Where were you career-wise?
In 1975, at the age of 20, I started apprenticing with Kamlakar Karkhanis, the editor of Manmohan Desai’s films. The next year, I began assisting producer-director Shakti Samanta on Anurodh and then on Mehbooba, Great Gambler and Anand Ashram. It was great to work with him and I got an idea of film production.
What was your bank balance like?
I didn’t have a bank account. We got pocket money. The first time I made money was when I joined Shakti Samanta and got ₹5.50 paisa per day. My fees for assisting Shaktida for Anurodh was ₹5,000.
Your romantic status?
I was involved but I don’t want to take names — there were too many (laughs).
Your focus in life?
I have grown up on films. My father was an assistant to K. Asif on Mughal-e-Azam and became a film producer. I was sure that I wanted to be a leading filmmaker. The thought of wanting to be an actor didn’t cross my mind because my brother Anil wanted to be one.
What was your fashion sense then?
Tight jeans and bellbottoms.
Your fitness quotent?
I was skinny in school and so I was called Boney! My real name is Achal Kapoor.
Your most prized possession then?
My shoes. I was fascinated with shoes and belts. Rishi Kapoor (who we grew up with) was my motivation. Whatever he wore, I told myself one day, I would better that.
If given the chance, what’s the one thing you would change about yourself then?
I was a happy youngster, into smoking and drinking, but when my director died, I analysed — producers FC Mehra and Gaffarbhai Nadiadwala were doing well then — they were non-smokers and non-drinkers. So, I followed in their footsteps.
The biggest life lesson you’ve learnt?
South producers had carved empires for themselves. They would buy the rights of Malayalam films which were rich in content, commercialise them, then remake them in Tamil and Telugu and, if successful, in Hindi. So, I did the same.
One vice you had then?
I once drank nine bottles of beer in a beer competition! We would check rosters of the airline staff and take them on dates to the Blow Up discotheque at the Taj Hotel!
From HT Brunch, July 18, 2021
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