Anil and Harshvarrdhan Kapoor’s latest release, Netflix’s ‘Thar’ is making waves for all the right reasons. Right from the gripping story to the stellar performances, the film has garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Catching up with Lifestyle Asia India’s May cover stars, Anil and Harshvarrdhan Kapoor:
Anil Kapoor has been a leading man at the movies for over four decades now. He’s had one of the most long-running and experimental careers at the movies and continues to serve his audiences with exceptional projects even today. His latest release, Netflix’s ‘Thar’ is a gruesome tale of vengeance and co-stars his son, Harshvarrdhan in the lead with him.
Harsh, who has four acting credits to his name, including films like ‘Bhavesh Joshi’, ‘Mirzya’, and ‘Ray’, plays a man living on the borders of the society with a hidden motive. Anil Kapoor is an inspector nearing his retirement but a series of insidious events tangle their life course and the two find themselves in the middle of a spine-chilling mystery.
With the film receiving praise from all around, we caught up with the actors, who are also our May cover stars to talk about ‘Thar’, how their relationship has evolved, and their career choices in this insightful chat. Read on…
I want to start with the most obvious question, and I’m sure you’ve been asked several times, but how is it working with each other?
Anil Kapoor: I think it’s been great. It was not the first film we were working on together. We broke the ice when we did ‘AK vs AK’. An actor or a person who really loves his job, once he’s on the set, it doesn’t matter who is in front of the camera. You go there and just do your job. Fortunately for us, in ‘Thar’, we are not playing father and son, we’re playing strangers so that became even easier. So the experience has been very good and it would have been that with any other professional actor.
Harshvarrdhan, did you have any inhibitions before going on sets?
Harshvarrdhan: No, I think, as he said, the ice was broken in ‘AK vs AK’. And then we had a lot of time to prepare for this and were very diligent, prepared and went there and executed.
Did you have any creative differences?
AK: Of course! We’re creative minds and it’s a democratic set-up, so sometimes the director, Raj Singh Choudhary, put his put down or I would say no to doing some things. Even Harsh put his foot down for a few things. But ultimately director is the captain of the ship who makes the last decision.
Did you ever break your character because you wanted to appreciate the other person for a scene?
AK: I feel our basic instinct is to look at the director, who’s watching the monitor now these days, and, of course, the DOP who’s looking through the lens, for their approval. So basically everybody’s like a student – we just look at the approval of the director and the people who are on the set. And in this film, of course, there was nobody who was extroverted or clapping for someone. It was a tight schedule, with difficult terrains, and quite a few people. We were trying to create something and wanted to do our best so we have as much footage as possible in the given time for our editor, Aarti.
HK: I don’t think this is a ‘pat each other on the back’ kind of environment. I think you can be praise-worthy of each other after the final cut. It’s a bit dangerous to do that when you’re shooting things in isolation. Like you’re doing close-ups, you’re doing wide. You don’t really understand what the full impact of the work can be until it’s really put together. And then you sit down and think a certain scene turned out really well and beyond my expectations or actually in the counter of that and feel that a certain scene went well on set, but actually, it could have been a lot better. It’s all at that moment, everybody’s relying on the director, to be honest. I wouldn’t say apprehensive, but it’s very important to be realistic. You should never try and create any sense of delusion in a creative space or environment. If you’re trying to really be intensely focused on something and somebody’s coming in heaping praise on you, you’re almost snapping out of it. So it’s important to stay in the moment and stay calm.
You’re also producing the film and Harsh, it’s your first time. What led to the decision of producing Thar, and how was the experience?
HK: Very educational. It’s just sometimes in life, the best things are unplanned. This is only my fifth acting credit and fourth leading role, and nothing in my very short career has happened by design, it’s all really by accident. So I don’t sit down in a room with a strategist and think that this would be a good career move. I don’t navigate my artistic career like that. It’s all coming from a creative place, which is a bit idealistic, but it is what it is. And this just kind of happened because it had to. I feel otherwise maybe the film wouldn’t have happened. I think it’s a great gift from God and the universe to be able to have this experience at such an early stage. So in my eyes, I’ve already won.
You have an idealistic career choice. Do you, in retrospect, feel the need to break the niche you’ve built for yourself?
HK: The thing is that there are only two ways that you can work. One is you hope that good opportunities come to you, you choose from those opportunities, and then that will continue forward more movies and projects. But the other way is you meet someone like Raj who is kind of young and starting off and then you sit together and do it as a team, right? So either one of those two things has to happen or I have to develop something myself. I will also add that it’s a lot about fate. So why try and force things? So I think in my opinion, I wouldn’t change the work. See, the work is there. It’s there and it will be there forever and anybody can see it. I think if you’re watching it from a certain perspective, with a certain eye, there is merit in it. And that’s priceless. You can’t monetise that. It’s very precious and very personal and very sacred. And if I can keep doing that, that would be awesome.
Do you have an input into what kind of films Harsh is doing?
AK: This is a profession where the work you do has to come from within. You can’t force someone. This is what I feel is right because he has to feel from within what is right or wrong and that’s what I always believe in myself. Even in the past, when we produce films, me and my brother, the creative decisions are actually very individualistic. There are times when, of course, there are certain situations where there are financial difficulties like, as Harsh says, you really don’t plan things. So I can’t tell him, and nor can he tell me. We just discussed a few things and that’s all. Everybody has got their own decisions to make, especially in this profession. At least I don’t believe that I should tell him what to do and what not to do. It’s his decision and that’s what it is.
HK: If I had just handed over the responsibility of choice to him, I don’t think AK vs AK or Ray would have happened. Maybe even Bhavesh Joshi wouldn’t have happened. Obviously, there are quite a few people that have really loved those films. And those films have a unique representation of my taste and sensibilities and who I am and what I like to watch. Even within the films, with the performances, I kind of try and bring a lot of myself to the path. So if I was a banker/stockbroker’s son, it’s easier to talk to him about investments. When you’re an artist. I feel it’s very hard.
AK: So, ‘AK vs AK’ was offered to me. The cameo, which he did, I don’t think I would be able to do it. And that’s the reason when Vikram (Motwane) spoke to me about wanting Harsh and Sonam (Kapoor Ahuja) and even Sunita (Kapoor), yes, he wanted my wife and Rhea (Kapoor) to be part of it. So Rhea flatly refused. My wife obviously, forget films, she’s not even posed with me for a picture in my entire career. Whatever pictures you see are candid pictures, but never, ever a film magazine or photoshoot. So I told him to ask them directly because they are individuals and if they want to do the film, they’ll do it and if they don’t do it and you feel your film’s not happening. So individually, he approached Harsh and Sonam and both said yes. Rhea said no and my wife, obviously, there’s no question that she would do it.
Has your relationship personally evolved after working together on Thar?
AK: Relationships are a work in progress. We are all learning how to have a very good working relationship as well as a relationship in which we can spread some positive, good times. That’s what it is. You’re learning and being actors, it gives us an opportunity to spend more time with each other because when you’re doing a film, otherwise if it was some other business or he was in the army or was working somewhere internationally, it would have been difficult. We meet each other, but not so much because of hectic schedules. So it’s good that today we both are here, we’re doing this interview, so in between shots, we get time to speak to each other rather. It’s great.
What was the most intriguing part of the script that made you come on board?
HK: It’s unique. We live in a world where social media and a lot of the stuff that you’re consuming is fabricated, artificial and it’s a pretense. So you feel a deep desire and obligation to try and give people something real. A lot of people are working to just feel like they want to impress people and kind of gain validation. I think that comes later. What really stood out to me about the script was that it was an uncompromising vision. It’s very original, it’s unique, and it’s personal to the filmmaker. He feels very strongly about the emotional core of the film. He is born and raised in that part of the world. He’s grown up loving Westerns, and so everything that he is and loves is in there, and it’s original. It’s not boring, it’s riveting. I think this Thar is a great combination of something that’s unique, original to the maker, but also engaging for quite a wide audience.
AK: It’s very instinctive. I get a script and I just read it. If I can finish it in one go, I’ve not really read something like that before. I feel like I would like to meet each and every character, know them, and understand them. I’ve never met them, never seen them. So it becomes very fascinating and that was my takeaway when I read it.
What was the hardest part of working on ‘Thar’?
AK: See, hardships are part of life. There are certain things that happen very instantly and you don’t expect them. But these ups and downs, hiccups, and hardships are always there. And especially when you’re trying to create something. But then you love your work, you’re passionate. It’s just momentary and in a few hours, you forget about it. So there are times when there were hardships during the making of the film. But I think overall the journey has been so smooth and positive that I don’t even remember the hardships.
HK: Making a film is never easy. It’s just an occupational hazard. My first film, I think, is probably the hardest that I’ve worked on and I still look back and wonder if that was an impossible task. We were horse riding in Ladakh, in high and low altitudes, with less oxygen, basically for 12-14 hours a day, and it was either freezing cold or super hot. And I think that kind of prepared me for the future. With Thar, it was kind of like an ideal scenario. It was just well planned and we were very well taken care of. And even though we were shooting a very intense film, we felt comfortable.
AK: And then, of course, when you have a great partner like Netflix, it just becomes much less stressful because you have a studio who’s really backing your vision and someone who believes the way you believe in it.
We already know Harsh loves his sneakers. Do you also share the same love for it?
AK: No, to be honest with you, I am constantly wearing the same thing. Also, I’m wearing his sneakers right now. He’s slightly possessive of his sneaker so he doesn’t give anything free. I gave him forty grand for the shoes I’m wearing right now. He’s used it, got bored with it, so I took it.
HK: So what I do is I’ll give him the shoe, but then he has to get me some clothing. It’s like a trade-off.
AK: I just have one or two of them so my son-in-law (Anand Ahuja) felt very bad that I’ve been wearing the same sneakers for the last ten years. He saw the sole and he told me I would have issues with my heels if I keep on wearing these shoes. So I said, I just like these shoes because they are very comfortable. He, very sweetly, got me three pairs of sneakers from London, which are exactly the same. So my stylist is also very bored. Whenever he sees me coming out of the airport or going everywhere, I’m wearing the same black sneakers. I also got only one pair of black and blue jeans. And I just keep on changing the top. I keep on wearing the same thing.
Harsh, if you were offered a film by your favourite director in the world, but you had to give up on all your sneaker. What would you pick?
HK: Probably give up on the shoes.
If you were to pick an era of global or Indian fashion that you would want to constantly be styled in, which one would you pick, respectively?
HK: I like the ‘90s rock and roll, like Tommy Lee. It was like that era in pop culture before Third Eye Blind and before Blink 182 and it wasn’t really heavy metal. You’d see guys in leather pants and old vintage T-shirts with all kinds of piercings and tattoos. I like that whole vibe.
AK: I like everything. It depends on what is in front of my eyes. It might be from any ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s or futuristic, I should feel comfortable, I should feel that I can carry it. I’m ready to fail also, sometimes I might try out something and it might not work. But if I’m comfortable, I go and wear it. So basically I’m open to everything.
Editor-in-chief: Rahul Gangwani (@rahulgangs_)
Photographer: Avani Rai (@avani.rai)
Stylist: Saloni Parekh (@saloniparekh__), Assisted by Jainee (@jaineeebheda)
Interview by: Analita Seth (@analitaseth)
HMU – Vrinda Rajput (@vhairforu)