Ranbir Kapoor: Man of the Moment

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Ranbir Kapoor plays his first double role in Shamshera. Photo: Yash Raj Films

The year has been pretty good for Ranbir Kapoor. April 14 saw him wed Alia Bhatt, his girlfriend for a long while. In June, the couple announced incipient parenthood. Professionally too, within a space of around seven weeks, Ranbir is set to star in Shamshera (in his first double role) and Brahmastra. As Ranbir puts it, “They are two very different films. I am just hopeful they both work. Life is about ups and downs. My last film, Sanju, four years ago, was a blockbuster. And in 2020, I lost a parent (Rishi Kapoor). But now, it is a good phase again.”

Excerpts from an interview follow.

How do you see your journey of 15 years?

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I am very lucky that I came in at a time when people had begun writing stories for young boys rather than men. Even Hrithik Roshan had played a man in his films. I got good filmmakers and characters, and I think luck goes along with hard work.

What took you so long to do a mass-appeal film?

I have always seen myself as a subtle, new-age actor, and working with someone of (director Malhotra) Karan’s conviction was so enjoyable. On the face of it, Shamshera is a story of dacoits, but what are their thought-processes and what they want from life and are experiencing is something to be watched.

The challenge was also in doing the double roles of father and son. Do you know that initially I was offered only Balli (the son)’s role and Shamshera was to be offered to someone else. But I offered myself to them for that role, as I am a selfish actor and it was such a good part. Karan and Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) agreed after a look-test, and that made it even more challenging and exciting!

This is my first film as a quintessential Hindi film hero. It’s a tough genre we all take for granted, with action, comedy, romance, drama. Other than Karan Johar in Bombay Velvet, I never even had a villain before, and here, there was Sanjay Dutt!

How challenging was it actually shooting and working on the film?

It took me some time to understand all the things, do some prep work so that I should look believable, as today, even Hindi film heroes have changed. When I accepted the film, I was very happy, but during the making of the film, I came to understand what I had got myself into!

We shot under a crackling sun, me with a thick beard and wig and heavy khadi clothes. The milieu was so different from all my films, and I was not prepared. I talked to myself in the mirror, abused Karan in my mind, as he literally threw dust on me to maintain the earthy grime. In short, it was very draining, but I realized that such cinema required this kind of hard work!

How important is such a genre of film today?

With South Indian films getting a huge market, it is better to be wise, know your people and culture and make films for the audience, not for yourself. I have realized that I must work with people who are making films for the audience, as many of my past directors were making good but personal films for themselves. But with audiences and economics being what they are today, we can’t afford that. We have to entertain the audience and that was a great learning.

It is well-known that your father Rishi Kapoor never approved of most of your film choices—he had told me as much, twice! But he had added that the Kapoors never interfered in their sons’ choices!

Yes, and that was one more motivation. My father had worked with Karan in Agneepath and was excited when I signed the film. He always wanted me to do masala films. I wish he had been alive today to watch Shamshera.

But I had to do things in my individual way, sign scripts I could relate to, and fight the star-son tag. And all my films had seen my father making comments! Like with Rockstar, he had asked me, ‘Yeh ladki baad mein marti hai ki waapas aati hai (Does the girl die in the end or return)?’  I am sure that somewhere up there, he must be finally smiling at my doing a film of his choice.

How was it working with Sanjay Dutt?

Sanju was always my hero in childhood. I feel lucky that I was chosen to do Sanju’s biopic. When he comes on set, 300 people are drawn to him—the light-men, the stunt people, everyone! And he is such a great guy, a true man of the masses! He knows everybody by their first names, is so loving, and supportive. I am lucky and blessed to have the great Sanjay Dutt as a villain.

On sets, he is such a pro! During a long on-screen face-off, he was so concerned about my welfare that Karan told him, ‘It does not look as if you are beating him up!’ I was up there on a harness, and every now and then, Sanju would ask me if I was alright! (Grins)

Your thoughts on Karan?

If you ask me what will stay on with me about Shamshera it will be the exhaustion!  Because Karan really taught me what conviction is! If an actor has to be shown brushing his teeth, Karan will make even that look larger-than-life! (Grins) I had this evolved taste in cinema, where I always thought I am above certain lines and expressions, but Karan taught me not to shy away from them. I learnt the basics of conviction. What are KGF2 or RRR? They are all based on their filmmakers’ conviction about their characters and actors, and the audiences go with that!

Your thoughts on the box-office of both Shamshera and Brahmastra?

I only hope both films work. The audience and God decide a film’s fate. As an actor, all you can do is to give it your best. Their stories and films will speak more than their common actor—me.

Two of your films—Jagga Jasoos and Brahmastra—were delayed. What do you have to say on this, especially since Jagga… was also co-produced by you?

Speaking of Brahmastra, we were not prepared for the animal that it was, and what it needed as VFX and post-shooting was a learning process that went on as we were making it. When a film is delayed, the intention is to make the best product possible. People will not care whether you have shot the film in 40, 100 or 200 days!

What about your films to come?

Luv Ranjan’s movie is a feel-good hilarious family comedy that will make you cry too. As for Animal, it is the most shocking character I have ever played, with shades of extreme gray.

Your reaction to marriage and parenthood?

Alia and I have lots to dream and talk about. I am obviously thrilled about the baby and I cannot describe the real feeling, the emotion that completely fills your heart! Am I prepared so soon? I don’t know, and I have been taking tips from Karan on fatherhood and even holding the baby, as he too has become dad recently!

There is one point I am clear on: I would not like my busy wife to sacrifice her career. I want a different dynamic from the time when I and most Kapoors were brought up mainly by our moms as dads were very busy! I want to share the responsibility equally!

Any dream role still?

I really want to play a villain, that too without a back story. Karan, can you look beyond Sanju next time? (Laughs)

 

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