Slumdog Millionaire‘s American audiences were enticed to watch by the
name of director Danny Boyle or the movie’s kinetic exploration of an exotic,
far-away underbelly. In India, the selling point very well may have been
Anil Kapoor. Kapoor, who portrays the movie’s shifty host of India’s version of Who
Wants to Be a Millionaire?, is the movie’s biggest Bollywood name, something
fashioned over three decades of work, which includes Mr. India (an early work by
Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur for which Kapoor received great critical
acclaim). The story of Kapoor’s first international movie is a story we
know well now — the plot, the controversies, the international box office
success, and the endless trophies (including an ultimate Oscar Best Picture and
Kapoor’s own share of a SAG Oustanding Cast award). As he pursues new projects
in America (and on the release of Slumdog on DVD), RT sat down with Kapoor to get his Five Favorite Films.
The films that really changed my life were all the films made by Charlie Chaplin. Films like
The Gold Rush. They were silent films, they were black and white. As a kid,
I would just completely get mesmerized with every aspect of cinema. That kind of magic I’d never yet seen, the magic Charlie Chaplin created on screen — in terms of performances, in terms of technique, in terms of innocence, in terms of purity. I would wonder, “Is there anyone in the world who can match this?” I would see other films, and I’d think, “No, this guy is a real genius.” He makes me smile.
And sometimes he moves me.
Ah, City Lights.
[It] doesn’t [really] make an effort to do comedy or [try] to make me cry. It just flows so naturally.
A true artist. And you don’t have to be sensible [to watch Chaplin’s
films]. You [can be] a kid but you still can understand his films. [One] doesn’t need education, academic education, to understand or enjoy his films. And I would see in the theater, in the audience, all kinds of people: children, parents, grandparents, poor, rich, very rich people, everybody in the theater enjoying his films.
Chaplin really influenced me on being an actor. And I remember, back in India, Raj Kapoor, was greatly influenced by Charlie Chaplin.
[Kapoor] became one of the biggest filmmakers of our country. You know, [Kapoor] is one of the few filmmakers who are very very known in that part of the world, especially Russia and the Middle East, the Far East. All the countries, one of the most famous filmmakers, Raj Kapoor. And he was influenced by Charlie Chaplin.
Everybody says, “Are you influenced by Raj Kapoor?” and I say, “No, I’m not inspired by Raj Kapoor, I’m inspired by Charlie Chaplin.” It all goes back to that. And if you see my films, films like Woh 7 Din, Mr. India, and all those kinds of films, there is a bit of Chaplin. In every role which I do to this day, there is that flavor, because I’ve been influenced by all this. I will always think, if there is a scene, I will always have him in mind. Even in Slumdog Millionaire…
[My performance in Slumdog Millionaire] is very animated, it’s very flamboyant.
That influence always works when I’m doing those kinds of roles. There are certain times when I’m slightly larger than life and animated, still in control and still looking natural, and not looking like a buffoon, and not looking caricaturish. Still looking real. I think some way it is the influence of Charlie Chaplin. And even if I can achieve one percent or two percent of what he has achieved in this life in terms of art, in terms of what he has done, I’ll feel pretty fulfilled. When I try to do stuff which he has done, a little bit here and there, then I realize what a great man he was, and what a great character he was, and what he accomplished. Very, very difficult. I heard that he would rehearse for hours and days for every punch. For every
punch. And there are times when I’m doing my films, I say, “Let’s copy this
punch on this film.” And we could never get it. We just couldn’t get it.
You can go into the depth and go inside into his mind, and it’s like miles and miles of depth. Which you can’t really get in the actor’s realm, but Charlie Chaplin could get. And his speech in The Great Dictator, the way he spoke when he played Hitler in The Great Dictator. It is one of the greatest monologues to come out of cinema. Nobody has ever been able to achieve that.
I feel performance cannot be done in isolation. So when I talk about teamwork, when I talk about timing between two actors, timing between two actors, I think about Laurel & Hardy. It’s like two sides of a coin. It’s the quickest examples of two people creating magic, two actors creating magic. I look up to these people [and] I get influenced by [them], because I try to create these things. I see others trying to create that thing, but nobody has succeeded yet.
Laurel & Hardy [are] completely timeless. And anything in art which is timeless — it might be architecture, it might be paintings, whatever you do — [if] it’s great art, it will entertain the people all over the world for centuries and centuries.
Everything just fell in place. The right people, the right director, the right script, the right timing, what the world was going through. Everything just fell right. So
Godfather, Slumdog Millionaire, Laurel & Hardy, and Chaplin. Well, it’s too early to talk about
Slumdog, but I’m sure after 50 or 100 years people are going to say that everything just fell in the right [place] for
The Godfather is not [just] an American hit, it’s really a worldwide film. Anywhere [you go]: China, Japan, Mexico. Everywhere students of cinema, ordinary people, everybody just loved the film. It’s got that cinematic magic, The Godfather. And, you know, it’s the lighting, the camerawork, the editing, the performances, the casting, the colors, the costumes. It was cinema at its best, and I’m sure it is something which, as you say, was written. Just everything fell in place. It doesn’t happen with everybody, it’s [when] people are [from] a certain kind of work culture [that] these things happen normally.
What I like about The Godfather [is that] it’s very classical. [Coppola] just leaves the camera. You never see the camera moving. It’s very static and it’s the actors [who are moving]. [But] still you create the magic. You don’t have to juggle the camera to attract attention.
The music also is very subtle. Everything is subtle. Your mind is throbbing, your [hairs are] rising, you’re on the edge of your seat, but still everything is so calm and relaxed. It’s cinema at its best. Slumdog? That’s also cinema at its best but everything [is] movement. There’s so much movement, there’s so much energy, the script is moving, the screenplay, the camera is moving, the actors are moving, everything is moving. But still, you understand the story. It is in control. Still, it moves you.
Catch Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire on DVD this week. For more Five Favorite Films, visit our archive.