It may sound surprising but seasoned actor Pankaj Kapur, known for doing offbeat films such as “Maqbool” and “Blue Umbrella”, confesses that he entered show business aiming to be like late superstar Rajesh Khanna.
“I wanted to become an actor for films. My only idol was Rajesh Khanna. That was the kind of cinema that was reaching me in Ludhiana (Punjab),” Kapur told IANS in a candid conversation here.
But the 58-year-old’s perspective about the art of acting changed after he joined the National School of Drama (NSD) and met Ebrahim Alkazi.
Casually dressed in a trouser and sweater and looking at ease, Kapur shared: “With god’s grace, I got selected in the National School of Drama and met Mr. Alkazi, who opened our minds to the world theatre, world cinema and world painting. In terms of creativity, we were exposed to everything that was available.”
He was so smitten by the world of theatre that he turned down his father’s offer to buy him a place in Mumbai, India’s entertainment capital.
“My father asked me if he should by a one-room space in Mumbai because eventually I will have to go to Mumbai. But I asked him: ‘Who wants to be in films?” I loved theatre and wanted to spend all my life in theatre,” said the actor, known for his powerful performances.
At the beginning of his career, he got films such as “Aarohan” and “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”, but the earning was not enough to keep him going. And the financial constraint pushed him towards television and accept “Karamchand” — his first TV show that made him a popular face in 1985.
“When television came my way, it was a very bitter decision for me. I had to go for television because I had no money. ‘Karamchand’ happened because I had no money. It was a question of survival. So, I said yes. And I suddenly became a national figure and eventually, I landed in Mumbai,” said Kapur, who went on to do hit shows such as “Zabaan Sambhaal Ke” and “Office Office”.
But the world of theatre today has undergone a positive change and people associated with it now can make a living, he said.
“What is good is that the actors in theatre and people involved in it can make a living from it these days. When I was doing theatre, I was a young boy and there was no way one could survive on it,” he said.
Kapur also lamented the lack of good actors on the small screen.
Instead of emphasising on looks, he feels, TV actors should focus on acting.
“Training in theatre, even if it is being used as a stepping stone to cinema, is a very good thing. Today, in television and films, anybody is being picked up and put in front of camera. You look at an actor who is just a (good) face and (good) body and he becomes famous for a few years. Where is the actor after that? They disappear and it is so unfortunate,” he said.
But what worries Kapur more is the lack of good writers in the film and theatre industry.
“The unfortunate bit is that there are no writers. This is a huge problem in films as well. Films are being adapted from Hollywood, from the south and similarly in playwriting there are hardly any plays being written,” he said.
“The output of writing is so little that no new theatre is coming out. After some time, it becomes very boring to have the same adaptations, same plays which have been done millions of times before,” he added.
Despite the writing crisis, Kapur’s body of work boasts of well-scripted and well-executed films and the recent addition is “Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola”.
His performance in the Vishal Bhardwaj-directed political satire is being lauded by critics as well as audiences.