EXCLUSIVE | Modi a selfless man, Yogi made UP crime-free: Boney Kapoor

| Updated: 09 October, 2023 2:13 pm IST

Boney Kapoor, a prominent Indian filmmaker, recently expressed his views on the “evolving India” under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the second part of the exclusive interview with The New Indian’s Executive Editor, Rohan Dua, the producer referred to the PM as ‘a selfless man’ and marvelled at how the septuagenarian manages to find time for rest.

The head of the Kapoor family remarked that “changes are visible all over.” He noted that Uttar Pradesh, which was notorious for criminal activities, has now become “entirely crime-free”. During the interview, Boney Kapoor also expressed his desire to meet PM Modi and the chief ministers of West Bengal, Goa, and Kerala, and screen his upcoming movie ‘Maidan’ for them. For the unversed, ‘Maidaan’ is inspired by Syed Abdul Rahim, the coach and manager of the Indian national football team, often hailed as the mastermind behind Indian football’s golden era spanning from 1952 to 1962.

Here are the excerpts of the interview

Rohan Dua: You had made a reference to Lucknow in your upcoming movie, ‘Maidaan, ‘ so I am curious to know about the equation you share with the UP CM, Yogi Adityanath, who had returned to power with an astounding majority while launching his career as a pujari becoming MP five times from Gorakhpur constituency. Can you tell me what your equation is like?

Boney Kapoor: I am always fascinated and enamoured by self-made people, and he is a self-made man. You see, I feel when my daughter was shooting for her film ‘Gunjan’ (Saxena) there, they shot at nights too, and Lucknow seemed to be, absolutely, as safe a city as Mumbai. The fear of something or the other happening is no longer there.

He has made the state completely crime-free, and at the same time, he is a simple man. Definitely, I think that he is a person to be idealised, like our Prime Minister. He is a selfless person. Sometimes I wonder when he gets the time to sleep? Does he even sleep, a selfless person like him who is leading a country!

Opposition ka kaam hai oppose karna (opposition’s job is to oppose), but as an Indian, when I go abroad, my head is held high by where we have reached in the last 8-9 years because of our present Prime Minister.

I mean, I’m not saying that nothing happened before he came to power. However, at this moment everything that is happening is far more credible, and maybe it is something which the world is opening their eyes to, seeing what India is all about, we needed somebody as strong as him.

Rohan Dua: G20, for example.

Boney Kapoor: No, there have been more such examples before G20. You see the kind of response he gets whenever he travels abroad, the kind of love and respect he gets from the Indians and leaders.

Not even just the Indian diaspora but also the foreigners. It is something which is admirable and whenever I had the fortune of meeting him, around 3-4 times, he has always been very forthcoming, very candid in his conversations.

Yeah, he had invited certain people from the film industry to his house and held a session, and we had also met him in Lucknow. I had also met him in Mumbai at the censor office where the new films division building is.

I have met him and I have always felt the warmth of the person. Sometimes just a handshake can convey how warm a person is. Not that we have major long conversations. In fact, I’ve been wanting to meet him.

I have certain things in mind. I mailed him, and he remembered that I had mailed him. He asked me if there was anything important to discuss.

I said, “No, whenever you feel like it, call me. There are things I want to discuss. Whenever the opportunity arises, I’ll call you. If you call, I’ll meet you. If you don’t, I’m still happy.”

He is the person who, by the grace of God, whenever opportunity arose, has been very receptive. He has been very warm. Not just with me but with others too.

Rohan Dua: The reason why I had asked you the question on Lucknow is because I have heard a lot of compliments for you from the UP CM’s office and they had also called you to take suggestions about their new film city.

Boney Kapoor: See, I have always said that I am a son of Meerut. My ‘Janmbhoomi’ (birthplace) is Meerut while my ‘karmbhoomi’ (place of work) is Mumbai. I still remember when I had visited Kolkata for the first time to shoot outdoors for ‘Anurodh’ with Shakti da (Shakti Samanta), I had said the same to him.

I feel privileged to be part of such a big state, UP, and I have vivid memories of going every year to Meerut because my grandparents lived there. They had shifted there after the partition and every year we would visit the city twice from Delhi. Sometimes by bus and sometimes by my cousin’s car till the day they were alive.

I still remember that my grandmother was a vegetarian but she used to cook non-vegetarian food for us. I remember how my grandfather used to go early in the morning to buy non-veg food for us to get, you know, all the savouries which are in Meerut.

I had also shot ‘Tevar’ and ‘Mom’ with full support from the UP government. I feel closer to Yogiji because somewhere I can feel the closeness with him. It’s not like I have visited him at his residence but there are moments when you may not be overtly friendly with a person and might just like a person. His qualities are there for people to see, to read and to know.

Rohan Dua: You had mentioned that UP is a crime-free state now, and having also reported extensively, when the big gangs were present there, I will also concede with your observation. Tell me, how proud do you feel when you notice this development?

Boney Kapoor: See, definitely, it’s a changed scenario now, and I feel as safe in Kanpur or Meerut now. There is no crime, that’s one aspect, but it’s far more cleaner. You can see clean roads. You can see proper maintenance of the infrastructure there. When you exit the airport, you can see the metro and even that is a reminder that nobody would have thought that UP would get its own metro.

Plus, now there is an expressway from Delhi to Lucknow, earlier it was till Agra but now people can drive down to Delhi in six hours. I have also travelled once by road from Agra to Lucknow. Although, I have travelled to Agra from Delhi by road a lot of times.

Rohan Dua: Since ‘Maidaan’ is a movie on football, did you visit West Bengal to use the craze for football in the state because during elections Mamata Banerjee had used a football to kick off TMC’s campaign in the state, saying their motto “Khela Hobe”?

Boney Kapoor: I would be happy to meet her, only to see that my film gets the support of the government there, and since she has already spoken about this aspect, so obviously it would be good to meet her.

I also want to see what she can do to boost the film since it’s all about dhanda and most of the federation offices were always in Kolkata. We have captured the essence of the federation also in the film.

Rohan Dua: You will surely be going to temples and knowing the modest means with which Yogi Adityanath has spent his time at the Goraknath math, would you not be sitting with him to show the movie?

Boney Kapoor: I will be going to Gorakhpur as well, and I also want to show the movie (Maidaan) to Modi sahab as well. He has also shown spirit in wanting to encourage football and even now there has been an instance of confusion with the federation not knowing if the players would be going for the Asian Games.

The same situation persisted then as well when Morarji Desai was the finance minister and the money was on forex — they had subtracted the entire football contingent. This was done by a senior publisher who was against the coach.

He had said, “Coach is from Kerala and he has only taken two or three players from Bengal, taking other players from everywhere.” This worked because all Bengalis took pride in the fact that they are the custodians of football and only they can play.

Definitely, there’s a passion for football there. It is one sport that is loved by states like Bengal, Goa and Kerala. These three states have a lot more football than the other states so I would like to go to all these three states and show my films to the PM first and then the respective CMs and such like.

Rohan Dua: PM Modi had hugged the Olympians, even the ones who did not get a gold, and invited them all to his residence to congratulate them. He had also encouraged the ISRO chairperson when he had broken down when Chandrayaan-2 failed. These signs of encouragement had never been seen being exercised by any PM before him, what do you feel about that?

Boney Kapoor: These are the qualities that make him a normal person just like you and me. Who is as human as you and me, and is not sitting on a high pedestal.

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