When we first see Steven Kapoor in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela, he sneakily emerges from behind a prop on his own film set, trying to frame the shot with his hands. He tells his cameraman, “Mera competition yahaan ke directors ke saath nahi hai, Hollywood ke directors ke saath hai.” A few scenes later, poor Steven gets a reality check from his heroine Gulbadan’s mother who yells at him for giving her daughter tough dance steps. “Hollywood main Julia Roberts ki ma Steven Spielberg ko aise bol sakti hai kya?” he laments.
Played wonderfully by Gulshan Grover, who was otherwise given only villainous roles at the time, Steven Kapoor was a masterful addition to Varma’s movie on the movies. Steven is an earnest filmmaker who is forever exasperated by his money-minded producer and an actress who elopes with her driver. He aims to be in Hollywood, but has to make do with Bollywood, and this leads to hilarious situations. “From the various discussions we had, one of the things Ramu had said was to base him on Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a director I admire. He didn’t ask me to do a caricature of Vidhu, but to pick up some of his traits. I was good friends with Jackie (Shroff) and Anil (Kapoor), who used to work with Vidhu a lot so I got a chance to observe him. Even the cap came from Vidhu. I added the waistcoat from Shekhar Kapur who used to wear a lot of them in those days. And another suggestion I had was to add the Hollywood director’s chair, something I had noticed while working abroad. But everything else came from Ramu’s own experiences and he had seen a lot because he worked in both Bollywood and the South,” says Grover.
Grover was given only a brief outline of Steven Kapoor and the comical situations the character finds himself in were filled in by Varma through the shooting. Most of these came from his first-hand experiences. “In the first scene, I look through the camera and wonder why I can’t see anything. Then the cameraman man says it’s because the lens cover is still on. I thought that was ridiculous! But Ramu was convinced we should do it. The bit about the actress coming on set with her mother I believe came from Sridevi ji who famously went everywhere with her mother. The story is that Sridevi ji never heard the story, her mother did,” recalls Grover. In one of the funniest moments of the film, Steven’s assistant director (played by Madhur Bhandarkar) informs him that the producer doesn’t want to pay for the bus he needs for a scene and so he has to make do with an auto rickshaw. “This also happened to Ramu,” he laughs.
In Steven’s final scene, he doesn’t have a dialogue, but his expression beautifully sums up what he’s really about. He’s at the premiere of his movie, the end credits are rolling, and Steven looks up at the screen in complete admiration of his own creation. He sees no shame in acknowledging his own brilliance. “I remember Govind Nihalani met me after the film and said he just loved my expression in that scene. That was confident Vidhu. That was him looking at his own work and thinking, ‘Yeah I did it’,” he adds.