Rajat Kapoor on RK/RKay and funding challenges for indie cinema. He mentioned, “We keep hoping that now audience taste has changed, now multiplexes are here, OTT is here but nothing changes.”

Actor-writer-director Rajat Kapoor who is known for some of his finest performances and thought-provoking films like Mithya, Mixed Doubles, Ankhon Dekhi, Kapoor & Sons, Bheja Fry, Scam 1992 : The Harshad Mehta Story and most recently Call My Agent (web series) and Gehraiyaan is ready to roll out yet another titled RK/RKay, a quirky behind-the-scene drama. In this quaint film which is like a tribute to the cinema of the 50’s, Kapoor plays RK, a filmmaker who is making a new film. Further, the film revolves around the hunt for its missing hero Mehboob, also played by Kapoor. The actor will be seen essaying double roles for the very first time which was indeed a difficult one for him to deal with, he says.

“The double role is difficult to essay. Not for any other reason, but in many scenes in this film I was acting opposite myself which means, there was no other actor in the scene. Normally when you act with another actor, you get a response and then you respond to your co-actor and the scene kind of builds from there. And to make matters worse, I was also the director which is not that challenging since I have acted and directed before in Ankhon Dekhi, Kadakh… but I must say, in terms of being an actor this was my most difficult experience,” he says.

Kapoor doesn’t want to classify the film into any particular genre. “It is like a drama. I hope it is funny. It is a mad film and that is the best way to describe it. It doesn’t fit into any classification and it is a truly cinematic film. It should be seen on the big screen because you will lose out a lot if you watch on a laptop or television; it has to be experienced on a big screen,” he says. However, Kapoor likes many genres as an audience as well as an actor. “I like gangster films, I love old Hollywood musicals. I like film noir and dark films,” he says.

Kapoor says he wrote the script over a decade ago and kept improvising upon it bringing it in the present form. “Every film has its own origin from where the idea comes and how it happens one can’t always pinpoint that but this was very different from the present form when I started writing. Earlier, it was about a man who is losing his reflection in the mirror. I kept altering the script and finally it has evolved in this form. We shot the film in Mumbai in 2019 and by the time we finished it was mid-2020 just when the pandemic started and we had to wait for things to settle down,” he says.

RK/RKay is partly crowdfunded and that brings us to the sad reality of independent films that are plagued with many challenges. Sans a star-studded cast or distribution and buzz, raising finances is one of the most arduous challenges of independent films that try to find a unique voice and vision. “We could raise about Rs 40 lakh through crowdfunding which is not bad at all. We have been hearing for 20 years that things are looking up for independent films but it has not happened. We keep hoping that now audience taste has changed, now multiplexes are here, OTT is here but nothing changes. It will always be hard to find money for an independent film without stars,” he sighs.

Kapoor may be refusing a lot of acting offers in Bollywood but on the other hand he has been getting a lot of meaty parts to play in the OTT space. “There is a lot more and better work being written for sure in the OTT space. In the last two years the web space has given me four very good roles. One is a series called Jehanabad in which I am playing a Bihari politician. Then there is a series called Pirates being made by Jai Mehta (Scam 1992 co-director), in that I am playing the captain of a ship that gets hijacked, third there is this very exciting project called Tanaav (Indian adaptation of Israeli drama series Fauda) directed by Sudhir Mishra, and the fourth is very kamaal ka series called Radicals in which I am playing a terrorist,” he says excitedly.

“But”, he continues, “I have been refusing films (in Bollywood) where I have nothing to do or if the script is not good enough. I don’t have a big role in Gehraiyaan but I liked the script, I like working with Shakun Batra. The film is very subtle and the darkness is good. Small role is not the criteria to refuse but you are not giving me a good role, the director is not good and the script is also bad then why should I do it?” Kapoor recently finished shooting for Ajay Devgn’s Drishyam 2.”

While RK/RKay sees Kapoor reunite with his favourite bunch of actor-friends – Ranvir Shorey, Manu Rishi, and Chandrachoor Rai, it also stars Mallika Sherawat and Kubbra Sait, both of whom are working with Kapoor for the first time. Sherawat who was last seen in Ekta Kapoor’s horror-comedy web series, Booo: Sabki Phategi in 2019 will be seen playing the character of Gulabo who is searching for the missing hero of the film that takes you in the mysterious filmy world. “I did the film for Rajat Kapoor, I am a huge fan of his. Ankhon Dekhi is one of my favourite films and I always wanted to work with him. Also, I love my character and I get to play two characters, one is Neha, and Neha is playing Gulabo and Gulabo is an amalgamation of all the actresses from the 50’s and the 60’s. So the research that I did in terms of bolne ka andaaz of the actresses in the 50’s, their style, their femininity, their poetry…we don’t see that on screen today. The challenge was not to make Gulabo a caricature, you have to really give a lot of dignity to her, do justice to all those actresses like Waheedaji, Meena Kumariji…who we are inspired from. The romance between Gulabo and Mehboob is so beautiful, in today’s films romance is only internet..swipe left, swipe right. This romance I miss seeing on the big screen,” says the actress.

While the film is all set to hit the theatres on July 22, it has already marked its presence at several international festivals including Shanghai international film festival, River to River Festival in Florence, Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, and Pune International Film Festival. “The response has been fantastic, we got great reviews,” says Kapoor. Talking about clashing with Shamshera, Kapoor says, “We are not competition because both are completely different genres and films. Also, we are not fighting for space. Shamshera will be released in probably 3000-3,500 screens but we need just 100 screens. It is better this way than to come with six films. But these are marketing decisions, not mine,” he says.

Continuing on the same note, Kapoor says that the box office collections may help him make his next film but he doesn’t believe in getting obsessed about it. “It is not just about what happened to your film on Friday, Saturday, Sunday…that is economics but a film’s life is beyond that as well. Films live. We still watch Pyaasa and you get emotional, we still listen to the film’s music so that has lived and that is important. Hence, I am not interested or anxious about hits, flops …I look back and I have made eight films, I have made them with all my integrity and exactly the way I wanted to make them without compromising anything. No regrets at all. Only gratitude,” Kapoor says, signing off.

Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.

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By akagami