Wish upon a star

talent personified

Wish upon a star

musical hero Ranbir Kapoor with Nargis Fakhri in Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Rockstar’.

Hailing from the first family of Indian cinema, Ranbir Kapoor is a third generation actor/star. His cinematic lineage includes not only the prime musical stars of all time — grandad Raj Kapoor and father Rishi Kapoor — but also the man who defined music and romance in Hindi cinema, Shammi Kapoor.In a poignant twist of fate, it is Ranbir who persuaded grand-uncle Shammi to etch the cameo of his music guru in his first hardcore musical, Rockstar, which also turned out to be the legend’s swan song. “It was I who suggested to Imtiaz that Shammi Kapoor be roped in for the role of my guru, who is a shehnai ustad in the film,” says Ranbir. “He has only a few sequences but the highlight is a jugalbandi between him on his sitar and me on my guitar. I confess that I conned him for three hours, almost blackmailing him emotionally to accept the role as he was unsure of doing the film because of his health — he had to undergo dialysis thrice a week and was restricted to his wheelchair. But he did it for me. He got his treatment done in Delhi, fitting it into his busy schedule.

Shammi Kapoor, he declares, is the original rockstar of Hindi cinema. “All my preconceived notions about him as a megastar were dispelled the moment he came on the sets,” says the youngster. “He was like a little boy on the sets, nervous and anxious and always insisting on rehearsals. But he shared such fantastic experiences of his times with us on the sets. He would also interact with Rahman and discusss about Apple, Mac and music.” As he puts it, “That’s why I want the film to do well — less for myself but more for the team and above all for the immense sacrifice and hard work of a man called Imtiaz Ali, who has made the film with so much love.”

Imtiaz has stated on the inlay of the film’s music album that the film and its music “made itself”. What is Ranbir’s take on that? Replies the actor, “Well, it was a special film from the beginning, with all the right energies happening, but I think Imtiaz was the sole reason why all the right energies happened. He is a genuine person, does not take work for granted and understands key aspects like Indian people and culture, and the complexities of relationships.”

Raving about the director, Ranbir adds, “I am in no way an actor with a reservoir of experiences. And Imtiaz shared so much of his experience, angst and  intensity with me that performing the role of Janardhan was not difficult at all. There are not many filmmakers who do that for their actors. I am overawed by the man and his friendship is something that I have definitely carried on with me, from the film.”

The young actor reveals how Nargis Fakhri, his debutant co-star, also surrendered completely as an actor to Imtiaz and bravely tread a terrain that is difficult for any new actor.

Denying the understandable perception that the film is a rock-centric musical, a genre that has not worked here, the youngest Kapoor calls Rockstar a love story that is rooted in India with the “role of a lifetime for me. The music is in that sense incidental, as the hero wants to become a rockstar.”

For the actor, however, the music became another powerful means of self-discovery. “It was such a great experience sitting on all eight tracks as well as the music pieces. For the first time, I really got involved in the music, and to observe how Mohit Chauhan sings, and why. This helped me perform on screen, during the song sequences.”

But when we listen to Mohit singing on the audio, his tenor does not generate a visual of Ranbir Kapoor. Seriously, he replies, “I hope that the audiences here do not find any disconnect between the voice and me. The choice of Mohit was unanimous as far as Imtiaz, composer Rahman-sir and I were concerned.”

As for his experience with the Chennai prodigy, Ranbir says, “Rahman-sir is so humble. You have to see his passion for music. He works in isolation, where he has a relationship only with music, which is why it was so wonderful to get into his studio and watch him
make music.”

The buzz has it that Ranbir was particular about the film’s music because he had initially given short shrift to lip-sync numbers.  He has now found himself bereft of songs to perform on concert tours and shows. He admits candidly, “Yes, that’s true. I do need a bank of music for my stage shows, which so far, has been restricted largely to the songs of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. But Ajab… was not a musical. Rockstar is the first film in which I learnt to participate in, and contribute to a song at all stages.”

We moved on to seeking a reaction to a celebrity tweet, which stated, “I wish Ranbir stops trying hard to be just an actor and concentrates on becoming a star.” Thoughtfully, he replies, “I want to be, not just the best actor, but the biggest star. I also want to produce and direct films like Raj Kapoor and my father did. I know it will need a lot of sacrifices, but I will reach there one day. I am grateful for what I have got, but there is a long way to go.”

In a thoughtful soliloquy, he continues, “Hats off to seniors for lasting as long as they did though, which maybe partly due to the fact that they were categorised largely under a single genre. For instance, my father Rishi Kapoor, who I think is the greatest actor of his generation, never had a style, was spontaneous, and a successful lover boy for over two decades! Today, cinema has progressed and actors have become fearless. I am all for balancing the masala movies that I get, which are important to bring in revenue, with a Wake Up Sid! and a Rocket Singh – Salesman Of The Year. I have no false illusions about myself. I know that I cannot do (yet) what the Khans do, or have a Singham to my name with my limited experience. But I am comfortable with every kind of film, and good actors will always last, like dad has for four decades.”

What about his much-hyped off-screen relationships that get more attention than his work, such as his wonderful performance in the multi-star Raajneeti?

According to a recent article in a Mumbai tabloid, he has a tally of seven relationships with actresses. The shocked actor replies, “Seven? Wow! That’s great! Well, I guess we are easy targets for the media. I had just one relationship with an actress that I was always open about. But, I really hope to make people talk only about my work in films in the years to come.”

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