I don’t know why a lot of people don’t know who Abhishek Kapoor is. I want to blame his very generic name, but for someone who has made Rock On! and Kai Po Che, I expect him to be more famous. This is the first time I am meeting him, and I am quite impressed by his easy, buddy-like demeanour. Kapoor is a handsome man (he debuted as an actor opposite Twinkle Khanna, 20 years ago), and is the kind you could befriend easily. Funnily though, it is difficult to connect the film-maker to his films. Do you see the angst-pain-trying-to-break-free of Rock On!? Nope. Is there an activist in him then, a social commentator, who created Kai Po Che (thankfully adapting a mediocre paperback into quality cinema)? No. Kapoor has the air of YRF or Dharma about him, and if you haven’t seen his films, you won’t be able to gauge the empathy, sensitivity and understanding of human pathos the man has. While Rock On!! was a beautiful study of friendship, ego, hubris and group dynamics, Kai Po Che took it a notch higher and tried to understand human relationships in times of political and natural calamities. With his next release, Fitoor, starring Katrina Kaif, Aditya Roy Kapur and Tabu, he seems to be at his Bollywood best.

I always wanted to know why you stopped acting.

When I became an actor, the times were different. We were not making that many good films, and it wasn’t a good time for Indian cinema. I got caught up with some very average films, and then it was downhill from there. So I quit. I wrote a story finally, and decided to direct a film. It took me five years to make Aryan, my debut film as a director. It bombed and I was back to square one. I had failed as an actor and a director.

And did Ekta [Kapoor, his cousin] offer anything in television then?

She did, but I did not take it up. See, failing as an actor is not like failing as a businessman. If you sell tissue paper and you fail at it, you can take to selling something else. But when you fail as an actor, it seems like you have failed as a human being. Everywhere you go, there is that stamp on your face that, “Oh, yeh toh hero banne aaya tha!” Only after you became a star would they acknowledge your acting potential.

And then Rock On!! happened. But Rock On 2 has been quite a rocky journey for you. Tell me your side of the story about the whole controversy.

I did not want to make Rock On 2. I had already immersed myself in Kai Po Che by then. But Farhan and Arjun [Rampal] met me on my birthday and convinced me to do the sequel. I did have a possible storyline for a sequel, and so I decided to jump into that too. I brought in my co-writer, Pubali Chaudhury, from Rock On!! and we jammed on ideas and even put a draft together. By then, Excel lost interest in Kai Po Che because they saw Rock On 2 moving ahead. So, I told them that I still want to make the film and that I would finish Kai Po Che and come back to shoot it. So they sold the script to UTV. I shot Kai Po Che in Gujarat in May, because I wanted to shoot Rock On 2 in December that year. I was preparing myself accordingly. And then, one day, a week after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had released, Ritesh Sidhwani called me up and said that they wanted to go ahead with a different director.

Rock On!!
Rock On!!
Kai Po Che
Kai Po Che

Why did they want to do this?

I have no clue. I never asked and they never told told me. So, I told them that don’t use that script then, because I had developed that for me to write. Ritesh told me to go check my contract, which stated that all material I produced while I was working with them was owned by them. They refused to give me credit, either. And by then, Pubali had registered the script under her name alone. After multiple meetings with the Writer’s Association and the Appelate Board, they gave me some obscure credit, which made no sense at all. That is when I decided to go to court, which ruled in my favour.

And are you open to collaborating with other writers?

Yes, absolutely. You cannot let one bad experience colour the world. It makes you wary and more careful, but you cannot let it screw up what is actually making you rock.

Is it easier to create an original script or work on an adaptation?

Actually, it is easier to write your own scripts. The world is yours, then. But sometimes sometimes you fall in love with an idea, and that is alright too. You don’t fall in love with an idea depending on how much work it will require. The idea makes the script happen, the film happen and we are all subservient to that.

When did you fall in love with Great Expectations?

I had read the book and seen various films based on it. I always felt that this is a story the Indian audience would enjoy, because it is about old school love, and our understanding of love is classical. We love the poetry around it. And I have adapted it in Fitoor with newer values and elements that will make the story more wholesome.

How was it working with three actors who belong to three generations of cinema?

Katrina and Aditya are very good friends, so even though they belong to different generations of cinema, they have similar perspectives about the world. Tabu, on the other hand, comes from a different world altogether. But I always believe that I want to make films that want to make films that strike a chord with both these worlds and find a sense of balance between various generations. And that is exactly what I wanted to achieve with Fitoor — a commercially artistic film. Both Rock On!! and Kai Po Che had that sensibility. They were out-of-the-box, but still had mainstream aability. There was a little casting glitch with Fitoor too. Rekha left the project and Tabu came in. See, I didn’t get to work a lot with Rekha ji…

Fitoor Poster

But I’m sure you thought of the actor while working on the script. How different is Tabu’s Mrs. Havisham from Rekha’s?

I always wanted Tabu. Tabu and I are good friends and when I had started with the project, I had thought of her first. But then, the other actors changed as the project progressed, and that happens all the time. Actors look at scripts differently from directors. Actors and stars look at it even more differently. So, the lesson I have learned is to not get fixated on a cast. I always have four options now.

Do you plan to get back to acting any time soon?

I have no plans as such, but why say no to anything? If something is fun, challenging and the other person believes in me, why not?

What are you reading these days?

The Art of War. I have been flipping through its pages.

That’s an interesting book to choose while fighting court cases.

(Laughs) Yeah, now that you mention it.