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Indians don't want to see the ugly truth'
Anil Kapoor looks intently at the questioner while talking. His sharp eyes focus on you and his slender, soft, pink fingers rest on the table as he takes in every word you say and probably swirls it around like a sommelier does wine, before he responds. Having starred in over 120 films - his silverscreen debut was Hamare Tumhare in 1979 - Kapoor is no stranger to interviews. He knows the drill, knows what to say. Most filmstars are lazy with their answers and opinions - with the exception of probably a few - but not Kapoor.
The difference perhaps is in his earnestness to have you believe that he cares about what comes out of his mouth.
The face of a short documentary on the centuries old tradition of human trafficking in Bharatpur for CNN's The Freedom Project, Kapoor spent a day in March this year shooting, meeting and talking with the women in Bharatpur, more famous for its bird sanctuary than the squalid truth that lurks around in the houses connected by kachcha roads.
Surprisingly, it wasn't Kapoor's first visit to the small Rajasthani village. An ambassador for Plan India for the past six years, Kapoor has been working on highlighting the plight of women and children in the billion-dollar human trafficking industry. And, as part of the NGO's efforts, he had visited the area before.
"When I first heard about it, I was a bit skeptical, " he says. "I thought they were just exaggerating but when I reached Bharatpur I was in shock. There were families, men who willingly let their sisters become sex workers. Women are brainwashed into believing that it's a tradition they must follow. I thought slavery had been abolished centuries ago but it exists in India and in a form I couldn't imagine, " he remarks.
Perhaps it's inevitable that Kapoor now wants to act in a movie based on the subject but he knows it's not a film India will see.
"People don't want to see the ugly truth, " is his honest admission. "Especially in India. "
"All film goers want is dance and music, they want to be entertained. It's the other way round in Europe and America where they go looking for the sad and ugly stuff, " he says matter-of-fact. "And on top of that, where are the script writers? We have no good writers here. Most of the time directors just write their own scripts, " he laments.
Interestingly, while shooting for Slumdog Millionaire, Kapoor had received a script from an Englishman, who was the online producer working on the film. "He wanted me to play a pimp, " Kapoor winks.
It's at this point that his make up man steps in and starts dabbing Kapoor's face with foundation, prepping the remarkably young looking 52-year-old for the press meet in the evening. Kapoor is now a known face internationally, and fortunately not thanks to any cosmetic brand. With the success of Slumdog Millionaire and his role in the American political thriller television series 24 as Kamistan President Omar Hassan, Kapoor is enjoying his time in the Hollywood sun.
The year 2012 will see the fourth installment of Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the biggest production that Kapoor has been a part of till date. But things back home in India aren't that rosy. His last Bollywood appearance No Problem (2011) didn't exactly shake up the box office.
But he's not losing sleep over that. If Kapoor is to be believed, Indian cinema has degenerated into a film-making business making films solely for the Indian diaspora. "Heroes today are all about looks, hair, clothes, bags and looking good while dancing. The hero used to be a common man who was innocent, sincere and honest. Where are the writers and the directors who made those movies?" he questions.
And even though he's clear where he would rather be the star - "India, of course" - he finds himself in a rather strange, nay awkward position. "I meet big names - actors, directors - when I'm in America. They all recognize me. We can talk about movies, life and anything we want. Here in India, people sometimes think that I talk too much. Here you have to tread softly and be diplomatic, " he says.
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