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Rajat Kapoor: I don’t do much preparation, I’m not that kind of an actor

Rajat Kapoor: I don’t do much preparation, I’m not that kind of an actor

Rajat Kapoor: I don’t do much preparation, I’m not that kind of an actor
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By Sneha Bengani  Nov 12, 2022 12:47:07 PM IST (Published)

In this exclusive interview, the veteran actor talks about his new SonyLIV show Tanaav, working with director Sudhir Mishra after 15 years, why he doesn’t believe in preparing for a role, and considers filmmaking his primary passion and profession.

In the last two years, Rajat Kapoor has featured in five web series and three films,  two of which he has also directed. Ask him how he manages to stay this prolific and he’ll make you believe that acting is a cakewalk, especially when compared to the all-consuming task of filmmaking.

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He is currently busy promoting his latest show Tanaav, an action thriller that dares to delve into the thorny subject of Kashmir. Directed by Sudhir Mishra and Sachin Krishn, it is based on the 2015 Israeli television series Fauda. The new SonyLIV series also features Arbaaz Khan, Shashank Arora, and Zarina Wahab in important roles.

In this exclusive interview, Kapoor talks with great candour about Tanaav, working with Mishra after 15 years, shooting with the locals in Kashmir, his love for filmmaking, and why, for him, costume defines a character.

In a career spanning over 30 years, you have done a wide variety of roles. What makes you say yes to a project?

Primarily the script. If the script has value, coherence, some craft, and vision. After that, I look at the role that is being offered and then the director who is going to make it.

Your choices have been really interesting for somebody who has been in the industry for so long. You don’t seem to be too bothered by the scale of the project or the length of your character.

Yea, I don’t get bothered by that. It’s not really about the length of the character. Sometimes it’s interesting to just be a part of a very interesting project if my presence can help it in any way. For me, it’s important to work with people who are passionate about what they are doing. So that also makes a big difference.

Why Tanaav? What made you come on board for this?

Primarily Sudhir Mishra, because he was making it. I wasn’t very sure about this one, I must tell you. Because people from Applause (Entertainment; the studio that has produced Tanaav) approached me first and I’d just done Scam 1992. I didn’t want to play another role that had the danger of being in the same zone. But they kind of convinced me. And then there was Sudhir Mishra directing the show. So I said yes.

How was it working with him?

It was an absolute pleasure. I'd worked with him 15 years ago in Khoya Khoya Chand. And I have known him for 15 years before that. So it was like working with a friend and getting to know them all over again. That was very nice. One can spend hours and hours talking cinema. It’s always very joyous. We were in Jammu and when you’re outdoors, you get to spend more time with your team. We got lots of time to catch up, me and him.

Could you tell me a bit about your role in Tanaav and how did you prepare for it?

The truth is I don’t do much preparation; I’m not that kind of an actor. What does one do to prepare, I really want to know. If you are going to put on 30 kg or lose 10 kg, I understand that. But again, I’m not an actor who can change my body weight. So I admire very much if Aamir Khan puts on 30 kg or Joaquin Phoenix loses 20 kg for Joker; it’s fantastic. But I don’t think I’ve got a role that has demanded of me to do that. And if I got a role like that, would I say yes? I’d probably not. I don’t think I can lose 8 kg or put on 15 kg. I don’t think my body will allow me to do that.

So then how do you prepare for a role? What do you do? I want to know. If I have to learn a new language, maybe yes, that would take some time. Other than that, what? For me, the look becomes very important. What are the clothes the character wears? What kind of face does he have? What kind of hair? For me, very often, the costume defines the character. Costumes make the person.

When I act, I don’t think I’m playing somebody outside of me. For me, this idea itself is flawed that there is a character that exists and you’re going to be him. I really think that’s wrong. Because there is nobody else outside of you. There is no character; it doesn’t exist for you to play it. So how do you prepare for that? There is no such person, no Jagjit Malik (his character in Tanaav) in existence as of now. It’s in somebody’s head. Now what they have done to create that character is written some lines and situations on a piece of paper. The character will be created only when you play it. So for me, it’s about finding that moment within you, and then with the effort of everybody—the costume team, the camera team—together you create someone who becomes Jagjit Malik.

So what is important for me is that you be as authentic as possible in that moment of shooting, that you, the director, and the cameraperson are trying to capture the truth of that moment. If you manage to do that, then I think people say, okay, it was an interesting performance or they felt it or whatever.

But workshops have become a thing lately.

I think most of them are quite silly. I don’t know. I don’t work like this. I don’t believe in this. I don’t believe in backstories being created for actors. It might upset some people if I say it but I think it’s of no importance at all. I don’t want to know the backstory of Jagjit Malik. I don’t care whether he has married five times or not married at all or if his father beat him up as a child. It doesn’t help me. I want to know what he is saying now and how he is saying it. So it’s silly. It doesn’t matter what the backstory is. What is important is that you are in front of the camera now.

So who is this Jagjit Malik?

He is an officer with the intelligence forces. He is what he is; he is doing his job, which is to get intel. And for that, he’ll use whatever means are at his disposal. You know, jaise bolte hai na saam daam dand bhed. By any means possible, he will get what he needs. For more, you’ll have to watch the show.

A lot of it has been shot in Kashmir with the locals. What was the experience like?

Incredible. I think the USP of this show is the faces that Sudhir, Sachin (Krishn; co-director), and the team have managed to get. That brings such authenticity to what it is. Of course, Kashmir and the people are beautiful but when I met the people who are acting in the film, the choices they made with casting, it was stunning. Every character is real. MK Raina sahib, we haven’t seen him in years, and he’s looking so gorgeous. That’s just one face, there are so many. I think that’s really the remarkable part of this series.

Other than acting, you also direct and write for the screen. Of the three, what do you enjoy doing the most?

My primary passion is to make films; that’s what I do. It’s also my primary profession. I also act once in a while but I would say, for example, 90 percent of my time goes into making my film, which means writing it, trying to raise money for it, making it, then trying to sell it, and releasing it. Even after you release it, you are still going around showing the film in small festivals just so that 50 more people will watch it. That is my primary work and I enjoy that very much.

Having said that, acting is a great job. I enjoy it; I love being on a set. It’s a stress-free job for me at least. I have great fun acting. You don’t have to worry about whether the food has come on time or the next shot or if the car is not working; you don’t have to worry about anything. Do your thing, get off, and get a cheque at the end of the day. Wow, what a job.

Even after dedicating 90 percent of your time to making films, how do you continue to remain such a prolific actor?

Because it does not take very long. Unlike making a film which takes about two years straight out of your life, acting takes nothing. Fifteen days of acting and five days of promotion, that’s all it takes sometimes. It looks like you’ve done some substantial work but in actual time, it’s not that much. Unless you’re playing the main role in a big-budget film, then it’s another matter. If you are in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, then you have to give 150 days, but even that is just five months, which is nothing compared to how long everyone else spends on the film.

Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here.
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