On a unique ride

On a unique ride

On a unique ride
We skip the obvious topic of their break-up last year. After all, Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif have been uber-professional enough to complete the long-in-the-making Jagga Jasoos, which is also Ranbir’s debut co-production with Anurag Basu.

Essentially, both Ranbir and Katrina are extremely warm yet no-nonsense human beings who have stayed the course in the industry, come hits or flops. Ranbir has completed a decade as an actor, despite a debut disaster in Saawariya and just four genuine hits — Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Raajneeti, Barfi! and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.

Katrina Kaif had an extraordinarily high success quotient since her debut in the 2003 Boom, but has had a bad phase in the last three years. Incidentally, the first two films mentioned above are their only films together until now. So, we could even say that Katrina seems lucky for Ranbir.

Current call

However, what comes across with lucid transparency when we meet at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studios is the fact that they both have a phenomenal respect and affection for Anurag Basu, the director, co-writer and co-producer of the film.

Raving about the film and Anurag, Ranbir says, “I was prepared for Anurag’s way of working. When people say that this film took more than three years, it’s not much because even Barfi! was shot over more than two years. Anurag creates your performance with the camera, the music and his vision! He works very hard, is extremely passionate, inspires and challenges you as an actor. He does not believe in a complete script or even rehearsals. It’s all about improvisation. He creates situations that are a test for any actor. Yes, we actors as a breed, are insecure, we need our graphs in a film, but I knew how Anurag works. So did Saurabh Shukla. If this film was tough, it must have been so for Katrina, who was a newcomer to his way of working.”

But Katrina says, “From day one, I knew it was a musical and was very clear about what Anurag meant by a musical. He was making the classic form of a musical, like Mary Poppins. Now I love music and am driven by music in general. He knew that the story had to be rich in emotions, and he never lost sight of that.”

She adds, “Dada (Anurag) has an incredibly imaginative mind and the ability to execute his vision. If you watch all of Dada’s films, he has always been in search of something unique — a deeper connect with his audience.” Elaborating more on his approach, she goes on, “We can only work with Dada by being around next to him. He talks a lot and you understand the character in conversations with him on sets or in between shots. On Jagga Jasoos, I never went off to my van. He would sometimes ignore me, or brush me off, but often, he would give me something.”

Ask them if it was tiring to spend this long and often uncertain phase working on the film, and it is Ranbir who replies, “It would have been tiring if we had shot it in three months, not three years. Yes, it was a bit taxing on our patience. We would get frustrated, lose hope, think of shelving this film and even lose interest in it. But it was Anurag’s persistence that kept us going. What Anurag has made is a happy, positive musical. It can be called a true-blue Disney-like film that has family emotions, adventure and a detective. It is a live picture cartoon like Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book.”

Both Ranbir and Katrina agree that the risk factor is high, simply because no one has made a film like this before. Katrina admits, “People should come to watch the film with the right expectations. The biggest USP of Jagga Jasoos is its screenplay. The audience has some preconceived ideas that slot movies into, say, five blanket types. But why cannot there be 1,000 blanket types? In other words, an open mind is needed to view such movies.”

Katrina’s biggest concern, thus, is whether people, who are used to four or five songs in a film, will understand this concept. “Such stories are passion projects, and so their making has to be unusual and big, a complex and lengthy process of trial and error, for there was so much work done on constructing the narration. We had regular songs, we had scenes flowing into songs and even conversations between Ranbir and me in songs. We also had songs in the background.”

Beyond acting

Ranbir agrees that it is difficult to crack such films easily. “(Composer) Pritamda had a hard time. As with most stories told in such a musical format, the songs had to be simple, engaging, and not intelligent. But we had immense faith and blind trust in him, who knows what people want in music.” Explains Katrina, “Pritamda is a genius. And geniuses like Anurag and him do not, or cannot, work according to schedules. They do not follow timetables, and they work at nights or at odd hours, and that cannot be controlled.”

What about Ranbir’s statement in the past that he would like to revive the RK banner? “That will happen when I get a script that will inspire me to turn director. I always wanted to be a director but got a break as an actor and some success. Here, with Anurag being what he is — a senior and reputed director — I could only join hands with him in producing this film, for his contribution here is way too much more than mine. We want to start off a franchise, but it all depends on how it is received.”

Katrina, too, would like to organically turn into a producer. “I have no knowledge of this field, so I would want a good and seasoned partner who can join me. I would love to make a film that inspires me to produce it as well, maybe with Ali Abbas Zafar, who directed me in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and now directs Tiger Zinda Hai.”

Ranbir is grateful to the people and the industry for his decade-long journey in films. “I have been really lucky to have got such different film-makers as Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani and Prakash Jha among others. I am happy that I have been liked consistently, despite starting off with a disastrous debut. If you notice, I have never been comfortable following a formula, like Besharam, which flopped, or Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani¸ which was a hit but now makes me cringe! But I have also done rather too many coming-of-age films and I have to break that formula too”

Coming up next are Rajkumari Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt and Ayan Mukerji’s Dragon. He adds, “Few people get to do what they love, and I am lucky. Thankfully, I am not even compared to my father like most star-sons.”

And Katrina says, “Even if Jagga Jasoos gets a critical success, I will benefit. If it is successful, I will benefit even more. Today, I would love to do unusual characters I have never done till now. Right now, I am doing Tiger Zinda Hai with Salman Khan, Aanand L Rai’s film with Shah Rukh Khan and Thugs Of Hindostan with Aamir Khan.” And this, she admits, is quite a feat after many consecutive major flops!
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