OTT: What drew Sanjay Kapoor to 'The Last Hour'
The actor tells us how OTT has been a boon to his career as he completes 26 years in the film industry.
Bollywood actor Sanjay Kapoor is all for staying positive, even when the chips are down. The 55-year-old star of films like Prem, Raja, and Luck By Chance admits in a Zoom chat with City Times that even when his acting career experienced a lull, he maintained an upbeat frame of mind.
It is this attitude perhaps, coupled with talent, of course, that helped him gain a foothold in the lucrative and ever-expanding world of OTT, where content is created not with the sole intent of filling cinema halls or theatres. Creativity is given its due, and quite a few actors who made a name for themselves as Bollywood ‘heroes’ but were left floundering in the often slow evolution of the industry, have now established themselves as stars on OTT platforms.
Sanjay, who has starred in OTT projects like Lust Stories, Sleeping Partner, The Gone Game and whose latest series, crime thriller The Last Hour, is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video, told us how streaming platforms have ensured that an actor’s talent doesn’t go to waste.
The younger brother of Bollywood star Anil Kapoor and filmmaker Boney Kapoor, Sanjay grew up in a world ruled by films; his wife Maheep was recently seen on Netflix reality show Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives and his daughter Shanaya is all set to make her debut in Bollywood.
He chatted with us at length about his latest OTT show The Last Hour (where he plays the role of a cop who takes the help of a shaman to solve a murder mystery), how OTT has been a boon to actors like him, his innings in Bollywood, and his hopes for the future.
You’ve spent 26 years in Bollywood and you are among the few stars from the industry who have embraced the OTT platform; you’ve had so many releases out there, the latest being The Last Hour. What was the appeal of signing on for a role like this with an ensemble cast?
A show like this I could have done at any point in my life; unfortunately OTT wasn’t there at the beginning of my career. The Last Hour is fantastic in all aspects.
Amit Kumar is such a fine director. He did a short film called Bypass with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Irrfan Khan, then he did a film called Monsoon Shootout with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Verma. Then he was associated with Asif Kapadia, who is the co-producer of this show and an Oscar winner.
So there are so many pluses, just in the team itself. Also at the end of the day it is the script. I was playing a cop for the first time — Arup Singh from Mumbai who goes to the North East. The Last Hour was shot in Sikkim which is a stunning location, breathtakingly beautiful, which compliments the subject because it’s just not there for the visuals. It adds an element of mystique; and is a very fresh and untapped location.
It becomes like one of the characters of the show!
Then the casting for the show is very realistically done. It’s very rare that in Hindi films or shows you have the majority of actors from the North East. Except for my character, everyone is local talent. Shahana Goswami (who plays a cop, Lipika) is from Kolkata, and cast member Raima Sen as well. Everyone was cast according to the environment of the script.
Any big actor could have essayed the role of the shaman, Dev, played by Karma Takapa, but the director stuck by his conviction that he wanted a realistic approach rather than go in for a big star and make it into a kind of double-hero big budget thing!
So that was appealing and (when I see) the kind of response I’ve got for the show in the last five days — people are loving it, they are reacting to the realistic way the show has been shot. I think a lot has to do with the casting. I am already getting messages about Season 2, about when is it starting… obviously it will take time, this is not the kind of script you just write, and then take the next flight (laughs). There is a lot of preparation and recce involved, but we are all looking forward to doing Season 2.
So you’re actually confirming that Season 2 is on…
I’m not confirming but if you’ve seen the show we have kept it at a point where a lot of questions will be answered in Season 2. You will be even more curious and you’ll want to watch it to clear all those doubts you had. Well, it’s not in my hands but up to Amit and Amazon. We actors would be very excited to do it. But fingers crossed; we hopefully will start shooting for it soon.
Also, do you believe in the supernatural because that’s the first thing that jumps out at the viewer from The Last Hour.
I believe a lot in positive energy. If you throw positive vibes to the universe, you get positivity back. Even when I was going through a lull in my career, I was very positive. I was never bitter about things so people used to still enjoy hanging around with me. If negativity comes into you, you give out negative energy, and people don’t want that.
As far as the supernatural element is concerned, I live in a city and I basically don’t believe in that kind of a thing. When you do a show it’s make-believe. When I was watching it, even though I’ve shot for it and read the script earlier, the way it has been shot, with the mountains, pine trees, and the lighting — it makes you believe that somewhere out there, there could be a shaman...And that’s what a good show or a good movie is, when you are watching it for those couple of hours, you start identifying with things, you start believing in things. When you can do that, it means you have a winner.
We last saw you in Sleeping Partner (Zindagi inShort), where you played a toxic husband. Does it take a lot for you to say yes to a role like that?
In fact it excites me even more when I get an offer like that and I see directors looking at me in a different light. Though Sleeping Partner was a short film, it was fantastic for me as an actor to do something so different. When I sign something, I don’t see it as a negative or positive role.
Even when my career had just started, after 6-7 years, I did negative roles in Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche, in Qayamat…. For an actor to grow he needs to tap everything. At the same time I did Luck By Chance and Shandaar, which were all fun roles.
A lot of things are changing. A lot of actors are not just doing those ‘positive’ roles where you are larger than life. Now people are ready to take chances, especially in OTT. It’s very different in OTT because the audience is different.
When I started out in the ‘90s, the producer and director used to always wonder whether the film would work in different regions and what they could add to the film in order to make it more appealing. So you tended to never make a film from the heart, there was a lot of ‘brain’ involved in it. You were trying to cater to too many things.
In the The Last Hour, the director has stuck to what he believes in, and now it’s for the audience to accept it. He is not catering to different sets of audiences. So today actors understand that and they are ready to take that plunge, that extra leap.
If you see my next couple of shows that are coming up, I am playing very different roles again. So the audience enjoys watching you as an actor, where they don’t know (what to expect).. I’m sure when people watched the trailer of The Last Hour, they didn’t know what to expect out of me. They don’t know if the reveal is definitely going to be positive. So that’s a very intriguing and interesting place to be in!
You’ve had a rollercoaster ride in Bollywood where you started off with Prem. Do you believe this progression to OTT is a much more comfortable position to be in today?
I definitely would think OTT has come like a boon for me. I went through a transition period, which I think 99 per cent of actors go through, without naming them, and without comparing myself to those great actors. I don’t want to be misunderstood.
They start off by playing these romantic roles, then they do a little bit of action, comedy… then they go through a transition where they are neither too young to play those roles or not too old to play mature roles. For example the role I did in The Last Hour.
There was a lull in my career as an actor where I felt the kind of work I was offered was nothing interesting. It’s not the question of a hit or a flop. When you go on set you need to be excited. In between a Luck By Chance did come which was an ensemble cast but yet I did it. It was a great cast. Zoya Akhtar is a great director. Even though that was her first film — when you meet Zoya for the first time, you know she’s going to hit the bullseye. She knows her job too well.
I’ll be very honest; it’s not like 100 films were being offered to me but what was being offered was not exciting enough, so I got into production. I have to take care of my family; I have to earn the bread and butter, so I needed to work! And films are the only thing I know.
One fine day while on my workout, Dibakar Banerjee sees me; he was casting for Lust Stories and he just felt ‘That’s Salman’! Salman is the character I played in Lust Stories. I got a call and within a week’s time we started the workshop (a fantastic change that has come into the industry) and we started reading. And after that I started shooting for the show.
After that I literally grabbed this (OTT) opportunity with both my hands. By the grace of God I haven’t looked back. OTT has been a boon. Movies, let’s be honest, are driven by very big stars. And rightfully so, because you have to fill in those big theatres. There’s big money even in OTT but you are not governed by selling your film — it’s not like a weekend thing where in 10 days if your movie hasn’t done well, the game is over for you!
In OTT the advantage is word of mouth. Even if you have had a slow start, if your show is good it’s there on the phone, it’s there on the laptop, it’s on your TV; one can watch it anytime. So that has given opportunities to a lot of actors like me, who wanted to do some great work, who wanted to still be part of something good. OTT gave us that platform.
Continuing in the Kapoor film tradition, your daughter Shanaya is about to make her debut. What is the one piece of advice you’d give her?
When you learn cycling, people say that unless you fall, you don’t learn properly. She’s been born and brought up in my house. She’s seen my career so closely. So I don’t have to sit and give her advice, today’s kids are very observant. She’s seen my hurdles, she’s seen my ups and downs. She’s got a whole immediate family of her uncle (Anil Kapoor), my niece Sonam and nephew Arjun…(in the industry).
So if I have to give her advice even now, then she’s not in the right line! Just a few years back I asked her if she wants to go abroad to acting school. She was very adamant that it was two years of giving too much and not getting that much back. So she chose to be here (Bollywood), she chose to learn everything here. We all go through a moment in life where you’re unsure, you’re confused. If that happens to her she knows I am there.
Finally, what would you like to tell your fans out here in the UAE?
We are going through this pandemic. We all are still in it. Right now I would only want people to be safe obviously, but also be responsible. Being safe is very important for yourself and your family. You have to be responsible towards other people too. You need to wear a mask. I also believe that humans are made to be very tough. They overcome everything. This also shall pass and we will fight it out.
(With inputs from Ambica Sachin)