Pankaj Kapur On Being Rejected By FTII, His “Big Break” In Bollywood And “Shift To New Medium”

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Pankaj Kapur photographed in Mumbai.

Highlights

  • “While pursuing engineering, my passion for theatre grew,” said Pankaj
  • “FTII rejected me – meri shakal pasand nahi aayi,” he added
  • Pankaj Kapur’s web-series JL50 released on Sony LIV on Friday

New Delhi:

National Award-winning actor Pankaj Kapur opened up about his journey in Bollywood, from his “big break” to becoming one of the finest actors of the Hindi film industry, in a post for Humans Of Bombay. The 66-year-old actor began his story by recalling how his “passion for theatre grew” while he was studying engineering and went on to reveal that he was rejected by the Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII): “While pursuing engineering, my passion for theatre grew. So, I told dad I wanted to pursue acting – ‘Do you really want to be an actor or are you drawn to the glamour?’ he asked. I convinced him of my passion and applied to film schools. FTII rejected me – meri shakal pasand nahi aayi! But I got into NSD (National School Of Drama) life as a theatre actor took off.”

After doing theatre for four years, Pankaj Kapur got his first big screen opportunity in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. “4 years later, the director of my theatre company said that auditions for Gandhi were happening and I bagged it at 26 – I played Gandhiji’s 2nd secretary and also dubbed for Gandhiji’s voice. But because of a misunderstanding, my company fired me. So, I had to somehow fend for myself. That’s when dad told me – ‘Always make your own decision and stand by it’, and ‘You should work so hard that you’re the best in your profession.’ With those words, I left for Bombay,” he said.

Talking about how he got his “big break” in the film industry, Pankaj Kapur said: “I didn’t have a godfather or ‘star-like’ qualities. But Om Puri connected me to Shyam Benegal (for 1983 film Arohan)– that was my big break. But I wasn’t earning enough – I had a family and didn’t even own a house. So, when I was offered Karamchand, I took it up and soon, became a household name!” TV series Karamchand aired on DD National in the 1980s.

Pankaj Kapur became one of the popular faces of the parallel cinema after he featured in films such as Mandi, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Khamosh and Raakh, for which he won his first National Film Award. His performances in Ek Doctor Ki Maut and Maqbool fetched him his other two National Film Awards.

Speaking about how parallel cinema changed his life, Pankaj Kapur said: “In the 80s, parallel cinema gained momentum. So, I got back to films and won National awards for Maqbool and other films. It wasn’t one film that changed my life, but a series of decisions that brought out the best in me.”

Pankaj Kapur, whose new web-series JL50 released on OTT platform Sony LIV on Friday, also opened up about “making a shift to a new medium” after rejecting a lot of web-series: “Recently, a lot of web-series were offered to me but I kept rejecting them. I was hesitant to make a shift to a new medium at this age. But recently, I got to know that my film JL50 would be released as a web-series because of COVID-19. I was at crossroads yet again – the whistles of a live audience would be replaced by binge watchers. But I’ve happily accepted that this is the future; that there won’t be 100 crew members on set but a few talented people making it happen quickly.”

“So, 50 films, 3 National Awards, 74 plays and serials later, here I am playing Professor Das in JL50, who understands time travel. When in reality, I’m not tech savvy at all,” he added.

“While pursuing engineering, my passion for theatre grew. So, I told dad I wanted to pursue acting-‘Do you really want to be an actor or are you drawn to the glamour?,’ he asked. I convinced him of my passion & applied to film schools. FTII rejected me-meri shakal pasand nahi aayi! But I got into NSD & life as a theatre actor took off. 4 years later, the director of my theatre company said that auditions for ‘Gandhi’ were happening & I bagged it at 26-I played Gandhiji’s 2nd secretary & also dubbed for Gandhiji’s voice. But because of a misunderstanding, my company fired me. So, I had to somehow fend for myself. That’s when dad told me-‘Always make your own decision & stand by it’, & ‘You should work so hard that you’re the best in your profession.’ With those words, I left for Bombay. I didn’t have a godfather or ‘star-like’ qualities. But Om Puri connected me to Shyam Benegal-that was my big break. But I wasn’t earning enough-I had a family & didn’t even own a house. So, when I was offered Karamchand, I took it up & soon, became a household name! In the 80s, parallel cinema gained momentum. So I got back to films & won National awards for Maqbool & other films. It wasn’t one film that changed my life, but a series of decisions that brought out the best in me. Recently, a lot of web series were offered to me but I kept rejecting them. I was hesitant to make a shift to a new medium at this age. But recently, I got to know that my film JL50 would be released as a web series because of Covid. I was at crossroads yet again-the whistles of a live audience would be replaced by binge watchers. But I’ve happily accepted that this is the future; that there won’t be 100 crew members on set but a few talented people making it happen quickly. So, 50 films, 3 national awards, 74 plays & serials later, here I am playing Professor Das in JL50, who understands time travel. When in reality, I’m not tech savvy at all. In fact, today, I used headphones for the first time in my life to do this call-& I’m still struggling with it!” — @sonylivindia brings you the story of Pankaj Kapur-a veteran whose career has spanned from TV to film, to a sci-fi web series, JL50. Link in bio!

A post shared by Humans of Bombay (@officialhumansofbombay) on

Pankaj Kapur is best-known for his performances in films such as Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, The Blue Umbrella, Halla Bol, Dharm, Sehar, Main Zinda Hoon and Shaandaar among others.

He will next be seen in Jersey, which stars his son Shahid Kapoor and Mrunal Thakur in leading roles.

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