IT WAS BEFITTING that the Delhi High Court order giving Anil Kapoor protection over his own personality was the second case of a Bollywood star getting such a recourse, the first being of Amitabh Bachchan. Kapoor, through the 1980s, before the era of the three Khans, was thought to be the one on whom the mantle of Bachchan would fall once age eventually caught up with the angry young man. And even though he fell short of that degree of superstardom, Kapoor remained a firm fixture of the Hindi film industry at its upper reaches, never quite touching the top but neither fading into irrelevance like many of his peers. For example, in 2008, he was again springing back but on an even wider canvas in a role in the multiple Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. To look at him even now, one would be hard put to see much physical difference from his peak of the 1980s when he was still in his sprightly youth. There is obviously a lot of hard work in maintaining it, but he makes it seem so effortless that it is as if he has discovered the formula to be ageless.
Just like Bachchan, Kapoor had an extraordinary screen presence, and then adding a layer to it was a wide array of signature mannerisms around which Bollywood writers crafted immortal catchphrases. One of them—Jhakaas—became the subject of the present case in which his lawyer insisted that this word, too, must be part of what his ownership stood for. The judge had her doubts because after all it was a word in Hindi and he had merely mouthed it in a scene that the director told him to enact. But finally, the judge gave it to him with some riders because of the unique way Kapoor said it. The exchange went thus in court, as reported in the online legal magazine Bar and Bench: “The Court initially expressed reservations over whether it can restrain the use of the word ‘Jhakaas’. ‘This Jhakaas, you say it is Bambaiyya Hindi. If that is so, it can’t be protected,’ Justice Singh observed. ‘It’s about how he says it in a twisted way,’ Anand (Kapoor’s lawyer) replied. The Court also questioned if such protection should be extended to Anil Kapoor since it may give room for other celebrities to claim similar relief. ‘If we do it for one actor, then other actors, actresses and celebrities will also be entitled to it,’ the Court said. ‘Depends, if they are being shamed, used for porn then yes, they will be entitled,’ Anand responded. ‘Then we will have to say that,’ the Court added before dictating its order.”
The larger reason why Kapoor sought to enforce his rights is because of commercial exploitation of what makes for his personality. Abuse by porn sites was listed as another reason. Then there were outright copyright infringements, like using without permission his face and voice from movies to sell products. But there was also a new technological phenomenon that he was seeking protection from, artificial intelligence tools that morph his likeness to make online offerings. After he got the order, Kapoor released a statement in which, as per Film Companion, he said his intention was not to curb freedom of expression. “However he believes his personality is his life’s work, and he wants to prevent any misuse given rapidly evolving technology,” said the report.
It is a brand that he created on his own, starting off with small roles in the late-1970s, and then second leads, and then in the middle of the 1980s, he began to be the solo hero. Within a couple of years, blockbuster movies like Mr India and Tezaab had cemented his place at the top of the A-list. Through the decades that followed, he kept making comebacks and even now, as the OTT wave got going, we once again saw him in shows like The Night Manager that released this year. The drive remains unflagging and you got a hint of it when he told Filmfare in an interview this year: “I am looking forward to exploring the science fiction genre. I have not yet done anything in that zone.”