Spicing it up

Spicing it up

They have hijacked the tabloids with stories of their on and off screen chemistry. Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor are unlike any other leading men in Bollywood. RAjiv Vijayakar talks to the duo about their film ‘Gunday’ and more...

They are Bikram and Bala. It is said that a good film actor switches off the moment he leaves the set. But in today’s times, a better actor remains in character even during the promotional spree that he or she does for his films. And so Ranveer Singh is Bikram and Arjun Kapoor is Bala when we speak on conference call for Gunday. Clearly, however, the chemistry between them goes beyond their on-screen camaraderie. Their voices tend to be similar on the phone, and only the content of what they say and their tones differentiate the two.

A quick career re-cap: both are Yash Chopra-Aditya Chopra protégés, Ranveer Singh Bhavnani a Mumbai boy who studied abroad, and Arjun the son of famous producer Boney Kapoor. Beginning with Band Baaja Baaraat, the 2010 hit and Ishaqzaade, the 2012 success respectively, they are now both at YRF-par with their third film Gunday for the banner.

Similar starts

Ranveer’s career includes YRF’s Ladies Vs. Ricky Behl and the outside films Lootera (his sole flop) and his greatest hit, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. Arjun has done the underrated flop Aurangzeb for YRF last year — in a dual role.

Off screen, they have an interesting link, with which we flag off our conversation: both are cousins of Sonam and Rhea Kapoor. While Arjun is their chacha’s son, Ranveer is their cousin from the side of their mother Sunita Anil Kapoor nee Bhavnani.

“Ha! We did know each other,” says the habitually effervescent Ranveer, when asked how well they knew each other before signing this film. “We were moving in the same social circles and would meet at parties. Of course, we were not to know then that we would have the same professional goal and would head towards the same place where our talents would meet their manzil — and that Aditya Chopra would be our common mentor and YRF our home. So ab hamari dosti rishtedaari mein badal gayi (from friends, we have now become like relatives).”

Adds Arjun: “Our rapport came from within us, right from the first day of shooting together. There was no urge to come out on top of each other, and there were no undercurrents. Our chemistry is real, otherwise the camera catches any fakeness and highlights it.”

How much homework did they do on their characters of the Bengali thieves? “There was no homework at all, not together and not individually,” declares Ranveer. “At every point, we were together. We took off our shirts together, danced and fought together. We even hit the gym together,” he chortles.

“More than the preparation, we had to keep in mind the huge mounting of the film, and justify it,” says Arjun seriously. “Like the dialogue-baazi (a term for applause-eliciting lines that play to the gallery) in the film. This was a terrain to which our generation of actors is barely exposed. But of late, it has become a trend with super-stars, just as it used to be some decades ago.”

Speaking of superstars and dialogue-baazi, we ask Arjun about his bond with Salman Khan, whom he considers his mentor. “Oh, Salman-bhai is my father-figure, and bhai is a term that means brother. I am always keen that he be happy with my work, and my approach to it and to people. If I am an actor today, I think that all the credit goes to him. I won’t even say that he awakened the dormant actor within me, because I did not even know there was one inside.” Shouts Ranveer when asked for his take on Salman Khan: “Sab ka ek bhaijaan — Salman Khan! Salman Khan!”

Varied styles

We next pose a query for Ranveer. He had always maintained that he was a method actor, who had to prepare mentally and physically for his role, whereas Arjun seemed clearly to believe in the spontaneous kind of acting. “Oh, I think …Ram-Leela has completely changed me,” he drawls confidently. “I have changed my way of looking at characters and acting and Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali deserves credit for that. I now believe in an organic spontaneity, and I think that has improved me as an actor. I would also like to say that spontaneous co-stars like Sonakshi Sinha in Lootera and Deepika Padukone in …Ram-Leela have helped me a lot too, for just observing them has made this easy.”

Both of them go gaga over their co-stars Irrfan Khan and their on-screen common love interest Priyanka Chopra. Expressing respect for the former as a great actor whose performances teach fine nuances of acting, they also mention with gratitude that Priyanka never thrust airs for being a senior and a huge star on them.

Arjun quips that it will be Ranveer who will love talking about her and women in general more than him. And true to form, the latter expounds, “Ohhhh…Priyanka! Priyanka! Priyanka! Well, let me tell you that Priyanka is an outstanding talent — so immensely talented, and so hungry to find ways to enhance a scene despite her huge success. She is fully aware that the captain of the ship is the director, aur kabhi humpe tajurbe ka rog nahin jhaada (she never showed any superiority because of her experience).”

This is where Arjun quietly chips in, “But I have known Priyanka closely since the time I assisted Nikhil Advani on Salaam-e-Ishq. And my career is completely connected with the Chopras — Yash-ji and Aditya who introduced me, Parineeti, my first heroine and now her cousin Priyanka.”

So what do they think of the formula of director Ali Abbas Zafar of casting an A-list heroine with two upcoming actors, which he did with his debut film Mere Brother Ki Dulhan with Katrina Kaif cast opposite Imran Khan and Ali Zafar? Both deny any such “formula”, stating that it was the stories that demanded such a casting.
Ranveer makes a loud sound of approval and adds, “This guy’s not a star by default. Mark my word, Arjun has descended on earth to become this huge star. I think that he just killed it in Aurangzeb.”

And what do they have to say about Gunday having a strong Sholay hangover in the general vibe, including the letters of the title written in the same manner? “Well, like Sholay, Gunday is old-school cinema,” says Ranveer. “But it is not a mindless film.” Arjun agrees and states, “Yes, it is about two boys who are deprived of their rights by the system. Unhein haq chhinna padtaa hai (They have to forcibly take their rights).”
And both Bikram and Bala concur in their belief that the mainstream-art divide is a fake one. “Good movies run nowadays,” they opine in their own different ways. The coordinator of our chat interrupts. Our time with the fun-loving Gunday is over.

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