Living it in the act

Ranbir Kapoor
Highlights: 
“I am not looking for good reviews or awards, but for a hit, that is the most important thing,” he declares. “A good performance is not enough, because, at the end of the day, a lot of money is needed to make a film.

Ranbir Kapoor, with his formidable star pedigree — the Kapoor bloodline — blended with mother Neetu Singh’s powerhouse talent, has ensured a package that outclasses his contemporaries in charismatic appeal, talent, and overrules his flops. 

Yes, Ranbir Kapoor, who has completed a decade in films, is riding on just four hits — Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009), Raajneeti (2010), in which he stood out in a solid ensemble cast, Barfi! (2012) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013). His debut, Saawariya, as well as Roy, Bombay Velvet, Tamasha, and his last release Jagga Jasoos (which he also co-produced), were box-office disasters, with a film or two like Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year being critically appreciated. 

But, to this day Ranbir’s performance has never failed. After quipping with a chuckle that PK, in which he had a small cameo, has been his biggest hit to date (it crossed Rs 300 crore in India alone), Ranbir says decisively that right now a hit is the need of the hour for him.

Practical approach

“I am not looking for good reviews or awards, but for a hit, that is the most important thing,” he declares. “A good performance is not enough, because, at the end of the day, a lot of money is needed to make a film. This is an industry and people’s livelihoods are dependent on it. The biggest lesson I have learnt in 10 years is that everybody should benefit from a film.” 

He adds, however, that every film is a risk, whether it is a Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or a Bombay Velvet, and smiles, “Par risk to Spider-Man bhi leta hai (Even Spider-Man takes risks), and there is no formula for success.”

We heard that he has been sending feelers to Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety director Luv Ranjan, with whom he is now doing a film also starring Ajay Devgn. He is also doing the first in a planned biggie trilogy, Brahmastra, and the Yash Raj big film Shamshera that also stars Sanjay Dutt as an antagonist. Isn’t this mainstream orientation a shift for someone who once did films like Rocket Singh and Rockstar

 “From Saawariya onwards, my process has been pretty much the same — I have to like the script. These films are as much my choice as the films you mention, or Bombay Velvet or Jagga Jasoos or Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.  If they do well, people will say they were mainstream films. If not, they will be considered niche films.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. 

What was his first thought when Rajkumar Hirani offered him Sanju, the Sanjay Dutt biopic? “There was a lot of fear and anxiety. Sanjay-sir is so totally different that I could not imagine myself as him. But when Raju-sir narrated the story, and I realised how honestly Sanjay-sir had opened up to have a film made on him, I decided to take it up.”

He goes on, “Sanjay-sir’s life is so exciting, complex and controversial that a web series can be made about him. This is a story about values. Sanjay-sir has never wanted to project himself as this amazing and holier-than-thou guy. We see the human side to this larger-than-life superstar — someone with flaws, who made mistakes, and the film shows how his family and he dealt with their consequences. The richness of the human material gave me the confidence to take up the film.” 

Ranbir goes deep into every role, so how was it dealing with his first-ever biopic? “Sanjay-sir is alive and still acting,” he replies. “He is a superstar who is so popular and loved. He is fresh in people’s minds, so I had to make sure that I did not turn him into a caricature, or mimic him that way. There is a fine line between becoming someone and copying that person. I have done the film to the best of my capability but I am still nervous because of what his and Raju-sir’s fans will think.”

How did he get to the level wherein even the look on so many posters seem interchangeable with the real Sanjay Dutt, also his performance in so many parts in the trailer? “I had to master the mannerisms, his walk, talk, style, and also his hairstyles. To get his typical swag, I wore shoes that were one size larger! I was very inspired, to the point of being obsessed. I watched his films and videos of him and had so many discussions with Raju-sir and others. And I had a lot of discussions with Sanjay-sir himself.”

Elaborating on this, he goes on, “Especially about his drug-addiction and jail phases, I would often call him up at night and ask about those parts of his life, and he would honestly tell me everything, re-living those parts for me. This was a huge help to me as an actor, to understand what was going on in his head. I have lived his life through this film and when I was reading the script, I had the same thought: what was going on in his mind.”

Ranbir explains, “I am only acting out his role, trying to reach the truth through his acting, but my respect and admiration for Sanjay-sir has doubled. Two sequences, in particular, stood out: the part where he lost his mother, and the part where he lost his father. Sharing those moments with me was quite cathartic for him. I really connected with them.”

Compliments galore

Manisha Koirala recently called him a “way better actor than Rishi Kapoor,” though she confessed she has not seen his father’s films in the last five years. Ranbir says, “I take that compliment with a lot of humility. She’s someone who I have admired all my life. We have such fabulous actors in this film — Paresh Rawal-sir, Boman Irani-sir, Anushka Sharma, Dia Mirza, Sonam Kapoor and Vicky Kaushal. And it feels so good when such co-stars speak highly about me. Paresh-sir has also praised me so much.”

What does he think about Jagga Jasoos?  Was it not a film that was ahead of its time? And yet, his father spoke against the filmmaker. “The audience is king. Yes, Jagga Jasoos had its brilliant moments and I love Dada’s (Anurag Basu) work, whether it is Barfi! or this film. I hope to work with him again in the future in the Kishore Kumar biopic he has been thinking of making. Yes, my father was very vocal about Dada, but in that, I don’t support his views.”

The Alia Bhatt rumours are in full blaze. Will they help Brahmastra? “A film always works on its own strength. I had always wanted to work with Alia, who is such a powerful performer. I am also lucky to work with someone like Amitabh Bachchan in the film, and with Sanjay-sir in Shamshera.”

We know he does not want us to probe into his personal life, so we are content with this answer.

 

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Living it in the act

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