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What is the point of making slottable films?

Rajat Kapoor believes his movies defy categories and his next, 'Ankhon Dekhi', too, falls in that space

Rajat Kapoor has made five films in 11 years and the filmmaker and actor thinks it’s not such a bad track record. “That means almost one film every two years, so that’s not so bad,” he smiles.

Rajat Kapoor. Pic/Meena Agarwal
Rajat Kapoor. Pic/Meena Agarwal

Kapoor was answering our question about why his upcoming movie 'Ankhon Dekhi' is coming after such a long gap. “It has been a little longer than usual, but not very long. The last one was 'Fatso' in 2012, which unfortunately went unnoticed. Maybe that’s why it feels like a long gap,” he says. The multi-faceted filmmaker, actor and theatre personality talks about his films that refuse to be slotted, directing himself and how he would never do a film only for money.

Rajat Kapoor on the sets of 'Ankhon Dekhi'
Rajat Kapoor on the sets of 'Ankhon Dekhi'

Is 'Ankhon Dekhi' a dark comedy, a drama or does it have philosophical undertones?
I think it’s a bit of all that. Also, it’s difficult to slot the films I make in any genre. What was Mithya? Was it a gangster film, was it a comedy, was it a dark film? It was all of that. What were 'Mixed Doubles' or 'Raghu Romeo'? These are not movies that can easily be slotted, because what is the point of making slottable films? Though I must say, that I have written a gangster script. And when you ask me this question next time, I can tell you it’s a gangster film. But 'Ankhon Dekhi', I think is very much my genre. It has humour and it is also very moving, which is something I’m very happy about. It’s also a drama about a joint family, which we don’t see in Hindi films these days. It is also philosophical without standing out and saying ‘I’m philosophical’.

So is there is an audience for this kind of cinema?
Definitely. And that’s proved, first of all, by the fact that we’re allowed to make films and we even manage to get some kind of release, which didn’t happen 10 years back. But the problem that has happened in the last few years, is that this small film genre has become very big. While five years back, there were 20 of such films, now there are 200, and I must add, most of them are really bad. How do you stand out in this clutter? The audience are also tired. They don’t want to see something done cheaply and done badly just because it’s independent cinema. So within that independent cinema, one has to come up with something original and to touch the audience, so that they come and watch it. I think Lunchbox did that, and so did a Kahaani and 'Vicky Donor'. The audience did come to watch them because within that clutter of small independent films, these films stood out and touched the audience.

Apart from directing it, you’re acting in Ankhon Dekhi as well. Is directing yourself difficult?
Not at all. The first time I did that was with 'Mixed Doubles'. That was slightly difficult because when you’re directing the film too, you get so tired that you start looking terrible on screen. Here, since it was very real and nobody had make-up, looking tired was not a problem, so it worked out well. (smiles)

Do you think you are a better filmmaker than an actor?
(Laughs) I would let the audience decide that but I enjoy acting very much. It’s very easy work and you get appreciation. People recognise you and some producers also give you money because of that. But what really turns me on is directing. I look at myself as a filmmaker, others mostly look at me as an actor.

Sometimes talented actors take up roles that the audience wishes they hadn’t. Would you do that if you were being paid good money?
I would never do something like that. I meet a lot of people who tell me sometimes that if they see my name in a film, they go and watch it. So I have built that kind of equity. I don’t want to do a stupid film because it’s giving me a lot of money and spoil that equity. I would rather keep that trust.

Which films are you acting in at the moment?
Nothing as of now. The last one was 'Midnight’s Children' which, unfortunately, didn’t turn out as well as we thought it would. I’m now doing a television series with Ashutosh Gowariker called 'Everest'. We’ve shot a few scenes already and we’re shooting it like a film, so it’s exciting.

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