Director Anubhav Sinha recalled working with Rishi Kapoor on the 2017 film Mulk, which marked a new era in the filmmaker’s career, and solidified the one-time heartthrob Rishi as a character actor. Mulk opened to strong reviews and even better box office, and addressed communal disharmony and Islamophobia. At a masterclass event for the recent Ajanta Ellora International Film Festival, the director hinted at certain disagreements that he had with Rishi while working on the film.
Anubhav revealed that he was advised to approach Amitabh Bachchan for the lead role, but thought that the legendary star doesn’t project the vulnerability that he wanted for the role. “Sudhir Mishra told me to talk to Amit ji, which will help the film get funded. But I said, ‘I don’t see Amit ji in this part, because Amit ji can look after himself’. We needed a guy who cannot look after himself. So then, Rishi Kapoor.”
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Anubhav said that he wrote Mulk in about three days, and sent the first draft of the script to his filmmaker friends at 3 am. The next morning, each of them encouraged him to make the film, even those that had initially expressed concern about the film’s box office potential. He continued, “He was a bit of a spoilt Punjabi boy, and we had a slight altercation. I told him, ‘You don’t scare me, I’ve handled your uncle in my debut!’” Anubhav said that Shammi Kapoor put forth certain conditions before he agreed to play a villain in the television show Shikast, but they developed a fast friendship in time.
Rishi died in 2020 after a two-year battle with cancer. After his death, Anubhav recalled stories about their experience, and said that Rishi offered him a 20% discount on Mulk, because ‘it was a different film’. “The most common myth was that he was a difficult man to deal with. This is something I was least worried about because years back I had worked with Mr Shammi Kapoor in my first TV show Shikast. I was getting similar vibes from Rishiji. His demeanour would give the impression of a difficult man but he would turn out to be such a teddy bear,” Anubhav said.
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