Watch interview: Rajat Kapoor on changing portrayal of fathers and families in Bollywood, Mantra and struggle of independent cinema

Rajat Kapoor says he does not work for money or for people. Here, he talks about Mantra, his film with Kalki Koechlin, independent cinema and more

Actor Rajat Kapoor is bringing up his next, Mantra with Kalki Koechlin and Shiv Pandit. The actor, whose role in Kapoor & Sons was appreciated a lot, is again playing a father on screen. Kapil Kapoor—his character in Mantra—is a victim of the economic development that happened in the early 2000s in India. What has made his life more problematic is his dysfunctional family.

Rajat says that he never looks at a character thinking that he has been again offered to play a father on screen. For him, a role is a role and he will never go back to see whether or not his work pleased anybody. Talking to InUth in Delhi, Rajat opened up about his choices of roles, struggle in making independent cinema and more. Excerpts:

Mantra faced a lot of struggle. Has it come out the way you wanted it to be?
I think all independent films go through that struggle. The struggle is to raise the money, to actually make it and then, the final struggle is to release it. These are some of the problems that you accept, you have to go through if you are making a film like this.

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Again a dysfunctional family after Kapoor & Sons…
I think dysfunctional families are the ‘in-thing’ right now. I think we live in a world where it’s not uncommon. And it’s being addressed in some way, even the mainstream cinema like Kapoor & Sons or Dil Dhadakne Do.

Do you think the on-screen portrayal of a father has changed a lot in Hindi cinema?
I think that father is long gone and dead. The father who says ‘nahi tum ye shaadi nahi kar sakti’that guy is gone. Time has changed. People know this is not our reality anymore. These characters are addressing the new world in a new way.

So, apart from this father-kids relationship, what is the other thing that you are offering through Mantra?

Kapil Kapoorthis character that I’m playing has a business empire which is on a downward spiral. So, on one hand, it’s his family which is falling apart and on the other hand, he is going bankrupt. The struggle is two ways. What is very interesting about this character is that he doesn’t let anything out. Every time people ask him how’s it going, he says that everything is good, we’re doing well and business is picking up. So, this thingkeeping everything bottled upis very interesting about this guy.

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You are playing a father here. You played a father there (in Kapoor & Sons). What are the other kind of roles you want to play apart from that?
It’s not like that you are playing a father. That’s a wrong way of looking at it. In Kapoor & Sons, I was playing a character. What is playing a father? What does that mean? The script doesn’t come to me saying: “Okay, you’re playing a father!” You are playing this role and this is how it unfolds. So, I am playing a role who happens to have kids and they have their lives. Also, in Kapoor & Sons, it was not about playing a father in a conventional sense that he comes into two scenes and goes away. It is a strong role and what I am looking for as an actor is a role where I can sink my teeth inand not just a father.

Kindly elaborate the role where you could ‘sink your teeth in’!
You get the script and you get the idea where you have something to do with it or you are just a walk-on part.

Suppose if your character has a lot of meat in a story but the story in itself, according to you, is weak…
No. That also doesn’t work. It has to be a good role and more importantly, a good script.

So don’t you look back to the films you have done and actually gauge people’s reaction to the film and the character that you’ve played?
How would it matter to me? I don’t do films as an actor or as a filmmaker looking out for people’s reactions like that. I am not gauging my success by how others view it. I do what I believe in, what excites me. And I think that’s how people should work in life. I am not working to make money. I am not working to please anybody.

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So what is that parameter of satisfaction for Rajat Kapoor?
That every moment should be joyous. Otherwise, I won’t do it. Or, if I do it, I would regret it. I don’t want to spend even one hour of my life doing something that I don’t believe in.

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