Aamir Khan is perhaps the only Bollywood star who has managed to straddle the fine line between commercial filmmaking and more ‘content-driven’ films, for lack of a better term. However, many people overlook Anil Kapoor, who has been at this game for much longer and with equal, if not greater, success. Kapoor has worked in the Indian film business for nearly four decades, appearing in Telugu films, TV series, Hollywood films, pulpy features, and serious cinema, among other things. He has experienced both success and failure.
Once Anil Kapoor was asked by film critic Anupama Chopra about what still drives him and his choices, the actor had said with a smile, “Something, some script comes along the way that is completely novel in its ideation, new, fresh. And if it is not, I make it new.” Anil not only possesses the skills required for such a long career, but he also possesses the knowledge to recognise what should and should not be done. His decision to pursue Lamhe was an excellent illustration of his foresight and zeal.
Anil was not the first choice for the character of Viren Pratap Singh’s broody Kunwarji. Lamhe had been a dream of filmmaker Yash Chopra since the time of Silsila, almost a decade before the film was released (1991). He had intended to cast Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in the key roles at the time but later realised that they had become ‘too big’ for the roles. People would notice Amitabh rather than Viren. Furthermore, for a segment of the film, the actor portraying Viren had to be a little younger. Kapoor wrote a note to the director when he got a whiff of the character, stating that this newcomer wants to be a part of the film, according to Shekhar Suman in the chat show Lights Camera Kissey.
Chopra initially dismissed the note, assuming it was a joke, but later approached Kapoor and offered to have his trademark moustache cut for the role. Chopra realised Anil Kapoor’s commitment as an actor at that point. An interesting side note: At the time, Anil Kapoor was at the pinnacle of his career.