MUMBAI—He’s so pedigreed that his lifetime score of four hits in 10 years has not affected his popularity or stardom a whit. Add his courteousness and humility, and he is an example of how an actor can mix flawless upbringing and sheer charisma into a package that has fans drooling over him or showering hosannas all the time. Even a combo deal of “Bombay Velvet,” “Roy” and “Tamasha” have not affected him.
There is a reason for that as well; Ranbir Kapoor’s brilliance as an actor ensures a matchless, superior performance in every single role, regardless of caliber of film. If he was magnificent in “Jagga Jasoos” (which he co-produced), so was he in “Barfi!,” a role diametrically opposite, and these were two diverse films from the same filmmaker – Anurag Basu.
“Raajneeti,” “Wake Up Sid!,” “Rocket Singh – Salesman Of The Year,” “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” and even “Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani” – and his career-biggest hit “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” – it is clear that in a better environment for actors, Ranbir Kapoor has shown his genetic brilliance, inherited from parents Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh – every time, prompting Manisha Koirala, who plays his mother in “Sanju,” to remark that he is “way better than Rishi Kapoor,” who was her co-star way back in the 1990s in “Anmol” and “Kanyadaan!”
On the eve of the release of “Sanju,” in which he plays Sanjay Dutt’s role, he was in a mad rush, running helter-skelter in director Rajkumar Hirani’s office, giving bytes and interviews on camera besides to the print media. And India-West had to do its best in the allotted time of SEVEN (!!!) MINUTES, which Ranbir (can’t call him ‘Kapoor’ – for this warm and friendly youth it sounds so absurdly formal!) good-naturedly extends to 12 by asking the PR team to go easy. After all, HE is the one who has to leave for an important personal engagement!
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: What was your first thought when Rajkumar Hirani chose you for Sanjay Dutt’s role and offered you the film?
A: 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 realized how honestly Sanjay-sir had opened up to have a film made on him, I decided to take it up. This is a story about values in life, and Sanjay-sir has never wanted to project himself as this amazing and holier-than-thou guy. We see a human side to his larger-than-life persona, of someone with flaws, who made mistakes, and how he and his family dealt with their consequences. The richness of the human material made me take up the film with confidence.
Q: You internalize your characters so much, whether it is a fictional sleuth like “Jagga Jasoos” or “Sanju.” What is the difference when the person is real?
A: Sanjay-sir is alive and still acting. He is a superstar who is so popular and loved. He is fresh in people’s minds, and so I had to make especially sure that I did not make him 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 his fans out there, Raju-sir’s fans out there…
Q: You seem to have got into the skin of Sanjay Dutt’s character. What were the efforts that went in?
A: I had to master the mannerisms, walk, talk, his style, and also his hairstyles. I was very inspired, to the point of being obsessed. I watched his films, videos of him and had so many discussions with Raju-sir and others.
Q: What about Sanjay Dutt himself?
A: Of course there was a lot of discussion with Dutt with him, especially about his drug-addiction and jail periods. I would often call him up at night and would ask about the parts of the script, and he would honestly tell me everything, reliving those parts of his life. This was a huge help to me as an actor, to understand what was going on in his head.
Q: What is your takeaway from this film?
A: 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. I am only acting out his role, trying to reach the truth through his acting, but my respect and admiration for him has doubled. Two sequences, in particular, stood out: the part where he lost his mother and the part where he lost his father. Re-living those moments for me was quite cathartic even for him. I really connected with them.
Q: Manisha Koirala plays Nargis, Sanjay’s mother. She called you a “way better actor” than your father, though she has not watched any of his recent films.
A: I take it with a lot of humility. She is 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 co-stars speak highly about me.
Q: In every film, your performance stands out, but so many of your films have flopped. Are you satisfied with the acclaim you get, or do you think hits are more important?
A: I am not looking for good reviews or awards – a hit is the most important thing: as they say, “Hit hai to fit hai!.” A good performance is not enough because, at the end of the day, a lot of money is needed for the making of a film. This is an industry, and a lot of people are involved here, and their livelihoods are all interconnected. This is the biggest lesson I have learned in 10 years: everybody should benefit from a film.
Of course, every film is a risk, whether it is a “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” or a “Bombay Velvet.” Par risk to Spider-Man bhi leta hai (Even Spider-Man takes risks)! This is a risky industry as there is no formula for success.
Q: You have big mainstream-oriented films now like “Brahmastra,” “Shamshera” and the Luv Ranjan film. Isn’t that a shift for you?
A (Shakes his head) From “Saawariya” on, my process has been pretty much the same – I have to like the script. These films are as much my voice as a “Bombay Velvet” again or a “Jagga Jasoos.” If they do well, people will say they were mainstream films. If not, they will say that they were niche films.
Q: I loved “Jagga…” and think that is a film ahead of time. But your father was very vocal against Anurag Basu.
A (Smiles): The audience is King. Yes, “Jagga…” had its brilliant moments and I love Dada (Anurag Basu)’s work, whether it is our “Barfi!” or this film. After “Sanju,” I hope to play Kishore Kumar in the biopic Dada has been thinking of making! Yes, my father was very vocal about him, but in that, I don’t support his views. Success is important, but failure is also a part of this business.