Photograph by Ethan Pines
I’ve been an actor for over 30 years—most of those years in India, of course. The first time I came to L.A. was in 1986. I did a live show in front of a packed house, with a lot of singing and dancing. I’m a singer and a dancer. In India we film actors have to be John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone and Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson all rolled into one. Seriously. ¶ I grew up in the suburbs of Mumbai. Since my role in Slumdog Millionaire, I’ve divided my time between Los Angeles and India. After I stayed at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, I made it my second home, like Warren Beatty did for years. I stay there whenever I’m in town. ¶ My assistant, Brittany, typically drives me everywhere. When we’re in the car, we only listen to the music Brittany likes: Adele, Lily Allen. You get the picture? Brokenhearted women! Still, due to her slight affliction of road rage and OCD, Brittany usually navigates the most efficient and timely route, compliments of GPS.
Once I was going to meet Christopher Nolan to talk about the role of Yusuf in Inception. I said, “I don’t care whether I get the role. I just have to meet him.” I wanted him to autograph my DVD of Batman. I was supposed to be there at 3 p.m., but Brittany’s GPS failed. I had only ten minutes, and we had lost our way. Suddenly I saw an Indian taxi driver, and I said, “Brittany, stop the car!” I waved down the taxi driver and said in Hindi, “I am Anil Kapoor, the actor from India. Please take me to this place.” I left Brittany there. I did not get the role, but I was on time. And I got the autograph.
My son, Harsh, studies screenwriting at Chapman University in Orange County. Having grown up in the Industry, he isn’t quite used to the standard budget for a student film. He always feels his budget should be equivalent to Spielberg’s latest blockbuster. That said, since he’s my son, I certainly cannot deny him his creative vision.
For one of Harsh’s over-the-top film projects, Brittany drove me to a Burbank lighting warehouse. “Just a few lights, Dad,” he had told me, but it took three burly fellows to load the equipment into the car. Once they finished, there was literally only enough room to squeeze our backsides in.
We reached the 10 East at rush hour and came to a halt. Brittany decided she would devise a shortcut—ignoring the GPS screaming at us that we had missed our exit and to turn around. We started to travel into unfamiliar territory. “Anil, we’re starting to get into a rough part of town,” she said. “Just look straight ahead.” It felt so heartwarming that Brittany was so concerned for our well-being. But I soon realized she was alarmed for a reason. Perhaps it was the fact that we were transporting over $50,000 worth of lighting equipment.
There were bonfires burning and vendors selling street food. There weren’t many cars, but there were a ton of people. I had never seen this side of L.A. Brittany seemed frantic, but I just had to laugh. I told her, “If this intimidates you, you’ll never survive in India!