Rajat Kapoor: I don’t want to make 100 crore films

The actor-writer-director is gearing up for his upcoming film Ankhon Dekhi, starring Sanjay Mishra. We caught up with him at his office in Mumbai, where he opened up his heart to us in a candid interview

Rajat Kapoor has delivered superb performances in films like Dil Chahta Hai, Bheja Fry, Monsoon Wedding and many others. He has also directed some of the wittiest comic films in the recent times and has been a part of many films based on social satire. He spoke to us about what his upcoming Ankhon Dekhi is all about and why he is pissed with many big Bollywood producers. Here are some excerpts from the chat…

How did you get the germ of the idea for this film?

The germ of the idea has been with me since a long time. It is a very simple idea whose whole genesis is, ‘What is knowing and how do you know.’ We always tend to believe things because we are told about it or we have read about it. My feeling is that you know only when you experience it. I feel that is the only way to learn; otherwise, it is not knowing.

How much can you tell us about the story?

This is the story of Bauji. Bauji has been bitten by this bug of experiencing the truth. He believes in the ideology that, only if I have experienced it personally, I would believe that it is true.

So could you tell us some of Bauji’s logics?

Bauji will ask questions like, how do you know that the earth is round. About 400 years ago people used to say that the earth is flat. Now they are saying it is round. Maybe another 400 years down the line they might again start saying that earth is flat. Also, any of those happenings don’t affect our lives. Even if the earth is flat or it is round, we would be sitting here and having coffee just the same way. It is not going to affect our day to day lives. So Bauji’s logic is, how do I believe what the truth is unless I experience it on my own. That’s Bauji’s logic for you.

That leaves us with another basic question, you have been to Japan so you know it exists, but I haven’t. Does that mean that I start believing that Japan doesn’t exist?

No, it is not that. It is like if you haven’t been there you can’t confirm that it exists. You are not denying the fact that it exists. Like Bauji works at a travel agency where he books tickets. So someone comes for booking a ticket to Netherlands and asks how long does it take to reach there, to which Bauji replies that it is written that it takes eight hours to reach but I can’t confirm it as I have never been there. It might take more or less time, so I can’t confirm. Then the person gets furious and starts hurling abuses at Bauji and calls him mad. Bauji replies that it is your estimation that I am mad, but you can’t prove it that I am mad. Later on, the boss fires Bauji for such an attitude and that is exactly how he begins with his theory of “experiencing is believing.” The story also entails as to how all of this is affecting Bauji’s family.

We’ve heard that there is a story behind how you landed up with producer Manish Mundra. Tell us about it…

As always I was not getting a producer for my film. It has been a constant story of my life and it will not change as well, because of the kind of cinema I want to make. So one day I got very frustrated and tweeted, “Screw all the film producers, I am starting a play.” Somebody reverted saying, “Sir, I am a big fan of your work and I am ready to produce it.” I reverted by saying that, on Twitter it’s very easy say all of this as it seems to be a joke. This is my cell number and if you are really interested call me up. So he called up and I still felt he was joking. But when he actually came to Bombay and did all the necessary formalities, I was on cloud nine as he was such a genuine guy. So finally we are here with the film complete and ready to be released.

That seems lucky. So he knew you from before and the kind of cinema you make, or was it just a way of earning some bucks for him?

Actually, he had done his homework pretty well. He was following me on Twitter and knew the kind of films that I make. Before flying down to Mumbai he saw all my films, and all my interviews and everything. Once he was here he said, “Sir you don’t have to prove anything to me; it’s me who has to prove myself to you.”

Just as you mentioned before, your films are different. So do you ever feel that it is because your films are different that’s why it ends up getting a very niche audience and thereby not earning as much profit as you expect?

I don’t know why there is this obsession among people about Rs 100 crore films. I am perfectly happy with making films that I like making and which certain classes of the audience enjoy viewing. I get angry when people ask me why I don’t make films which would earn Rs 100 crores.

Leaving aside the Rs 100 crore figure, don’t you ever feel that, ‘if this movie doesn’t make money, how would I make the next film’?

That is my only concern, that the film ends up making that much money so that I can properly pay everyone who is there on board and there are no losses incurred. For that, I keep the budget of the film very low and that’s why even if my films don’t make money, they end up recovering money.

Whom do you consider as your role model?

Woody Allen is my role model for the simple reason that he also makes his films in the same way. He has made 40 films in the past 40 years, which I don’t know how he manages to pull off. And he similarly keeps the budget of his films so low, that even if the movie doesn’t make money it ends up recovering the money.