite no formal training in acting, I would give the right shot, sometimes in the first take. The crew couldn’t believe it,” he says. While playing Satya Sai Baba is in conformity with his image, Jalota says he is ‘no saint’. "You need to be versatile as a performer. I don’t want to be stuck with this saintly image. That gets boring," he says.
Which is why Jalota has meticulously picked roles that directly challenge this. Happy Singh is a comic caper, where he plays a double role of a happy-go-lucky Sardar and that of a lethal Bihari don. "I had to work to look sinister. If you see the poster, you'll see the venom in my eyes,” he says. Playing a comic role, he says, wasn’t difficult. “I love to make people laugh. If you have visited any of my concerts, you’ll see that I always crack jokes. It is hardly ever serious."
The Shivaji Park resident admits to being a prankster even on set. "I like a chilled-out atmosphere. You need to enjoy what you are doing." In Black Birthday, a thriller, Jalota will play a cop. "I have signed moves across genres. The only criteria is appeal."
Interestingly, he has been producing movies since the 90s. He gave Ronit Roy a break in Hum Deewane Pyar Ke (2001). He also made Tere Mere Phere directed by Deepa Sahi and produced by Ketan Mehta and Boyss Toh Boyss Hain (2013) featuring Rajkummar Rao. Their box office returns couldn’t bother him less. "I enjoy the process. Whether it works or not is not in my hands."
But Jalota is hopeful that his entry into acting will be well-received. "All the top heroes in our country are above 50. Look at Salman and Shah Rukh. There’s no harm in trying, right?"