The TBIP Tête-à-Tête is a series of in-depth and intimate interviews with film personalities who are critical to this era of filmmaking. It is an attempt to understand their body of work. And their minds. Because who they are intrigues us just as much as what they do. Because what they do is because of who they are. In certain cases, despite who they are. Because integral to the love of cinema is the love of cinema’s idols— the chosen few whose mystique remains intact despite the tabloids’ obsession with their lives.
As soon as Ranbir Kapoor walks into the room, you know he is a star. Not because he is saleable. Not because he is from the Hindi film industry’s ‘first family’. Not because he is likely to be mobbed on the streets. Not because he is all over the gossip magazines. Not even because he keeps his dark glasses on.
You can tell Ranbir Kapoor is a star because he has that certain je ne sais quoi; that elusive glimmer we know oh-so-well and yet can hardly sum up. But that is not all that makes him intriguing. Ranbir is a fourth-generation legatee of a family that has etched a place for itself in every era of the last 100 years of Indian cinema. The Kapoors are synonymous with style, panache, revelry, songs, success, glamour, brilliance and an unshakeable allegiance to the movies. Ranbir, named after his grandfather, is taking his own road to being a Kapoor. The Kapoor legacy for Ranbir is like the unseen backstory of a character that an actor uses merely as a reference in his process. The real journey of the character begins from the first frame of the film.
Ranbir is also the quintessential representative of his generation. This month he turns 30. Already an accomplished actor, he has experimented with different genres. But he is not one to rest on his laurels, let alone his family’s. In fact he is not one to rest at all. He is in a hurry to keep moving and find out what happens next. He is not interested in mere laurels either. What concerns him most is his journey– the question of who he is and who else he can be.
The one thing that sticks out about him is his single-minded curiosity– a curiosity that borders on insatiable hunger. He is not satisfied. He is not smug. And yet, the surface is placid. He makes it all look effortless. Real cool. He says he hasn’t found his identifiable star trait yet. That is precisely what makes him stand apart. He is enviably comfortable in his own skin. And as you watch him lie back and take on the world, never losing sight of what is real and what is not, you know a new kind of star is born.
The full interview .
Ranbir on his first impression of the movie-making business, sucking at school, being treated differently by classmates, how little it takes to become an actor and the New York years
Ranbir on the disadvantages of being a star-son, wanting Rishi Kapoor to be known as his father, being consumed by desire, dealing with a tough phase in his family life and his first brush with destructive media-scrutiny .
Ranbir on why he doesn’t believe in ‘making muscles’, why he doesn’t want to play ‘man’, on not having an image, why he doesn’t think he is good-looking, who he does find good-looking and what he means when he says he wants to be the biggest star .
On wanting to know more about the mistakes Raj Kapoor, the man, made, his favourite scene from those played by Raj Kapoor, the actor, and how he interprets his grandfather’s legacy .
Ranbir on getting left behind on friendships, difficulties in dealing with people, his highest point so far and the feeling of things coming apart .
Ranbir on when he first felt he was good at his job, failing to develop a star trait, his father, that one role he really wants, his most overrated performance and his most neglected performance .
Ranbir on what he brought to his roles in Rockstar and Barfi, how he prepared for them, how Rockstar left him damaged and how he learnt to wear his emotions on the sleeve .
Ranbir on looking for a romantic hero in himself, his acting method, his one trick solution to acting problems and looking for conflict to build his emotional bank .
Ranbir on watching movies technically and recalling them as lived experience, Over-The-Top acting, relationship with music and debating whether he wants to play Kishore Kumar .
Ranbir on what he is working on next, why he could not play Raj Kapoor, struggling to give in to relationships and why nothing beats being sapped by a woman .
An edited transcript:
First time you remember being on the set. What did you see? What was that experience like?
Even though I was born in a film family, my parents always shielded me and my sister from the film sets. We never went to our dad’s set. We never knew what he did. We used to see his movies while eating dinner. I was like, okay, you know, he acts or he does something relating to films. I remember once there was a film called Henna which was shot with my dad. It was initially directed by my grandfather. He directed for around a couple of days, then he passed away. I remember going on the set and they were doing a song where the actress Ashwini Bhave was dressed in this gold, heavy, gaudy, garish dress. She was dancing and repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again. And I just remembered thinking: How boring is this life? It seems so stupid, it seems so retarded. I think that was my first memory.
When did you know you want to act? Who put that idea in your head? Was it ever debated? Did you want to do anything else? Also, I have heard that when you were born your grandfather got a telegram from some distributor. When did you find out about that incident?
While growing up you do hear about such things, but to be honest there was never a day, as such, that I decided that I want to be an actor.
But around what time?
Well to be honest, I sucked at school, and at some point in the seventh or eighth grade I realized that to be an actor you don’t really have to study too much. That attracted me more towards the profession— to become an actor and to do something related to films. That was the starting point. But it was never like I grew passionate about acting, that I will take it seriously. It’s a bit overrated. Yes, I do love it. I am very passionate about it. I love the world of films. I love the fact that I can work with such amazing people, such beautiful co-stars, enact such amazing characters. But it’s not a very hard job. You don’t have to put in that much of work before getting into acting. It’s only once you become an actor, that’s when you really have to, I guess, just have a bank of some emotional memory, experiences, exposures in life, intelligence, and just kind of evolve as a person with time and with films. And you just take a day at a time. It’s just like going to an office, but it’s just a fun office.
Was there any another competitive thing, that ‘maybe I also want to do this’…
Yes. Karate instructor, for the longest time I remember.
Karate instructor! How old were you then?
I was around, again, I think sixth or seventh grade. But I told my mother about this and she was not very happy about it. So I thought that being a karate instructor is looked down upon. But yes, I was quite good at it. I used to go home and beat my sister up. She is two years elder to me and we used to share the room that time. So I think that’s the time when my mom really asked me to stop learning karate because I think I was concentrating more on karate than my studies.
Did you have formal film education? Did you study acting?
I did. There was a point after 12th grade,it was a norm that every kid was sent to America for business studies because even if agar actor bannaa hain toh, agar… (if he or she wants to be a good actor and if… ) if you fail as an actor, then you need a career as a backup. I realized that even if I fail as an actor I am not going to leave films. I will produce films, I will direct films. I will continue trying to being an actor, try to better myself. So I said if I am going to do that all my life then why do I need to learn business or economics or other stuff? I told my dad that I would rather go to a film school. I’d learn a bit about films. It (going abroad to study) was more I guess for the exposure in life, to go live alone. I have grown up in a protected family. You know, to go live alone, be independent, see life, see people from different cultures, work with them, do the wrong things.
How long were you away?
I was away for three and a half years.
And you were studying films or acting?
I went to a film school. The School of Visual Arts (New York). I did film direction for three years and then I went to The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City and I was there for around nine months.
Oh, that sounds like fun.
Lot of fun.
When was the first time you remember getting a perk for coming from a family of celebrities?
Did people treat you differently?
They do. They don’t treat you differently actually, but you do realize that you are, somewhere, special amongst the 40 students in class.
Were they more curious about you?
Yes, the teachers, the fellow students. But over a period of time—I guess you have grown up with them for the period of 10 years in school—so they get over it.
Was your school in Bombay?
I went to a school called Bombay Scottish. It was a very strict kind of convent school. I have got beaten up a lot by the Principal. He has slapped my face from one corner to the other, held my head, turned me the other way and got me back, slapping. So I mean I have been beaten up. I have been a bad student. I was amongst the last three where the ranks were concerned but I never failed. I always managed to pass the year. I got 54.3 percent in my 10th grade. My best of five (average of the five subjects he did the best in) was 58 percent. I remember I was in New York that time and my father was directing a movie called Aa Ab Laut Chalen. I was assisting him. So my mother who was in Bombay went to get the results and when she got the results she called me and she was crying. She could not believe that I passed the 10th grade because I was the first male member of my family to have passed school without failing. I remember my grandmother who was in New York, my uncles, my father— they were all jubilant. They were like, “Man, our son is a genius”, for 54.3 percent.
When was the first time you felt any distinct disadvantage? It could have been something that held you back from doing something, for coming from a family of celebrities, or being a celebrity yourself.
I don’t like the tag of being called a star son. Yes, I knew I got the opportunity early. I have grown up in a luxurious background and blah blah… but after four years of working in the industry… I have worked really hard to earn this name for myself.
I don’t think anyone would call you a star son now.
You know, sometimes people do. I sense it sometimes that people say he is a celebrity child, he got it easy, that’s why he is what he is today. But I have really worked hard.
But Ranbir, you are not only just a star son but are also from the first family of Indian movies. It’s a slightly different spot for you…
Yes, I do feel responsible towards myself. I don’t take it for granted. I am brash and arrogant about that. Yes I do want to make my family proud— but I am here for myself. I am here to make a name for myself— to not be called Raj Kapoor’s grandson or Rishi Kapoor’s son. I want my father to be known as Ranbir Kapoor’s father.
Yes, sure, and you can be several people all at once. You can be that and yourself.
But what I was asking is that, I mean yes, that is a disadvantage that you are always labelled that but can you think of a more specific thing that you might have refrained from because of this?
Just… to be honest I am very grateful for everything in my life right now. I don’t think about the disadvantages because life has come with lot of good things right now. I am getting to do what I love and I think that is really the best part about life. My parents are proud of me. I mean, I am just grateful. There are things, like… your personal life is always up there, you are always being judged, and stuff like that, but that’s fine, that comes with the territory. That comes with a very small price.
You always dealt with it, because I remember you did this interview quite early in your career with Karan (Johar) and you were fairly young, not as professional,and you were talking about how you went on one date with Deepika (Padukone) and then both of you decided that, ‘No, we don’t want to distract the attention from our movies so we will not pursue this relationship for now.’ And I remember watching it and thinking: ‘Wow’. I mean, a lot of us wouldn’t be able to be so comfortable in making a personal decision because of our professional life so easily. Have you always dealt with it so well?
To be honest, I think anybody in my place would have. Acting in films is such an enticing, exciting job that you want to give it your all. When you are starting, you have every damn preconceived notion about life, dreams, about what life can be, what you can do in this profession and you are so filled with that, you know, you are consumed by the desire of such a brighter future…
…the small things don’t rank so high.
Yes, they really don’t. Me and Deepika at that time were in similar spaces. Her film was coming out at the same time as mine. We both were really impetuous and excited to be in the profession and get those opportunities that we had. So, we just decided to concentrate on them. And then I guess you slowly realize that you have to work. That work is important, and that it is your priority. But there is a personal life also, there is life beyond work. You just can’t be surrounded and enveloped by just work and work because it doesn’t make sense then.
Around the time when Rockstar was about to release you gave an interview where you said that you went into a shell just before the release of the movie. You were anxious about how people might form certain impressions about you. What interests me about that was that some years back your parents had some really bad speculative press about their marriage. Did you deal with that better than you dealt with your own bad press?
At that time press didn’t matter because I was also in the fire zone. See, I live with my parents so seeing them going through that phase; I was very much a part of it, I was right there. I live in a bungalow, my parents stay upstairs and just sitting on the staircases for four hours— from one o’clock at night to five in the morning, hearing them fight, break things. Everyone goes through it. It’s just that because my parents were celebrities, it was out there in the press. It was a little embarrassing in school because your friends don’t mention it because they are good to you but somewhere there is a sense of, ‘I know what’s happening in your life’. But you have to deal with it. What’s more important is that my parents became okay. They came out of this phase and they found companionship, love and friendship again. So yes, talking about the pre-Rockstar phase, post the Koffee with Karan with Deepika and Sonam (Kapoor) on it, there was a lot of negativity surrounding it and there was a lot of press post the show. I remember when I saw the show—and I saw it the day before it aired—the only thing I said was “Bitch”, I put it off and forgot about it because I know I was there on the day they were shooting and I know in what context it was said. We are all friends, we all work together. Yes I have had a history with Deepika and there were certain things that I personally thought she shouldn’t have said. But it’s fine. If she had to, she said it.
But she was saying it, possibly, in the context…
Absolutely. I think my parents took it badly and I wasn’t at that time in Bombay when they were and my dad spoke in press. So it just got a little ugly and the media replayed it again and again and took it to different directions. And there was a lot about my personal life, linking me with everyone who I was working with, linking me with anyone I went on a date with. It got a bit too much because I felt that it’s taking away the spotlight from my work and my movies. I had a very big film coming called Rockstar. I worked very hard for it and on it, and I didn’t want all this nonsense to distract people from my work.
Well it didn’t take you long to bring the spotlight back on your work but I want to talk to you a little bit about the projected image. The bunch of stars just before you, whether it was Shah Rukh (Khan), Aamir (Khan) or Salman (Khan), somehow the projected image got tied up with the kind of roles they were doing, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Is that changing now? Or is that something that bothers you?
I don’t know if it’s changing. I mean, I can talk for myself. It’s not something that I want to do. I don’t believe in PR. I don’t believe in creating a wrong perception about myself. I am what I am and I would rather want people to know me by the movies I do. What I am in my personal life, if I am a bad guy, if I am a good guy… I try to be a good human being and I believe in karma. If I am a good human being I will be successful, I will be liked. But I am not out here to be perceived wrongly by people just so that my work benefits.
But whether you like it or not, that ends up happening. I am sure that’s not how, maybe, Salman (Khan)planned it…
Then you start getting those roles and there is that idea that, you know, Salman can’t do a DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) because of the kind of ‘people image’ he has. Do you feel like that’s passé now and it’s not going to be of hindrance to you?
I hope I don’t get stereotyped. I hope I don’t get trapped in an image. So far I don’t have a style. I am eight films old after four and a half years in this industry and it’s too early right now for me to think about it. Like I said, it keeps changing with the movies you do. It keeps changing with the kind of characters you play, like you yourself mentioned. So I am not preparing myself for the time being.
I remember you said in some interview that you didn’t want to build a star body, you were happy with your flaws, you wanted to keep the irregularities and imperfections. I want to understand how that helps because you are still somewhat perceived as an object of desire.
To be honest I am very lazy. I can’t work out, so I am probably using it to make myself happy by saying I don’t want to do it.
There seems to be some sort disconnect in that so…
To be honest I also believe that making muscles and having a certain type of body will make me boring after two years. If I have a movie which requires me to be a certain way then I will probably do it. Right now I am 29 years old. I am getting the opportunity to play characters which are 22-23 because I can pull it off. I want to do that. I want to concentrate on roles and characters of younger boys, stories about younger people because there are so many stories to tell. Maybe after five years I won’t be able to do that. There will be 10 more actors after me who will probably be doing those roles. So if I am getting this opportunity right now why should I try what my seniors are doing like Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan. They are playing the roles now in regard to their age group. So I am trying to do the stuff now… what I’m getting offered. So it’s as simple as that. But I think the basic issue is that I am just lazy to go to the gym and make a body.
Fair enough. But you also said that about your scar and other things. So all of that is attributed…
You know, to be honest, I don’t consider myself good-looking. I am not trying to be modest here. I have a hundred flaws and I am very aware of it. Sometimes your movies are so glamorized, like you said, the perception of you out there, that your flaws are used as your advantages.
Who do you consider good-looking?
So many. Arjun Rampal is good-looking.
Anywhere. Doesn’t have to be from India.
Oh, anywhere! I think Ryan Gosling is really good-looking.
No? You don’t think so?
Okay. I think he is good-looking. I don’t find Brad Pitt good-looking.
George Clooney is good-looking.
Yes, George Clooney is good-looking. I mean, there are good-looking people but….
I just wanted to know what your beauty type is.
I don’t have a beauty type. To be honest I don’t know why I said these names also. I don’t consider anybody good-looking or bad-looking. It doesn’t matter how you look. It’s about the personality and the work you do.
Yes, I think it’s always everything. It’s always a package.
Yes, and I don’t know people around the world so well to really judge them… if they are good-looking or not.
Fair enough. You said in one of your interviews that you wanted to be the biggest star. I want you to quantify that. What does being the biggest star mean to you? What would it entail?
Well it is bit of an immature statement. But yes, I want to be the best at my job. Not just critically acclaimed. I don’t want to do the movies where, you know, the cities know me by. I want India to know me. I want to reach the small centres, I want to reach the small villages.
Sure, that’s a good definition of a star.
Absolutely. If I am part of the movies, it’s just not to make myself happy and intellectually masturbate and say that, “Wow, this is a great performance. Look at the nuances.” Unless every single individual in this country knows my name and likes me, I will never be a big star. So yes, when I say that I mean that I really want to be known all around India, maybe around the world too. But you need time. You need hard work, you need to make lots of sacrifices. I remember this one incident, I mentioned this earlier, well, this is what stardom means to me. I was at a coffee shop in Bombay and it was a filled place with about 100 people and Lata Mangeshkar was just passing by the shop. And it was so surreal because everyone who was at the coffee shop, they just stood up out of respect. They didn’t need to. It was late in the night, it was about eleven or twelve. But that lady, she didn’t demand it, she commanded it. I think that’s what stardom is. That is Lata Mangeshkar. And that’s what stardom means to me.
Actually the next question was going to be; that, if I say stardom, what is the first image that comes to your mind. You already mentioned one, can you think of another?
I guess I will go back to my family— my grandfather, Mr. Raj Kapoor. I have heard so many stories and I am very interested in knowing what his life was like because I was only six when he passed away. I remember when he went to Russia for the premiere of Awara.
Yes, I remember those pictures.
So, when he came out of the theatre and there was a huge mob of Russians waiting outside to see him, he went and sat in his car and—you won’t believe it—that all those fans, they carried his car and they took him to the hotel.
I mean, that is another kind of stardom. I see fans, they scream my name, they ask for autographs and all that. I mean, it’s great, it feels really nice. But it’s short-lived because there will be another heartthrob after you and there will be 10 more heartthrobs after them. That is also temporary. But I think what these guys have done is so permanently etched in people’s minds that it really makes a difference.
Talking about your grandfather, you once said that you want to be more than him. How do you mean that?
Again, that is a huge statement by me.
Sure, but fair enough.
But, like I said, if I don’t put out that energy, how will I achieve it?
I can’t really try to keep on competing with Imran Khan, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor or my contemporaries. I have to put a benchmark out there because I want to be that big, I want to achieve that much, I want to do that much; I want to produce, I want to direct, I want to act. My grandfather directed, acted and produced a movie at the age of 21. At the age of 29, I haven’t even done that yet. So, lots to do and miles to go. But, like I said, I am just the putting the energy out there for myself.
Give me a couple of specifics about it in few ways. Do you want to direct, produce? Is it the gamut of things that he was doing? One of the brilliant things about your grandfather was also that he was extremely passionate, and ‘passionate’, as a word, is really overused and abused, but he embodied it.
I think that word is abused now. At that time, that’s what really mattered because movies were made out of passion not out of commercial gains. I mean, yes, that was also important back then. But it came from a sense of truth, everybody had a story to tell, everybody had something that they wanted to put in— they put their life into the movies. My grandfather would have been such a successful actor-director. I remember he was going bankrupt with every flop film of his because he used to put out everything he had— his house, his wife’s jewellery. Post Mera Naam Joker his house was mortgaged. Every actor at that time wanted to work with Raj Kapoor but he decided to launch my father and a new girl in a woman-centric film. That takes guts, that takes vision, that takes passion. I mean, they were men, we are just boys. So it’s high time we grow and start acting like them.
Who have you heard the maximum stories from, about your grandfather? Have you read any book or anything about him or is it mostly what you hear from your family?
I think I got to know more about him from his movies. Shree 420 is my favourite film. But yes, my grandmother, his children, my chacha (uncle), my bua (aunt), but they had like personal, ‘father stories’. I was more interested in knowing Raj Kapoor the man.
Have you read any biography or any biographical excerpts?
Yes, I have read my bua‘s biography. She wrote a biography called Raj Kapoor Speaks. Mr. Bunny Reuben has written a book on him. But that’s all superficial, you don’t really get to know the real stuff. I want to know about Raj Kapoor, the faulty human being. The mistakes that he made and the grey guy. I don’t want to just hear about his awards, his rewards and how great he was. Beyond all that.
Can you think of, off-hand, one acting moment of Raj Kapoor that you really value?
Yes, of course. I remember this film Jagte Raho. I don’t know whether you have seen it. It’s an amazing film. There are moments where he keeps quiet throughout the film and he is just out there to have a drink of water. He is a beggar, and it’s a movie reflecting on the Indian society. Just towards the end when everybody is after him, to hit him thinking that he is a robber, he gives this long speech. And it is a bit reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. It was a bit like that. But it was just amazing, because all the angst and everything that this character went through in this movie, it so perfectly comes out in the right sur and rhythm that it touches you. You feel it. If you feel it, then it’s great. I am not here to see how your voice modulation is, how you are looking and how is the light hitting your face. You know, it’s not about that. If you feel a character, if you feel a moment, then that’s what really matters. And I really felt him in that scene.
Ranbir, you have been working for four years now, isn’t it?
You have dated some of your friends from the industry. Does it get a little bit incestuous? Does it get a little bit echo-chamberish? Do you feel the need to keep a connect outside?
You know, it’s very hard and I would love to. But we are so enveloped by our work. The only people we meet are the people we work with. And there are very few women on the set except the actress that you are working with. There are a very few people on the set, there are a few female Ads (Assistant Directors), there would be a producer and there would be a pretty actress who you are working with, and you end up spending most of your time with the actress. That’s why there are so many relationships between an actor and an actress.
But I was talking about a more holistic thing. I mean, that is just one aspect of it. But do you sometimes feel ensconced in a world where the same things are going round and round, where you need to keep one foot out, or one ear out?
I do have friends who are not from the industry, the friends I grew up with. But like I said I am also selfish about my life and career. It’s like… you are on this ride, and then you have some time off, and then you go back to your friends, and they are so far ahead in conversations because they’ve been hanging out every day and you feel left out like: ‘What’s happening here? I can’t catch up. I am not laughing at the same jokes. I am not understanding the beats. The conversations you guys are having about being to different places— I haven’t experienced them. You guys went on a trip to Goa, to Las Vegas and I wasn’t there.’ So, you do feel bad. You feel like ‘Oh shit, where am I losing out?’ But, like I said, I am just grateful, so I don’t think about these things.
What are the ways in which you changed since you started working, as a person?
As a person I have become more responsible. I think I haven’t changed much. I still think I am eight years old or 10 years old. It’s not that I was careless and was a spoilt kid back then. My outlook to life is the same. It’s just that I have seen more people, I have seen more of life, I have seen happiness, sadness and all the other emotions.
Do you handle situations better?
No I don’t know how to handle situations. I am really bad at handling situations.
Do you handle people better?
I am not a people person. I don’t like people.
I am bit of an introvert. I don’t have many friends. I am not a phone person. I enjoy the adulation I get because I am an actor. I want to have the whole of India love me but you put me in a room with people whom I don’t know and I am stiff. I can’t make polite conversations. And the other problem I have is that I want everyone to love me. I can’t stand the fact that you don’t like me— it’s irritating. I want you to like me. So that kind of bothers me and all my energy is working towards making you liking me. And if I have that problem then I can’t be a people person because I will end up spending half of my life just making people like me. So it’s just better to cut off and be with the people you are comfortable with. Save your brain cells for the few people who are in your life who matter so that you can give them more and you can be a happier person.
Can you remember one high point in these four years when you felt elated and optimistic and you felt like, ‘Okay, everything is coming together’?
It sounds a little pageant-y,this answer, but I think it was the birth of my sister’s child. She gave birth to a baby girl called Samara. I am such a detached person, like I told you, I don’t like people and I don’t really feel much. I don’t remember the last time I cried but I remember that surge of happiness that came to me after spending time with that baby and her calling for me, asking for me and making me believe that I matter.
One specific low point where you felt that things are coming undone?
You know you feel that every day. You try and be happy. You try to be optimistic but it’s a lonely job. Every day is a low point. Every day you are struggling to make yourself happy and make yourself understand that it’s going to get better. But it’s fine, because that’s what life is. It also kind of drives you for a brighter and better life.
When did you first realize that you are actually a good actor?
I am perceived as a good actor. It’s a good thing but I am also lucky because I have the opportunity to work with directors like Imtiaz (Ali), Sanjay (Leela) Bhansali, Ayan (Mukherjee)— who is really talented.
Ranbir, you are a good actor. You are a very good actor and you know that.
I know but you have to understand that you become a good actor only if you work with good people.
Sure. Of course. It’s a team job. I am not taking anything away from them.
You know it’s the opportunities that I have got. To be honest, I believe that you have to love something in the movie. Whether it’s a script, the director, the actress, you have to love something. If you don’t like the script, you have to like the actress. If you don’t like the actress, you have to love the director. So these three things are very important.
Fair enough. What I am saying is… I am a writer, and yet there is a moment in all of us writers’ lives when we feel like: ‘Dude, I can be a good writer. I have it in me.’ I am asking about a moment like that. It perhaps could have come before you joined films where you were like, ‘Dude, I have a knack for this. It’s not just that I want to do it.’
I think the day I got offered Rockstar, the movie. I was a big fan of Imtiaz and a big fan of that script because I had heard that three years back some other actor was doing it. I realized that, okay maybe I am doing something right here. Maybe I am good because I don’t think I deserved a role like this so early in my career. You know, the opportunity to work with Imtiaz. So, I was very excited and very proud.
Can a star ever truly, completely, play a character or must he play a little bit of the star as well?
Interesting question. But like I said, I haven’t found my stardom yet. I don’t have a trait yet. Every actor or big superstar has a trait. You can mimic them, you can copy them. If you give me Amitabh Bachchan’s name or Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan…
That’s interesting because I haven’t seen any mimic of yours.
I guess I haven’t developed it yet. It’s very important that you do because the recall value of an actor is because of the certain trait that he/she possesses. I am aware of it, but I can’t cultivate it.
Other than your grandfather, in your extended family, whose legacy do you feel close to? I mean, this could be your great-grandfather or Shashi Kapoor, or anyone?
My father. He is my favourite actor and I don’t say this because he is my father. He is always being natural. He is such a passionate man when at home. It’s about his family, his dog, his alcohol, his food, his movies, everything, he deals with so much of passion and so much of love, and he`s out there, you know, there is lot of honesty, there’s no hypocrisy. He’s never liked me so far in any movie, except Rockstar. He`s blatantly told me on my face. He didn’t like the movie Rockstar, he had problems with the film. But, it’s his opinion which matters the most to me and I’m glad that I have somebody like that in my life, you know, who’s not just comforting me, who’s out there to tell me the truth and mirror the right and wrong to me. So, that’s great!
Can you think of a couple of roles that you want to play and you’re not being offered?
Yes, if I like a script, I would do it blindly, whether it’s a big director or a new director. But the roles that other actors are doing, I haven’t heard of them, so I don’t know.
No, it can be a random role.
What’s already been done?
Yes or, you know, it could be like, I want to play a gardener. Anything.
I want to play like a bad guy, a bad guy without a back story, without, you know, trying to tell that audience that he is bad because of this. I just want…
Like the guy from No Country for Old Men?
Whose name I can’t remember right now.
I’ll just tell you.
I mean I know the actor, I don’t know… (the character’s name)
No Country for Old Men guy, the Joker, you know, I want to play characters like that but before that I have lots and lots and lots of characters in my mind, I want to play. I want to work with directors like Raju Hirani, Aditya Chopra. I am working with Anurag Kashyap now which would be interesting for me. I am working with Imtiaz again, I could be working with Zoya Akhtar, that’d be interesting. Um… Yeah! So, I mean it`s a fun time, you know, I am grabbing all the good opportunities that are coming to me. My father always told me that, you know, if you let go of a good film, it’s fine, but just remember that somebody else will do it and somebody else will probably gain from it, so don’t let go of a good film. So right now, I’m being greedy and just taking everything that is coming to me.
Can you think of a role that you feel like you are maybe not ready for, I mean, a certain kind of a role for which you feel like you’re still not ‘there’?
No, I can do anything, I believe. And also because movies make it easier, you know, this is not theatre, this is not something that I have to give five years of my life to for a role. With the help of movies, with the help of technology, with the help of so much, so many people, so many people who are good at their jobs from different departments, you know we gain from it. We are the face of their efforts and we take all the credit. So, I think anything is possible.
Okay. Can you quickly think of a performance that got more praise than you thought it should get?
Yes, Raajneeti. Like a performance of my own because I remember while shooting that movie, I didn’t know what the hell was happening, you know because there were all these actors and this political backdrop and certain language.
You mean that could have been because you were the best thing about that film?
So, that’s what I am saying because the character was great but I remember while dubbing the film, I was like: ‘Oh shit! This is what it meant.’ You know, so I kind of tried to damage control it or resolve it in the dub, but I just got too much of praise without really deserving it because I really didn’t work hard. I worked for around 40 days in Bhopal. Arjun Rampal, Katrina (Kaif), Manoj Bajpayee, myself had a ball, you know. We were just chilling and hanging out. Post-pack up we were in the same hotel and it was just a great time. And I didn’t realize the work I was doing and, you know, I used to just wake up in the morning, wear the costume, put on my makeup, read the line and say it, you know… I just, I think I just got saved because of Prakash (Jha), because of the character offered to me, because the other characters around me were so strong that this character stood out, you know, because he is the one who is triumphant in the end. So I kind of got lucky.
Fair enough. A performance which you felt did not get as much praise as you thought it might get.
I wouldn’t say my performance, I think, that would be a little…
Come on. We all have expectations.
But I would say Rocket Singh. Rocket Singh (Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year) was a film that I thought had potential to be… that it would be a Munna Bhai— when I saw the film, but nobody really went to see the film. And I don’t question the audience because if people didn’t go, there must be a reason, you know. I am not, I don’t have a God complex saying that ‘Oh, they are wrong’. But, yes, I wish that Rocket Singh… was seen by more people, you know, the film had a good heart, it came from a good intention. Shimit (Amin) is a wonderful person to work with. So, yes, I wish that film had got more than what it actually did.
Now, specifically about some films of yours. First Rockstar. What kind of research did you do? What did you bring to the role? How did you interpret it? Most importantly, what were your references to understand that role, especially emotionally?
See, it’s a little scary and embarrassing to talk about your emotional bank because, you know, that’s really personal, what you are used to and what brings out the angst.
Sure. Whatever you can share.
But like I said, I got really lucky because Imtiaz helped me a lot, you know. Like learning to play the guitar, getting into costume and looking a certain way is all superficial and bullshit but that’s our job, we have to do it and we’re getting paid for it. But we really need to understand the emotional arc of a character. To pitch it, to graph it and not to intellectualize it but actually feel it. There are certain things that you just can’t force. Like I said, you have to use your intelligence, your experiences and all of that. The director has to be somebody who you love and respect, who you trust, who can push you, who you want to give to, you know, there are certain people who are so stupid and arrogant, certain directors, with whom you are like, ‘Why should I give this person anything’, you know, that you become self destructive: ‘Screw it, my work will suffer but I am not giving you anything.’ But Imtiaz is such a wonderful human being and a wonderful director that I just wanted to give everything that I had, I could do anything for him where the film was concerned. So, yes, you know, I can’t really give you answers.
But, did you have any references?
See, I did my work. I lived with a Jat family. I went drinking with them, heard their stories, you pick up certain nuances. Their clothes, we went shopping at the same place, where you know, they buy their stuff, the jeans and all of that. Going to Mr. (A.R.) Rahman’s studio before the film started, we recorded the songs and I spent a good 45 days in Chennai in a studio. I think that really helped me a lot, it got me closer to the music, to the character, you know because songs really help you. Mohit Chauhan really helped me a lot, because what he put in, the angst that he put in the song already gave me a starting point to what I would do in the film as an actor. So, all these things helped but then you just discover it. Every day on shoot, you reach there, you are present, you are there, you surrender to the part and you just build on it.
You said somewhere that you never thought that a role could affect you that much. How did you mean that?
Like I said, I was so emotionally connected to this film that, we did this song Nadaan Parindey as our last song, we shot that in Hyderabad, which we used to show that last concert in Verona, in the film. And by the end of it I was empty. I was uninspired. Not saying that: ‘Oh, I have done such great work so I am uninspired.’ I just didn’t have anything in me. I stopped hanging out with my parents. I used to just be a vegetable lying on my bed, not watching TV. I started to read a lot, a lot of biographies, but I was empty, I was sad. I don’t know what it was. I was sad maybe because a special film is over. It was sad, because I gave so much to it and you question yourself: ‘Do I have more, you know, to give somewhere else?’ But then I really got saved because I did such a nice, light, happy film called Barfi! which brought a bit of sunshine in my life that time because it was so joyous to play a part like that and… I don’t know how to explain it. I am very bad at explaining movies and giving a synopsis of a film. But Barfi! was a character which was this happy-go-lucky kid in the seventies, who falls in love. He is deaf and mute but you never realize that he is handicapped because that film is not about the handicap. That film is about the time in Barfi’s life and the relationships he has. And Anurag Basu, I don`t know if you know him, he is a child. He is a child who works in chaos and cracks jokes, who farts on sets, cooks food and cancels shooting. And it was lovely, it really got me out of this darkness of Rockstar and this angst-ridden character that I played, made me little lighter.
I was going to ask you about Barfi! next, but I know that the film is not about a handicap. That is just a device to explore whatever one wants to explore about love and that whole environment. This was the first time you played someone with special needs. Is it a cross to bear? I mean because it is sensitive by nature and especially in a country like India, where the predicament of people who have special needs is largely ignored so was that ever… ?
No, I mean, I am playing a part in a movie. I am doing this film because I like this story, I liked what the director was saying through it and I liked my character. Yes, I am deaf and mute in it so initially I thought, ‘Okay, this is going to be a hard film, I have to do a lot of research and I have to kind of be this character and stuff.’ But it wasn’t so because we were not making a film to show off my acting skills, we were trying to tell a story and make it as engaging as possible for a large number of audience members. Now, if you want a glass of water and if you are deaf and mute, what would you do?
Well I would, if you would…
You would do this, right (makes a hand gesture indicating that he wants to drink a glass of water)? It is as simple as that. So, it`s not a film about sign language, it`s not about..
So, did you do all the research and then throw it away?
I did… thankfully I worked on a film called Black.
Oh, you did.
I was the assistant on that film where Rani (Mukerji) played deaf, mute and blind. So I worked a lot with deaf, mute and blind children. I trained the young girl who was there in the film so I already knew the sign language. I already knew that, so I just had to forget all of that, and make it relatable. You know, it was like going on set and playing dumb charades every day because there were no words and I just had to express myself through actions and there is a lot physical comedy. It was on the lines of Buster Keaton, a Charlie Chaplin kind of zone. It was very light and fun because I was expressing myself through actions, and my eyes and without words and that was very uplifting on certain days and on certain days it was very frustrating because this film took a while and I hadn’t said a dialogue or sung a song in the film or danced in a song for while. Now, finally with Ayan’s film I am doing all of that. And doing it with a vengeance.
Did you take any references from your grandfather`s films because you know this is..
Well, I used my grandfather’s style a lot for my first film Saawariya, so I exhausted that.
Yes, if you see that film again, I mean I wasn’t trying to copy him but I was just trying to keep his heart. How he was in Awara and Shree 420 and how he played the tramp. Leaving that aside, for Barfi!..
But he always had so much of sadness in him even when he was happy which you didn’t have. In Saawariya, you were very happy.
Right. Yes, it was a different character, it was a different world but that was my inspiration for that film. So for Barfi!, I didn’t use him much, you know, I used Buster Keaton more.
Fair enough. What was it like, the whole universe, wherein you wear emotions on your sleeve because it`s that kind of acting, was it different?
No, trust me, it’s amazing because that’s what really matters, it’s not about really going and giving a great shot and going home and saying, “Aaj maine kya shot diya.” You know, you go and empty yourself every day, little by little. You give something, you don’t realize it and the fact that you don`t realize it, makes it more special because there were so many days when I went home from Rockstar’s or Barfi!’s set and I was like, ‘Shit, what did I do today, man?! Am I doing the right thing? Am I working? Is my career going to get over?’ but that kind of fear and questioning is so important, because that`s what makes it fun and that`s what makes it better because there is no sense of cockiness or over-confidence like “Maa! Aaj main kya shot de ke aaya hoon.” You wonder, ‘Is it going okay? I am doing it right?’ You know, I am feeling it, but I don’t know. Do you know? And I am calling the director and asking: “Okay?”, and the director says, “Do you think it was okay?” That’s how the process gets richer, it’s more fulfilling by the end of it.
Ranbir, the romantic hero is such an integral part of the star actor’s oeuvre. Have we been able to adapt this genre for the times we live in and have you found your romantic hero?
Okay. Yeah, but what is the romantic film of our generation. We still consider Dilwale Dulhania (Le Jayenge) as our love story.
That’s not our generation technically.
I mean, it’s been a while, but it will come. But love has changed, love has evolved. Love has been divided into two different genres. You know, there is the city love and there is the old school, small city love. So, somebody will find the middle ground. I am not taking the responsibility of saying that I am going to do it. Sometime a film might come, and you wouldn’t realize it and it will break it. I’m sure when they were making Dilwale Dulhania… , they didn’t realize it was going to impact people so much.
Yes, they didn’t realize that it would be the love story of the generation, but we are still in the escapist mould. Even for that generation, it was not like love was like that, except that it worked. People were not cynical enough to reject it. Maybe, we are, now.
We are, but we are not also. You know, still, films like Dabangg, Singham and Rowdy Rathore are very loved films so you know, but you may say that they are nonsense films, but people are loving it. The collections show that people are going to the theatres again and again to see these films. So it’s a debate about what are good films, what are bad films, what should we do, what should we not do, but you can’t pre-decide that I want to make the love story of this generation and go and approach it that way. I am doing a love story with Ayan, who made Wake Up Sid with me, with Deepika and myself, and we are making the film with the conviction that this can be the love story of the generation. Because it’s not a romantic comedy, it’s not the genre that Saif (Ali Khan) does really well. It’s a pure love story with lot of heart, emotions, songs, dances, you know the romantic number, the ‘Sangeet number’ and all of it. But done in his interpretation, trying to adapt to our sensibilities. So, hopefully that could be, I’m not…
And have you found the romantic hero in you— that note, that pitch?
You know to be a good romantic hero, which I’ve realized now, over the films that I’ve done, you just have to be in a happy space in life, because so much of your personality goes in it, because when you do a love story, you aren’t being helped by a certain character. You know, it’s real, it’s your personality to come, it’s your charm, it’s your charisma, it’s your language, your beats. Rockstar, Barfi! had certain characters— Jordan and Barfi. I was given costumes, certain mannerisms, diction, certain walks, but films like Ayan’s film, personally, I am being myself. I don’t have all of that.
You might even find a star trait, a mimic-able star trait.
So, it’s tricky because then there is that fine line of hamming. Trying to put up a personality which is not yours or playing a personality which could be very boring. You don’t know if my real life personality is good for screen. I would only know once the film releases.
You know, you said the most important thing for you is the character’s psychology, the character’s emotional graph. What else do you work on? Do you have a method? Would you learn to take photographs or learn a little about cameras, if you’re playing a photographer? Or learn to play the guitar? What extent do you go?
Yes, I do all of that. I am cheating an audience always. I learnt to play the guitar for Rockstar but I learnt enough just to kind of play the chords of the songs. If you ask me to play a song, I won’t be able to do it because I have not put in that much time to learn it. I would do a little bit, I don’t like writing character biographies and you know, doing paper work, going and being the part and all. Sometimes the film and the character makes you do all that stuff. And sometimes you don’t need it. You just use your experiences and your memory and you just go and approach it.
We touched upon this a little bit earlier, but to be able to invest in other people’s emotional journeys, you yourself have to have a library of emotions within you that you can tap into. It has to reflect or refract from inside. How do you build that bank up?
No, I mean that’s really interesting, that you say that. Because of the background I’ve grown up in, because of the lifestyle that I’ve had, I don’t have that much of experience and exposure.
I mean none of us do, because we are protected, shielded, kind of…
Exactly. So, yes in some strange way, I am always looking for conflict in life. You know, if it’s from a girlfriend, if it’s from my parents, I am forcing it sometimes. I believe that I am running out of emotional content in me. Like, what are my experiences? What have I seen? I meet few people and they have so much, they are so rich, they are so experienced that I feel shortchanged. It’s stupid of me to say this but it’s very important to have that.
No, I know what you are saying.
You have to constantly build it. It comes with relationships. Like I said, you can’t force a conflict, it will come on its own. You have to be in touch with people, you have to be in touch with life, you have to travel.
But it can come from other people as well. I mean, if you feel close enough to an experience, even if it’s not yours. If you really get into it, even if it’s a friend or a…
Absolutely. It can come from other people and thankfully for me like I said it can also come from the director. The director can share so much of his personal experience and give it to you. I have three personal experiences that I use— if it’s a happy moment, if it’s a sad moment, if it’s anxiety. So you have these three things that you can use and it helps you because it kind of puts you in that zone. Music helps you a lot. Smell is something that I use a lot. I try and use a different perfume in every film. Sounds stupid, but when you do two films at the same time and when you go back to this film from the other film’s shoot and you wear the same perfume kind of puts you back to the same space. So you have certain methods that you use and you develop over the years.
What are some of the other tricks that you use? Is it a different speech or a different walk? Do you have any tricks to slip back into character, especially when you’re doing two to three films?
I mean, I have one simple thing that I use all the time. If you can’t do something well, if it’s a dance, if it’s a fight, if it’s a dialogue— make it goofy. Always works. That’s one trick that I use the most because I feel that that’s what always works. If you can’t make something heroic, if it’s not coming naturally from you, make it goofy. If the audience smiles with you on that, that’s heroic itself.
Right. So, you tap into your goofy persona to fill in the voids. And will there come a point, hopefully, when you’ll have the hero fill in the voids, when you become a natural hero?
That’s the hope that I have. Heroism doesn’t come naturally to me. I can’t do Dabangg and Singham because I don’t have the conviction right now in myself to do that. Never say never. But like I said, right now if I was doing a Dabangg or a Singham, I would approach it more with a sense of goofiness and a little bit, like how I like to see the characters. So if Chaplin was doing Dabangg or Singham how would he approach it? That’s how I see it.
How involved do you get into other aspects of the film? Does it depend on your relationship with the director?
Absolutely. And depends on the nature of the film— how much of your involvement is required. I have always believed that people are doing their jobs because they are the best at what they do.
But, out of your interest?
I can’t tell the cinematographer to put the lights here, because I don’t know it. He knows it better than me, that’s why he’s hired. A director is making his movie because it’s his story. He has to have something to say through his film, otherwise I wouldn’t do it myself. So I try and keep, you know, out of all the specifics of people doing what they do. I don’t get involved myself.
But do you try and find out who is doing what, why and all that? Do you involve yourself mentally at least?
Yes, before the film starts, I would like to you know who is being hired for what. I would want all the best people to come as a team because we spend hundred days on a film together, we spend so much of time together, that there have to be good people. If there are not good people then just a negative energy seeps in. Rockstar was a very special film for me not only because of the character and what it gave me post the film. It was because the people on the film set were lovely. The assistant director, the cameraman Anil Mehta, the set director Sumit Basu, Dileep Subramanian on sound, Imtiaz, Nargis (Fakhri), the co-actor who played Khatana Bhai (Kumud Mishra), and Piyush Mishra. They all were such wonderful people. We used to drink, we used to party and we used to speak about the movie and we all believed in Imtiaz’s conviction. So all that really helps.
And it comes across…
It comes across. It reflects on the screen.
We spoke about films, watching films, earlier. Was there any point when you started watching films more technically?
Yes, I remember when I came back from America, after I assisted Mr. Bhansali on Black for a year. And post that for one and a half years I sat at home and only watched movies. I watched everything from Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Mehboob Khan, Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray. Started from the 40s and came all the way to 2000. I think that was very important because we lived such a…. what’s that word… we are so enamoured by America, American movies and Hollywood, and all of that.
That’s because we grew up on that.
Yes, we grew up on that. And we forget our roots. If I am going to build my life in the Hindi film industry and if I don’t know where it’s all begun, what kind of movies we made, what is the history of an Indian hero and how are our emotions and our heroines and our songs and our dances. How would I… what would I do on screen? You know, I can’t come from America, from a film school or an acting school, and go on a film set after only seeing (Marlon) Brando, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I have to see my own heroes, my own filmmakers. I think that truly helped me and made me understand, accept and love Indian cinema more. And that was the beginning and that’s what made it easier for me.
Isn’t movies one place where you can get some of your emotional experiences from? I mean if it`s a good movie, it can feel like a lived experience.
Absolutely. And I felt so much. Seeing films of Guru Dutt and my grandfather Raj Kapoor. I still use them, you know, I use their characters, their songs, some references of a shot that they gave for a certain situation which is not clichéd. You know, if you’re sad, you will not look sad and cry. If you’re sad, maybe you’d laugh. To think of something which is real and not really what is clichéd and what is your perception of a certain emotion, how you’re supposed to act it. I mean there’s so much to it. Right now you’re just a molecule of what your potential is.
I remember Saagar, I remember a shot in which Kamal Haasan is crying and he goes and washes his face and he comes out. And you know he is a bit over-the-top but I remember feeling that scene, it always feels like my own…
You know, a lot of people look down upon over-the-top acting but it’s very hard also. You know, like what Shah Rukh Khan does.
Ranbir actually you nailed it earlier when you said that it doesn’t matter if it is over or under-the-top if it makes you feel and moves you.
Exactly, that’s what I’m saying.
I mean, even if Shah Rukh plays Shah Rukh five hundred times, and I’m still crying, then it doesn’t matter.
That’s the magic, exactly. If I’m just quiet through the film and I’m giving this shot where I’m intense and I have tears coming from my eyes— that’s regarded as good acting, but it’s so easy. That’s very easy. Stuff that, you know great superstars like Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan, as a matter of fact even Aamir Khan in his earlier work what he has done, that’s some really good work. What Shah Rukh Khan did in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, it’s all heart. You know, you can feel him, you can feel his sadness, you can feel his happiness. That’s what matters you know, it’s just a feeling.
What about music? You know, we were talking about it earlier. Are you usually into music, do you have like a… ?
I am not actually and that’s a huge disadvantage for me because I’m not musically inclined. I can’t pick up an iPod and hear music. I don’t have an attachment towards music. I like Hindi film music, I listen to a lot of Hindi film music.
Do you listen to old Hindi film music?
Old, specially old Hindi film music and also because of assisting Mr. Bhansali— his knowledge about Hindi music. He told me: “Listen to Kishore Kumar, listen to Mohammed Rafi, see how they sing, how they pronounce words. Look at the romance that they have with the language.”
And the lyricist too.
And the lyricist and the thought. Exactly.
The nuances of every single… I mean, the fact that they could manage to write about a million songs on love is because they’ve managed to capture so many nuances of love.
Do you have emotional memories with songs? Like you said with perfumes, like a couple of songs remind you of particular relationships or particular phases in your life?
Absolutely. Like I said, you use music. Music is an important tool that sometimes… it gets you into certain state of mind, and a lovely state of mind at that, because there’s a vacuum which is created and you concentrate on that certain emotion, feeling, that music brings out. I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument and I feel very bad about that because I am a performing artist, you know. If you go to the West where entertainment started, actors were meant to sing, meant to dance, meant to act, do all of that. I am a chor actor. I have singers who sing for me, I have choreographers who choreograph for me, everything is done. All I have to do is, wear makeup and say lines, saying them in very drastic way. So yes, music is something I don’t have a relationship with, but I would like to because my father is so musically inclined, my grandfather was so musically inclined. He used to compose his own songs, play instruments. But I guess, you’re born with it, you can’t cultivate it. But jaise kehte hain ki (like they say): “Music ke saath rishta banana is very hard(it’s very hard to build a relationship with music).”
Are you doing that Kishore Kumar biopic or are you not?
You know, I’m interested but you can’t fuck around with that. That is Kishore Kumar. Unless it’s coming back to the same thing about feeling, coming back to the same thing about the right heart, about enacting this great legend on-screen. If it’s just done as an item, ki ‘hum Kishore Kumar pe picture bana rahe hain’ (that ‘we’re making a movie on Kishore Kumar’) then it doesn’t make sense.
Yes, of course the script will have to be…
There has to be a story, there has to be a story which kind of completes this man’s story and gives him that much of respect, which he commands. It’s not there yet. You know it’s just the idea and the idealism of playing Kishore Kumar, right now.
So, Bombay Velvet is next for you?
Actually I’m doing a film called Besharam with Abhinav Kashyap who made Dabangg. It’s a really fun caper. I’m playing a tapori (vagabond) character, so that’d be interesting for me, after Ayan’s film. Then I do Bombay Velvet which is Anurag Kashyap’s first movie on Bombay, and his take on… You know it’s this, Salim-Javed meets Manmohan Desai love story and you know meets Scarface meets Carlito’s Way. So it’s a very interesting world for me. It’s based on the fifties to the seventies, it’s at the time when Marine Drive was just coming about, everybody wanted a piece of the pie.
And Gyan (Prakash) has written it, and he’s brilliant.
Absolutely. I’m actually meeting him tomorrow.
Yes, he is in town.
So, that should be fun. Then, I am working with Imtiaz again. He’s written a wonderful contemporary love story, another love story, another take on love.
He’s clearly obsessed with love stories.
He is and I admire that, that he is not trying to make films that don’t come naturally from him. He’s not trying to make a comedy film or an action film because he has nothing to say in that genre. Today Imtiaz is a very successful director. He can pick any genre. Any actor in this industry would work with him and he could make millions and millions. But he’s just trying to tell stories that come naturally from him. And I believe that, he may make faulty films, I’m not saying that he makes perfect films and that they’re complete—Rockstar had many faults in it—but at least they come from a sense of truth and conviction and I really respect and believe that.
And I think this experimenting with genres is a little overrated. I mean look at (Pedro) Almodovar. He made the same film possibly 40 times and it’s absolutely fine and each one of them is fabulous.
Also (Martin) Scorsese and all these filmmakers. They’ve come from a certain world and they’ve seen these people in their lives and they know that feeling and emotion and they indulge in it and that’s great. You just have to kind of trust that person, believe in his conviction and go along with it.
Would you consider playing Raj Kapoor now?
You know, I was offered.
I heard about that.
I, actually, myself, was writing a film on him, you know, when I was back in school in New York, but I wouldn’t want to.
You know it’s a bit tricky, right? I mean there is a Raj Kapoor that exists in our collective memory and there is a Raj Kapoor that exists for you guys.
Exactly. And why should I? I mean, I can’t tell a story the way it’s meant to be told, to put it as simply as that. It is a little bit… controversial is not the word, but if I ever make a film on Raj Kapoor I wouldn’t really paint him as this amazing, beautiful human being. Like I said, I am attracted…
But Ranbir, he always spoke very candidly. I was watching one of his last interviews couple of days back. He himself was so forthright. He never tried to paint himself.
Of course, he is forthright but you need to understand that actors… we all are forthright, I mean most of us are.
But 70 percent of us, even in the effort of being forthright are a facade.
You can’t deny that. It’s still a camera and you are still aware of certain things and your intelligence is processing your questions so much, you know, like what is the right thing to say, what not to say.
Lets step away from the good and bad, when was the last time someone was as fascinating in the industry as Raj Kapoor was?
I believe that too. You know, it’s been a long time since him. But, like I said, because I am his grandson, because of what I know him as, I wouldn’t want to make a film on him. But I would like to see a film on him. A good filmmaker like Raju (Rajkumar) Hirani or…
Well, I like Raju Hirani’s films. They entertain me, they speak for a larger diaspora of people.
Sure, I was just talking about the pairing. I was just talking about him directing. Ideally, I would like to see a film on Raj Kapoor by every good film maker in this country because then there will be all different films.
Yes, that would be interesting. Actually, Yash Chopra wanted to make a film on the Raj Kapoor and Nargis’ love story.
But with both the families around it would be tough, right?
Yes. And I also think that it’s a bit unfair because my grandmother is still living and we don’t want to subject her to it. So because of that, the idea was dropped.
Well, fair enough but I hope the film is made someday.
I hope so too.
Because it was so much more than love. When you get over that, you know that they were probably two people interested in each other and there was so much more in that relationship and the way they built that studio…
See, it’s simple. I don’t think we have cracked biographies yet. We don’t know how to make them yet. Biography is a very tricky genre because it’s not just about from birth to death, it’s not just a documentary. You know, I will read a book instead. You have to make it engaging, you want people to really…
It’s also a bit about interpreting life.
Exactly. You know, I saw La Vie en Rose. How do you pronounce it?
La vie en Rose.
Did you see it?
I mean I was blown away.
I am a big Marion Cotillard fan.
Yes, and I was amazed. I saw it day before night and I thought that was such an interesting, engaging, intriguing way of making a biography. The way the screenplay unfolds, and it really pays a fitting tribute to…What’s her name? The singer? (Edith Piaf)
We are blanking out of names. You know, a film like The King’s Speech.
Also a film like The Iron Lady. It’s not that great a film but what do you pick to talk about…
…when you are talking about (Margaret )Thatcher, what do you pick to talk about.
Exactly. It’s not about really painting how Thatcher was born and how she died.
For me it was really interesting that they focused on her relationship with her husband and her dementia.
Yes, that’s what really matters. And the last shot I still remember when she goes back to washing the dishes and it’s just on her face, it’s everything. So yes, we have to crack that biography genre. I don’t think we have cracked it yet.
Okay. One last question— what would you change about your life if you could right now?
Brush my teeth at night, eat vegetables and really kind of surrender to relationships. You know, I am really scared to surrender myself to a person— be it a girlfriend, or my parents, or to anyone. I am holding back a lot.
Do you think you are ready to do that?
You are ready anytime. As they say, you are ready when you want you to be. But right now, I am just fighting it.
But it can take a toll, especially given that we have professional lives…
But it’s worth it because at the end of it when you are old… films are great— you will remembered because of them, your hard work, your success and your money and your luxury. But it’s really these relationships and the emotional content of your life, and how rich you are emotionally, is what matters.
Just to be devil’s advocate, it could also destroy you. It could also sap you.
But it’s worth it. That’s the exciting risk in life, isn’t it? The relationships that you make.
Is it better to be sapped by Rockstar than be sapped by a relationship?
It is. But I think being sapped by a girl with whom you are completely in love with, and you surrendered. I think that’s way more exciting than any film.
(Location Courtesy: Taj Lands End, Bandra)
– See more at: http://thebigindianpicture.com/2012/09/issue-1-ranbir-kapoor-the-tbip-tete-a-tete/#sthash.JH5xw9Bz.dpuf