24’s Anil Kapoor – Bollywood’s Finest

Anil Kapoor as Omar Hassan on 24. Photo by Kelsey McNeal and copyright of Fox

This season of 24 is set in New York, where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is unwillingly drawn back into action just as President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) negotiates international security with Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor), a determined Middle Eastern leader visiting the U.S. on a peace-keeping mission. As the new day unfolds, an upgraded CTU operates under the command of M.B.A.-schooled, razor-sharp head-honcho Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson), who supervises quirky Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), expert data analyst Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff) and systems analyst Arlo Glass (John Boyd). 

One of the most versatile and successful actors in India, Anil Kapoor has been entertaining audiences for more than 25 years. His talent, charm and professionalism have set the benchmark for a new generation of Indian actors. He has appeared in close to 100 Hindi movies and won numerous awards over the years, including four Filmfare Awards (the Indian equivalent of the Oscars) and much coveted National Award. 

A native of Mumbai, Kapoor recently starred in the Academy Award-winning hit Slumdog Millionaire. The film was the actor’s first feature released outside of India and a favorite of both critics and audiences. It was awarded a multitude of prizes, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as BAFTAs, National Board of Review and Golden Globes. His additional credits include Race, Black and White, Welcome, Naksha, Chocolate, My Wife’s Murder, Bewafaa, Arman, Rishtey, Lajia, Taal, Yuvvraaj and Salaam-E-Ishq

Kapoor is married with three children. He has two daughters, one is a successful model and the other is a film student in New York, as well as a son who is a film student in Los Angeles. The actor divides his time between India and Los Angeles. 

On January 14th, Mr. Kapoor graciously spoke with journalists, including myself, about his work as Omar Hassan on 24 and career in general. The following is an edited version of our conversation! Enjoy! 

In the early episodes of 24,  Hassan is a very standup guy. Over the course of the storyline will we get to see what the problem is with his marriage and why he’s having an affair? 

Anil Kapoor – Actually it is not an affair, but kind of a relationship, which he feels is more like a minor relationship and, intellectually, he believes it’s more of a friendship. While there is a possibility that it might develop later on into a relationship, it doesn’t.  And, yes, you will see the details of his marriage when the other episodes progress and develop after the fourth episode. 

So you think that his relationships with these women is a big part of the character? 

AK – Absolutely, because he is a normal person who has his gray areas, which makes him very human and very real. So yes, of course, he has these relationships and he has his problems with the relationship with his wife and he has a relationship with this journalist. 

Can you talk a bit about what it’s like to work with Kiefer Sutherland and Freddie Prinze, Jr (Cole Ortiz)? 

AK – I’d heard so much about 24 and Keifer, and it never felt to me as if he had done eight seasons of this show. It felt like he was working as if it was his first year, and his commitment and excitement was as if he had just started shooting 24. I was really impressed by his commitment and professionalism. It was wonderful to work with him and every line he speaks, every performance he gives, it looks as if he’s Jack Bauer and not Kiefer Sutherland. He’s completely into the skin of Jack Bauer; he’s become more Jack Bauer than Kiefer Sutherland now when he’s on-set. And working with Freddie Prinze, I could see that he was very eager and curious, as well as extremely hardworking, very sincere and a very good-looking guy. He fits the role and I think  24 is going to gain a great deal from his addition to and participation in the show. 

How was Kiefer welcoming to you, and did he offer any advice? 

AK – The first time we met he said he had seen Slumdog Millionaire and loved my work in the film, so those words of encouragement from Kiefer eased my mind and gave me a lot of confidence. When two actors meet and there is a mutual respect for each other’s work, it makes the job much, much easier. This is only my second stint as a performer in the United States of America, but Kiefer never made me feel like an outsider, and that was really great. 

Did you have any concerns about going on 24? To be honest, most Indian or minority actors on the show play terrorists, whereas your character is a much more positive and very standup guy. What did you think of all that when taking on the part? 

AK – When I first heard about the role I became really inspired because it was not just your [typical] bad man, and I felt that here was someone who stands up for his own convictions and what he believes in. It’s a very strong character and there all these layers and this complexity involved. Being from India, I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to play this role of Omar Hassan and that it was on 24. I’ve read a lot of scripts in India as well as internationally, but the writing on 24 is very special. 

After 24 do you have any plans to keep trying to get work in the U.S. whether in TV or movies or would you be interested in spending more time focusing on your film career in India? 

AK – As an actor, especially the way the world is today where the communication is so easy, I don’t think it’s very difficult to juggle both worlds. And I think wherever it is in the world, I’m going to go where the material is exciting, especially if it’s from the West because for me, it’s much more challenging. I’m performing in a different language, and mostly I’ve been doing films in my local language, which is Hindi, and now here I get an opportunity to speak in English, which is my first language in India. Sometimes I would have difficulty working in films over there because I would think in English, but now I’m finding it much more exciting and easier  to work in films made in the West. So this is an exciting phase in my career, and this second TV experience [on 24] has been wonderful and absolutely terrific. 

Could you tell us how you first became involved in 24 and getting this particular role? 

AK I feel it’s thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, because they [the 24 producers] saw that the movie was such a huge success, critically as well as commercially. It swept all the awards and everyone was talking about it. I got rave reviews and I never really expected this kind of appreciation for my role. I’m sure people on 24 had seen and liked my work and that’s the reason I was given this offer and I grabbed it. 

If Slumdog Millionaire didn’t happen, would you have tried out for a part like this? 

AK – I don’t think this would have really happened if Slumdog Millionaire never happened. Again, I think it’s thanks to Slumdog Millionaire that I’m in 24 and it couldn’t have been a better follow-up. On 24 I play something which is completely opposite to what I did in Slumdog Millionaire, and that’s always exciting for an actor when you do something completely different and opposite in terms of a role. I’ve done over 100 feature films in India but I’ve never done TV there, so for me, this second time doing U.S. TV was something new, fresh, exciting, educational and I really loved every moment of it. 

Was there anything in particular that you did to prepare for this role? 

AK – Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, the most exciting part of all this was the preparation for the role, which I really loved. I play the leader or president of a fictitious country, which is supposed to be a Middle Eastern country, so I looked at a lot of world leaders, past and present, and researched their speeches, their body language and how to speak. I read a number of books as well on the United Nations as well as peace treaties, nuclear disarmament, etc. So all that really helped me. Also, even though I speak English, I had a dialogue coach. I had long sessions with him during the entire filming of 24, and he was of great help to me as far as figuring out how my character would speak. Because Hassan is British, or was educated in Britain, we gave him a bit of a British accent. So in 24 you’ll find a complete change in the way I look, the way I walk, the way I talk and in my voice quality as compared to what I’ve done before. 

Can you tell us a little bit about any other projects that you may have in the works? 

AK – At the moment I am working on two movies in India, one is a comedy called No Problem, which is a mainstream Indian film and I play a cop, and then there’s I Shall, which is based on Jane Austen’s Emma. Both these films are almost in post-production and they’ll be released this year. As soon as I return to India I’ll be doing a play, which is going to tour all over the world.  

What has made a career in this industry rewarding for you so far? 

AK – I’ve been very fortunate from the first time I faced the camera, and it’s always been in terms of satisfaction as well as financial stability, education and meeting people all over the world. I’m not a very academically educated person, but I think being educated is through people and people I work with and the work I’ve done in films, etc. So it’s been very, very rewarding for me. 

As noted above, photo by Kelsey McNeal and copyright of Fox, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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