|Interview with theatre
and TV actor Pankaj Kapoor
today is a paler version of bad commercial cinema"
on 16 October 2002
|An actor par excellence,
Pankaj Kapoor has been around since the early days of soaps and comedy
shows on television in the country. Generations who have grown on
Karamchand and Zabaan Sambhaal Ke are still hooked on
his Office Office, currently running on Sabe TV.
|Although largely identified
with comedy, the hugely talented actor has regularly shunned mainstream
cinema for fear of being slotted. He is choosy about the characters
he has to portray and is a self-acknowledged stickler for perfection.
Despite his stellar performances and the awards these have drawn,
Kapoor has always shied away from the limelight, preferring his work
to speak for him instead. Hetal Adesara spent time with
Kapoor between shoots to find out what makes the actor tick. Excerpts
|What brought you to acting
I completed my engineering course in 1973 where I topped my college
before joining the National School of Drama and bagging the 'Best
Actor Award' in 1976. I did theatre for four years till a point when
Gandhi came my way. I was to play Gandhiji's second secretary
in the movie and my character was called Pyarelal. In the same movie
I also dubbed for Ben Kingsley. I have worked in over 74 plays and
a score of movies and television serials. As a director, I have serials
and plays like Mohandas B.A.L.L.B, Wah Bhai Wah, Sahabji Biwiji
Ghulamji and Drishtanth, Kanak Di Balli, Albert's Bridge and
Panchvan Savaar to my name.
|Are you a method actor
or do you go by your instincts?
In our country, people do not understand the term "method actor" and
they don't know much about it. In India, actors who wanted to find
out more about the characters they were going to play were termed
as method actors! This is a completely wrong way of looking at it.
Every actor has a way of working. Those actors who speak only the
lines given to them are surface performers who by a stroke of good
luck have become successful. Actually, the term method actor comes
from a book An Actor Prepares written by a Russian actor-director
Stanis Lewesky, in which he writes about how he prepares for a part
and that is what is called method acting. In our country people use
this term very loosely.
believe in projecting people as they are and not presenting
a fantasized version of human beings"
|You've tried your hand
at parallel cinema and after that small screen serials like- 'Karamchand',
'Zabaan Sambhaal Ke', 'Philips Top 10' and 'Office Office' - all comedies.
Was this intentional?
It wasn't intentional. Apart from doing comedies, I have also done
a lot of different roles. I thought I might get slaughtered in main
line cinema. I might have had to do roles of a villain, an uncle or
the typical typecast roles, which I did not want to do. In a serial
called Kab Tak Pukaroon, I had a very serious role. It was
about the life of one man and went on for 26 episodes on Doordarshan.
At that point in time, it was rated the second best serial. Then I
have played characters like Phatichar. The story line was very good,
but unfortunately it did not run for too long. Then I did a serial
called Lifeline with Vijaya Mehta in which I played the character
of a guy who was an MBA returned from London. Then came Zabaan
Sambhal Ke, which was very popular. In my own opinion, the character
I played in Neem Ka Ped was one of my best performances on
television. Then I also did Mohandas B.A.L.L.B, which was a
serious detective serial. But maybe most of the roles I have played
of late have been comical because the common man relates to comedies
|How do you plan your schedules?
How many days in a month do you shoot?
I usually do one serial at a time. On an average, I work around 20
days a month. This is intentional, as I don't want to do too much
at one time.
|Due you ever suffer a burnout
due to your hectic schedule?
Television is very taxing. We work one and a half shifts a day
and the conditions that we work in are not very good, so I do feel
tired at the end of the day but since I don't take too much of work
at one time, it's not that bad!
|Which has been your most
challenging role till date and what kind of preparation went into
For an actor, each role that he is given is challenging. For me, I
think the character I played in the serial Neem Ka Ped has
by far been the most challenging role of my career. Also, the characters
I played in the movies Raat, Rui Ka Boj and Ek Doctor Ki
Maut have been very tedious and difficult. All these roles require
the actor's understanding of the characters he is playing and there
is no set method of enacting them.
Acting according to me is "selective realism" because you coincide
the life of a character and portray it on stage. The characters you
play have to be believable and communicable. Whatever analysis I have
achieved in life is what I bring together to put into the part that
I am going to play.
|At present, apart from 'Office Office',
what other projects are you doing?
At present I'm working on a serial called Duniya, which is
produced by Rajiv Mehra and directed by Shrikant Sharma.
|While the saas bahu sagas
are ruling the TRPs, why do you think 'Office Office' is being rated
the most successful show on Sabe TV?
Everyone can relate to the situations that have been shown in Office
Office, especially the common man. After a long day's work when
one comes back home, this humour appeals to the masses more than the
family dramas. The simple fact that the character of Mussadilal is
the representative of the common man. The audience relates to this
character and everyone sees himself as this character.
according to me is "selective realism" because you coincide
the life of a character and portray it on stage"
|What are the natural instincts
required of a successful actor?
Actually all of us are actors and we tend to act in our daily
lives. One should have the ability to refine and apply the ability
on stage. An actor should have a modulated speech, a well-read mind,
and a good sense of humour, a good voice and a good body. An actor
should put in a bit of intelligence in what he is doing and feel responsible
to the audience. Acting is not just about fame and money, they just
come with it. There is no parameter to the ability to act; if one
can become a passable actor it is enough.
|What goes into enacting
a character? How easy or difficult is it to act?
It is very difficult to act well but it's easy just to act! A lot
goes into enacting a particular character. There has to be an approach
of completeness and an actor has to be aware of what acting is all
about. There is a whole lot of research that needs to be done before
one takes up a role but sadly nowadays directors are not asking for
intensive research which is really bad and that's the reason why sometimes
performances by actors don't do justification to the characters they
|It is said that doing comedy
is very difficult. Is this true?
It is very difficult to do comedy. To make an audience laugh at your
antics is a difficult task. One has to be exceptionally good at what
he is doing to get a favourable response from the viewer.
|What do you look for in
It should be a well-told sensible story and there should be a good
part in it for me to play. The director is also very important. There
should be something new in the content that the director has to offer.
|How would you describe
As a person I am short and half-bald!!!! I am also a bit stubborn
as far as the kind of work I have to do. I am a stickler for an attempt
|On a scale of 1-10, how
would you rate yourself as an actor?
I would say five or six. There is still so much to learn.
|What is your dream role?
There is no specific role that I have in my mind as a dream role.
I would like to play different kinds of people. I believe in projecting
people as they are and not presenting a fantasized version of human
|How do you perceive the television
industry as a medium?
It is a great medium but unfortunately since the last couple of years
what is being show on television has appalling content and is very
mediocre. Television has been converted into a dwarf brother of the
hard-core commercial cinema. It is a version of a pale kind of bad
When you're not working, what do you do?
When I'm not working I am holidaying and spending time with my
family. I like writing so I also spend a lot of time writing scripts.
Doesn't television acting become monotonous and tedious beyond
It does tend to get monotonous after a while. Some kinds of curbs
should be kept so that a serial goes only up to a particular number
of episodes. This would help in television serials not becoming monotonous
for the audience as well as for the actor.
What is your advice to aspiring actors?
(Laughs) I am one myself!!!! It is my humble request and not advice
to aspiring actors that they should not take on anything just because
of the fame and money involved. They should feel responsible for the
society and not merely be copycats. Aspiring actors should do something
original that would bring out the best in them. One should not copy
the success of others. If people can do that, a lot of good actors
would come about in India, which will give us some placement in the
world of cinema and acting!