Anil Kapoor hailed from a regular middle-class family from the suburb of Chembur in Mumbai. Being a movie buff, he loved watching films and dreamt of being on stage someday. While he didn’t have the luxury of watching films in theatres, he would ardently follow whatever was showcased during the Ganesh festival in his chawl. Anil’s father Surinder Kapoor had some connections in the film industry since he was as assistant director to K Asif (the director of Mughal-e-Azam), secretary to Shammi Kapoor and later even turned independent producer. However, though he might have wanted to, he could not help his son get a grand entry into the industry. Anil was a shy and reserved boy who zeal lay in cinema. He was hugely influenced by Raj Kapoor and even tried to mimic him. He finally got a role as a child artiste in a Shashi Kapoor film but unfortunately, it never released. But the interest and passion for movies remained.
THE STRUGGLE STORY
As a student, he wasn’t very active and hence, was kicked out of college due to his lack of attendance! He then tried to join the Film Institute in Pune but could not clear the entrance test. Recalling this episode he once said, ''Peeved at the failure I confronted Girish Karnadji (eminent actor and film director), who was then the Principal and demanded why a written examination is necessary for an acting course. I even begged him to take my screen test instead but he turned down my request saying ‘rules are rules and cannot be changed’. Anil then joined an acting course with Roshan Taneja.
Finally, he was ready to face the cameras. But acting jobs were tough to come by and he did not mind providing a helping hand in production. In an interview he mentioned how once his job was to wake up Mithun Chakraborty and how tough it was! Basically, Anil had to work very hard till he started getting good work. Debuting with a small role in Umesh Mehra’s Hamare Tumhare (in 1979) he managed to bag first film as a leading hero, Woh Saat Din in 1983. The film was a hit and he got noticed.
Anil and Padmini Kolhapure in Woh Saat Din
Anil then approached Subhash Ghai (who was a big filmmaker with quite a few hits behind him) but was ignored until 1985. It was only when Subhash needed a fresh young enthusiastic actor for his movie Meri Jung that he considered Anil. The young Kapoor jumped at the opportunity and made the most of it. Meri Jung was a huge hit and it gave him the recognition he craved for. “I wanted to work with Subhash Ghai for a long time. He was making a film called Krodhi; I wanted to be a part of it. I had almost begged him but he took another actor, Sachin, for it. I kept requesting him to sign me on but at that time, he wanted a star,” Anil recounted during an interaction.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai
Today, Anil lives in a spacious home in the prestigious, star-studded location of Juhu but he has never forgotten where he came from. Recalling his early days Anil once said, “Each family had a cubicle and, in our block, about 80 people shared the building's two toilets and two baths. I used to run around barefoot playing cricket or football in waste grounds just like the kids in Slumdog... My father was an assistant director and I wanted to be an actor for as long as I could remember. But I never imagined that at any point I'd be travelling first class around the world and staying in five-star hotels.”
Anil with Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire
THE LOVE STORY
Young Anil with wife Sunita and daughters Sonam and Rhea
Anil Kapoor’s love story may have not made headlines but it was still a fairy tale. He was still a struggler when he first met his wife-to-be, Sunita, who was already an established model. He was totally smitten by her beauty and they even had a small conversation. He wanted to stay in touch with her thereafter but didn’t know how to. Later, a friend managed to get Sunita’s number but it took a lot of courage for him to pick up the phone and give her a call!
However, Anil need not have worried for Sunita was equally attracted to him and responded to his overtures. They got along instantly and Anil tried his best to flatter her. But he still did not know how to ask her to marry him. In an interview he revealed, “When I spoke to her on the phone, I fell in love with her voice and then we started dating. She was wonderful, beautiful and the best thing that happened to me at that point in life.”
It didn’t take them long to fall in love and despite the difference in their status, they made time to meet from their shoots. While Sunita usually took cabs, Anil shuffled through buses to reach their scheduled meeting places. A friend recalls how broke Anil was at the time and often it was Sunita who picked up the tab! She was also the one who showered him with a lot of gifts. Perhaps that’s the reason why Anil fell in love with her all the more – she supported him when he needed it the most.
Months passed and the two were almost inseparable. On the professional front Anil was trying hard and even auditioned in Tollywood. He wanted to become successful for Sunita as they were in a serious relationship and wanted to take it to the next level for which he had to prove himself first. However, even after Anil achieved success with Woh Saat Din, it wasn’t easy to convince Sunita’s parents who were dead against the match.
Moreover, he also didn’t get support from the industry. Back then a married hero was unthinkable and many people advised him against tying the knot lest it hamper his fledgling career. Anil once spoke about this. “In those days the industry believed that the audience liked an actor only until he was unmarried. My well-wishers thus advised me not to get married otherwise my career would be ruined,” he said. “But I asked myself, what was more important to me - my relationship with my girlfriend whom I know for years or my career? I was puzzled. It then struck me that I was in love with a beautiful girl and we had been together for five years and stuck together through thick and thin; so giving her the commitment she deserved was paramount for me at that time.”
Braving all odds they married in the year 1984. After marriage, Sunita gave up her career while he concentrated on his films. She even accompanied him on his outdoor shoots so that they could spend time together. In an interview, Anil said, “The film industry is a tough place to be in. You are constantly in the media glare. Plus, there are so many temptations out there all the time. But the secret to my happy marriage is Sunita. She is the one who has made it work, and tolerated all my eccentricities.”
With her support and his own self-belief, Anil slowly and gradually started making a mark in Bollywood. The success of one film led to another and it wasn’t long before he became a superstar – a star who had risen from humble beginnings and reached the top, with the support of the woman he loved the most.