24 may be slated for another run on Fox, but that’s not the only place where it’s being revived.
Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor—who crossed over to Hollywood with a turn in the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, followed by a guest-starring role as Middle Eastern President Omar Hassan on season 8 of 24 — is adapting the hit series for Indian audiences.
It’s a move that’s breaking convention in more ways than one. Such an ambitious TV series (which is set to debut overseas on Oct. 4) is nearly unheard of in India where primetime is dominated by soaps and reality shows. And Kapoor isn’t just exec producing, he’s also taking on the starring role of the Jack Bauer-esque hero Jay Singh Rathore. (Indian movie stars generally only make TV appearances when they’ve got a film to promote.) To top it off, most Indian shows don’t have seasons—soaps run 5, sometimes 6 days a week year-round. Kapoor is planning to air 24 twice a week with hiatuses every couple of months similar to its American counterpart.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor explains what prompted him to adapt the series, how he’s doing it, and why it’s so risky.
You’ve had countless hit Bollywood films. What made you want to work in Hollywood?
It just happened by accident. I was offered this script of Slumdog Millionaire. They wanted me to read it and they were trying to get in touch with me. Then I happened to meet Danny Boyle and the journey started in Hollywood. Then I did 24. I was shooting 24 [when] I spoke to [executive producer] Howard Gordon and I said I wanted to take 24 to India because I think it’s more relevant to India than it is to America.
Had you been watching 24 before you took the role?
I’m was a huge fan of 24. My colleagues in the film fraternity [in India] all of them are huge fans of 24. We used to watch the show in between our shots in our vanity vans. Then I was fortunate enough to be a part of the eighth season.
When did you realize you wanted to bring 24 to India?
When I was shooting the 4th or 5th episode of 24, I started reading the material everyday [and] something just clicked in my mind. I said, “Why not in India?” I’ve been a movie star in India for more than 30 years. I said if I do television I think nothing is better than this. I think [scripted programming in India] is not where it should be. There is no concept of seasons [and] for one episode the maximum budget is $30,000…. Everybody feels that if this show clicks, it might be the game changer.
I’ve heard that this is one of the most expensive TV shows ever being produced in India.
At the moment, yes. But nothing compared to the American standards. [Laughs]
What was it like shooting 24 in America? Was it different from how shows are produced in India?
The thing is for me what came as a surprise you know my only international experience was shooting Slumdog Millionaire. Then I reached America and I started shooting 24. The scale was as big or bigger than what I did [on Slumdog]. There was a crew of about more than 300 people. Everybody’s ready, the clockwork, the logistics, the professionalism. I just was totally bowled over. And a very family kind of atmosphere. Somebody told me, “You’re very blessed, you’re very fortunate, there are certain shows which are not as good but 24 is special. So whatever I’ve done till now in Hollywood, which is I’ve done Mission Impossible, I’ve done 24, and I’ve done Slumdog, for me all three have been absolutely incredible experiences and very, very educating.
It’s incredibly uncommon for a Bollywood star to do a TV show in India.
I’m the first mainstream movie Bollywood actor, star whatever you call me to venture into [scripted series]. The first one.
I want to talk about the process of adapting this U.S. show to India. What was that like? Did you brainstorm with the writers or producers here?
Absolutely. We had some workshops. One of the writers from 24 happened to be in India and we had a few extensive workshops. The entire 20th Century Fox team has been a great, great support.
Are you planning to stick to the American version pretty closely? Or will there be different story lines and plot twists?
It’s something which has been so successful all over the world, we’re not trying to tamper with the flow of the story or the screenplay. We’ve just adapted a few things, like there’s no presidential system in India, so we made the David Palmer character into the prime minister, a young prime minister. These kinds of things. And of course the value system, the family, we have upped the entire drama part of it.
Indian TV is primarily dominated by soaps and reality shows. Why do you think it’s a good time for an adaptation like this?
We want this change because we are fed up with the soap operas and the stagnancies. The standard of television [in India] is its lowest at the moment. The television business and the television channels and the heads [of those channels] are still not ready to change. Raj Nayak, the CEO of Colors [the Indian channel which will air 24], was brave enough to come forward and shake hands with me. He’s also risked his job for this show.
Given how sensitive a topic terrorism is in India, were there any concerns about doing a show about terrorism?
No, I think India now is very open. America and India are democratic countries, there’s a freedom of speech there’s a freedom in the media. Everything is really changing. You know if you want to take something as a theater person, if you want to work something into your film or on television you can do that. There are certain hiccups that you will have but that’s fine you have to face it. People are much more broadminded at the moment over here.
Are there any other American shows that you think would be a good fit for India?
Yes of course. I’m in talks with a few of them. My concentration is on 24 I don’t want to distract myself and divert my attention to something else. Once this is done and I see the reaction then I will start thinking about other shows.
For more about the Indian adaptation of 24, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now.