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‘Art is a matter of education’
Anukriti Sharma | Sunday, 19 March 2017 AT 07:17 PM IST
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An actor, screen writer, theatre artist and director — that’s Rajat Kapoor for you. Known for his portrayal of complicated characters like Ranjeet of Bheja Fry, Harsh in Kapoor and Sons and many others, Rajat’s latest venture is playing Kapil Kapoor in the movie Mantra. As a director, his last film Aankhon Dekhi won critical acclaim for the beautiful portrayal of characters.

While he is carrying the baton of parallel cinema forward with his refined acting and direction, he still has qualms about people’s acceptance towards independent movies. We caught up with him at the special screening of Mantra in Pune.

“I play the role of Kapil Kapoor who has had a successful business but now is threatened by the entry of multinational companies,” Rajat says of the movie set in the late ‘90s. “His family too is kind of breaking up at the time. What is interesting about this guy is that he doesn’t let out too much and won’t let everybody know what he is going through. This is one of those films that I am proud to be associated with and of my own performance,” he asserts.

Most characters that Rajat has played so far have been somewhat earthy and flawed. So does he choose such characters or are these roles choosing him?  “Must work both ways, I have actually never thought about it like that. I think all human beings are flawed and what is a character without a flaw? What Aamir Khan plays in Dangal is also a flawed one, so now these people make more sense and drama. Unless you have a shortcoming of some kind, you are boring,” Rajat quips.

Speaking of juggling between various jobs, Rajat says, “When I am working with a director, I am completely his/her slave. I leave the writer-director in me at home. Because as an actor you are a part of somebody else’s vision and you want to be true to that. You don’t want to bring your own aesthetics into it.”

Three decades for parallel cinema to take off

Referring to the wide gap between commercial and independent films, Rajat says, “It is horrible. It is more because we are a country of uneducated people, it’s a fact and I don’t mean it in a judgmental way. But the fact is that 50 per cent of our population has not gone beyond primary school and I think art is a matter of education. So right now, we are just talking about literacy, rest of the education is far beyond. Eventually when you accomplish that education, that is when you will start appreciating arts. It will take another 30 years for the Indian audience to be of some calibre.””

Having said that, the few takers who still want to watch these films, do not make the effort of going to the cinema halls, he feels. “There are very few people. And let’s say, there are these few people who are enlightened enough, they still won’t want to go to cinema halls and spend Rs 200 to watch our films. They think I’ll download it on torrent or will watch it when it comes on TV. Thus producers are not coming up to invest,” he says.

“People are Bollywood junkies so they don’t want to watch anything else or if they want to watch it, they would rather do it for free. Another problem is that these films don’t have big stars and people only want to watch big stars. It is all a part of the vicious circle and there seems to be no way to break it,” Rajat adds.

Does social media help?
He feels that it may work for plays but not so much for the movies. He adds, “When I go to Delhi, we do social media advertising and it helps but the same doesn’t work for our films. I don’t know how to crack this code. You can keep dancing on social media and say that my film is releasing, people still don’t show up. I am so heartbroken because even with Mantra, we are getting pathetic shows. In a theatre in Juhu, there is a 3.30 pm show, who is going to watch that?

Being an accomplished theatre artist, he feels that the most unique change in the current theatre scenario is that it is attracting more audience. Rajat explains, “In the last 10 years, audience has grown in quantity and this I find very funny. People are willing to pay Rs 1,200 to come and watch my play but they will not pay Rs 200 to watch my film (independent cinema).
“There is a huge excitement to be on stage as a part of the play and interact with the audience. I wouldn’t say that it is better than films since cinema is another kind of drug. They both have their different highs. The experiences are different but they both are very potent,” he says.

On his future plans, Rajat says, he has written three scripts for which he is trying to raise money and meeting producers for the same. “So I have given myself time till May, and if nothing happens till then, I will start crowd-funding”.

The author can be followed on Twitter @sh_anukriti

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