I remember Dilip Kumar saab had come for the premiere of Saawariya, he didnít say anything then. The next day he drove to my house. He didnít come inside, he told the watchman to call me. He sat me down on the road, gave
me a lot of love and said, ďI give you a lot of blessings because I see a lot of Raj (Kapoor) in you.Ē
Every morning when we have breakfast and are both going to our respective shoots, he (Rishi Kapoor) is 10 times more excited than me, constantly talking about the movie and the character he is playing. And that is very heartwarming and inspiring as an actor.
I havenít been offered any multi-starrers as of now, but I would love to do a two-hero film. I would love to work with my generation of actors, I would love to work with the Khans,
I would love to work with Hrithik Roshan.
During the anniversary edition of Screen The Big Picture on brandbuilding, an interesting point was made by R. Balki, who besides being a film-maker, is CCO and Chairman for Lowe-Lintas; he pointed to a new trend in fashion advertising ó the no-logo trend and actor Ranbir Kapoor he said, is akin to that no-logo conceptó an actor/brand that you canít really pigeonhole into convenient slots.
Itís true, the young Kapoor, who just turned 31 defies stereotyping. So far heís surprised the audience and the critics alike with his standout performances in a variety of films, be it his Rs.150 plus crore hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or Barfi! that had him play a deaf and mute boy. Before that he gave us diametrically opposite films like Rocket Singh- Salesman Of The Year and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani with a competent performance in each film.
With Besharam, his next film to hit the marquee, Kapoor is ready to surprise us yet again with a desi version of sorts of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and a character complete with a hirsute chest on display! This is being touted as his biggest ever film release with over 3000 prints, one more step towards taking his place as the biggest superstar. In a freewheeling chat, he fesses up on starry ambitions, bossing over his mother on the sets, matching histrionic skills with dad Rishi Kapoor, giving a takkar to the Khans and a lot else.
Congratulations for the fabulous run that Yeh Jawaani Yeh Deewani had. Now everyone is expecting Besharam to surpass that besides acknowledging you as the new entrant to the superstar league.
Yahan par sab chadhte suraj ko salaam karte hain aur jab suraj doob jaata hai then everyone forgets.Whatís also happened is that the whole Ďsuperstarí word has been bastardised. A superstar is what these Khans are or what Amitabh Bachchan is, for the work they have done for more than 25 -30 years in the field of entertainment and even outside of it. Sometimes, they (the media) directly asks you ki Ďyou are giving takkar to Khansí. I feel so embarrassed that you have used their names in the same sentence as mine. I would say that the times are good ó I work hard; everybody works hard ó so films are doing well. Tomorrow if Besharam does not do well, they will say, ďFailed!Ē
The understanding I came with was to be a good actor. In my own home, my father endorsed the view that stars fade away but actors last. He is enjoying a new career as a character actor. Heís so busy and so happy because heís always been a good actor. I think if you have that mindset, you wonít take success to your head, (and) you wonít take failure to your heart. I am getting the opportunity to work with such good directors ó Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Basu, Anurag Kashyap, Ayan (Mukerji) to name a few and I am just taking advantage of that. I am holding them as tight as possible so that they donít go away.
You once mentioned an incident when your grandfather Raj Kapoorís car (with him inside) was carried by his fans in Russia as the epitome of stardom but with changing times, would you say that the yardsticks of stardom have changed too? Would it now be the number of people following you on microblogging sites?
I donít think that kind of hysteria or madness around stars exists anymore, but then again every star generates his own madness. I am sure Amitabh Bachchan generated his own madness, the Khans had their own madness but every generation is different. Today of course, it is much lesser because the mystery has died out. Earlier people used to wait for a heroís film, but today we are present all over, everywhere. Today the stardom is also different, it is more about the movies. More about characters, the work you do in the world of entertainment. The good part is that a film will go beyond a star today. I think thatís a good change.
And how does one consolidate oneís brand in times like these?
To me film-makers and the choices you make are the only factors that builds your brand value. I donít do PR. I think forced social work or images like casanova and wild child ó all of it is a fraud and people see through it.Today because of these social networking platforms, everybody is a critic, everybody has a voice and a fair opinion so itís very important that you do good work because you can put down a facade, but you canít put down a good work.
You have defied all stereotypes ó your father often mentions how the roles you picked went against conventional wisdom and yet you made them work for you.
I am constantly fighting and changing it. I am not consciously, but subconsciously doing parts and becoming a part of worlds which are challenging me as an actor. In my entire career there are only two films of my 10 films that I relate to and thatís Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani because they are urbane characters and are somewhat derived from my life. All other films are derived from the film-makers I am working with. So as far as image is concerned, I am not trying to stick with one. I am too new for that, but I am sure as time passes by, with new voices ó both directors and actors coming in ó that image is also going to break.
Any films that you watched recently and enjoyed?
I saw Highway the other day and I truly believe itís one of the finest films I have ever seen. I was so bowled by it. Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Kai Po Che and The Lunchbox are other films that I really enjoyed. I thought they were all very, very fine films.
Okay so what gets you to say yes to a film/director?
It depends on the directoróif I just meet a person who is honest with his work, has a story to tell and is making a film with me not because he will get my dates or because I am a so-called star that people come and see. So I think thatís something that really appeals to me. But yes, I am a little blind towards Imtiaz, Anurag, Basu and Ayan because they have added a lot to me with the films that I have done with them. I have had a great working relationship with them, but beyond that I am just looking for honesty.
Fortunately for me, I have grown up in the lap of luxury. I have not seen a dearth of money so thatís not my motivation. Thatís not something that I am working for, which allows me to be a little more fearless. It gives me an advantage over people, who are really trying to make a living through this profession. For me itís my passion, something I love doing.
What genre would Besharam fall under?
Action, comedy, romance ó itís a quintessentially entertaining film, but itís a very hard genre. I donít have the brand or the face value of a Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan, who can do larger-than-life characters and people will believe it. You have to have a lot of conviction and a lot of kadar for the dialogues you say, a certain persona. So I am trying it, even though at this juncture of my career itís a bit of a risk, but I want to aspire to do better and do different genres.
After Besharam, I have Bombay Velvet, which is a crime drama set in the í50s-60s. Itís a gangster film, a love story where I play a street fighter, so again itís a different film. Then I have Jagga Jasoos, which is again a detective filmóSherlock Holmes meets Austin Powers meets Karamchand. So it has a new world ó a musical wherein one-hour-fifteen-minutes of the film will only have music. The character stammers, so he sings to express himself. I have tried different things. I donít have a formula, or the guarantee that these films will work. I am insecure about these films, but that is something that also motivates me. There are a lot of people involved with the film and whether we succeed or not is unknown, but there is a lot of joy in it.
There is no preachiness, it is simple entertainment. Itís a caper with interesting characters. There is a lot of comedy in it. Romance, action. I think the dynamics between my parents, who play cops and me the robber, is very interesting. The format is a bit like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but obviously adapted to a Hindi viewership. It was fun, except that Iím playing a vulgar, repulsive character because thatís what I had to do so that people enjoy the journey of the character right from the first scene itself. As I said, a film like this needs a lot of conviction, so we have tried to do that. I will only know once the film releases, whether it is good enough or not.
The promos and the songs have got a lot of different reactions. There has been a lot of negative reaction too, which is fine because I am not relying on just the opening of a movie. There is also word-of-mouth. I think itís a good film, Itís an entertaining film and if you make an entertaining film, people want to go to the cinemas. People want to have a good time. I have promoted all four films óBarfi!, Rockstar, Besharam, Yeh Jawaani...ó for 15 days. I have interacted with the same media people, I put in all my effort but at the end of the day, the audience decides whether they want to watch a movie or not. Itís their money. My job is working hard in the movie which I have, so now I will just wait and watch and let the audience decide.
And we get to see you share screen space with your parents too. What was it like to work with two very fine actors, who are also your parents?
Personally I was very excited about this opportunity to work with them, but I was more like a parent to them. It was like Ďthey are in my movie, they should not feel troubled and they should have a really good timeí. And because they are such good actors, they never got their characters home. There is that very fine line, which they balance very well. I of course, was constantly telling my mother, ĎDo this, do that.í With my father, I would be looking at him slyly to watch how he gives the shots, because somewhere I idolise him. I want to be like him, so it was more like an actor to a senior actor relationship(sic). I got to learn so much because he puts in so much effort to come across as effortless. He never had a style, heís never copied an expression óitís always something new, always spontaneous. So the feeling that sh**t, I have worked with Rishi Kapoor, someone I have idolised so much, has hit home only now.
Did you watch films Shuddh Desi Romance and D-Day, both with stellar performances from him?
I watched Shuddh Desi Romance. I missed D-Day because I was shooting in Sri Lanka but yes, he is constantly pushing himself. There was a time when he was the leading hero, doing the same loverboy parts, but now I think heís really enjoying playing different roles, experimenting with his looks and all of that. Every morning when we have breakfast and are both going to our respective shoots, he is 10 times more excited than me, constantly talking about the movie and the character he is playing. And that is very heartwarming and inspiring as an actor.
What is the process that you follow when facing the camera?
I donít feel any pressure or responsibility. I feel that I should be honest to my work, as much as I can. I feel that I should take as much as I can. Itís a simple process. There is no method acting. There is madness, there is passion and there is a childlike quality that I have; apart from that I donít really take it seriously. There is no intellectual process, no method acting. I am not changing the world. I am acting. I have to take that on face value. I canít become so serious about whatís happening around me and believe that I am a star. Thatís relative. If I do good films, that will come. If I do bad films that will take away the joy of it.
I donít feel that I have achieved so much. Yes, I am grateful that it has come my way but I feel that I have so much to achieve. I am still hungry, I am still ambitious. I want to reach limits where I will set a standard. Right now, I am only trying to match the standards that have been set by my predecessors. Like what the Khans have set, what Hrithik Roshan has set, I am trying to touch it. So I think there is a long way to go. I have achieved only 2 per cent of what I want to do.
Outside of the hits and misses, what is it that drew you to acting? I remember reading that for the longestó after you visited your father on the sets of Heena and saw him do the retakesó you did not think of acting as fun.
I really started enjoying acting in Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. The first films are just a product of what people have said to you in life. You come from a film family, so you have certain notions ó letís act, letís try and do something. Eventually you fall in love with what you do and thatís a more organic process. I wasnít ever ambitious in my life. I was always a below average student in academics.
But acting is something I love. Itís not that hard a job. You donít have to study it. You just have to be receptive to a lot of life experiences, which you can put to work. Everybody has talent. It is how you channelise it that makes the difference. As an actor, you have to truly be besharam in front of the camera, in terms of emotions, not in terms of removing your clothes. So far I am loving it and I really believe that the day I stop enjoying acting I will give it up. I donít want to live my life being a prisoner to something because it is giving me fame and money. You have to enjoy it, love it, surrender to it and give something.
Once you get success you realise that you canít take it for granted. The experience and time that you spend in your profession and a certain mission or goal and your own personal expectations are crucial. I have a lot expectations from myself and what I want to do. I donít have any sure-shot movies or formula in the next few films I am working on. I am trying to compete simultaneously with Amitabh Bachchan and Varun Dhawan. Yes, I have confidence, but I am unsure about what I am doing. And I always want to be unsure.
What are the most memorable things that have been said to you that you hold dear?
An old Parsee man sent an autograph of my grandfather that he had signed in 1953, he had put the date on it and written, ĎHumility is an artistís greatest virtueí. And I really connected with it. I remember Dilip Kumar saab had come for the premiere of Saawariya, but he didnít say anything then. The next day he drove to my house. He didnít come inside, he told the watchman to call me. He sat me down on the road, gave me a lot of love and said, ďI give you a lot of blessings because I see a lot of Raj (Kapoor) in you.Ē And thatís so much of encouragement and confidence they instill in you. Mr Shah Rukh Khan had told me, ďYou will do very well in life because you have an original point of view.Ē
Mr Salman Khan has been very encouraging from very early on towards me and my work. Aamir sir, after Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was constantly in touch with me about how much business the movie had done. He had a bet with me ó I thought the movie will do Rs.120 crore, he said, ďIt will do Rs.180 crores, take it in writing.Ē All of them have been so encouraging, everybody, even senior actresses like Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) or Rekhaji. And because I am an industry kid, because they have a relationship with my family, they have been extra encouraging. So yes, itís a really good sense of positivity from the industry which I have channelise.
Does it feel good that your contemporaries hold you in high-esteem, almost like a role-model of sorts?
Itís great because I am just doing work the way I would like to do it. I am not following somebodyís path. I want to be there, but I canít follow someone elseís path. I can only become a superstar if I have an original voice, an orginal thought process and a perspective.of life. If I have a say politically, socially, in the world of entertainment or sports, then I have an original point of view and itís great that people consider that, but you can only do it if you have something to say. You canít repeat what somebody else has said. I think thatís the biggest mistake.
As an actor, whatís the next challenge that you are taking up?
I think Jagga Jasoos and Bombay Velvet are the next big challenges. The former is a film I am producing with Anurag Basu. We are extremely passionate about it . I want to give it a really big platform We are making a television show called Jagga Junior. I want to have comic books, I want to have animaton shows. We have the Disney Brand, which is co-producing it with us. Itís my first production and itís a very different character for me. Again Bombay Velvet is a very intense role, something which I have never done; it has shades of Al Pacino from Scarface, it has Godfather, it has Deewar and Manmohan Desai. Vinay Anandís drama is another exciting film. Letís see what happens.
Would you say that you have turned producer rather early in your career? None of your generation actors have done that?
I think I am a little late. I should have done this a little earlier, but again I did not want to do it with R.K. Films because it belongs to Raj Kapoor. Itís very important that I make my own identity. I decided on my own production company, so that when my children are acting or producing, they donít have to cope with Raj Kapoorís shadow, they will only have to cope with my shadow. Itís very important, I think, to do something of your own. At 21, my grandfather acted, directed and produced films. I am 30 and I am just acting and producing, so I donít think I am doing something original. I found the right time, the right bearing with Anurag Basu, the genre, the kind of films that I believe in and everything fell into place. I am trying to make the worldís best movie. It sounds very pompous but unless I say it, I wonít be putting the thought in peopleís mind. They should expect the worldís best movie (from us) because thatís what we want to deliver.
What kind of films are there on your wishlist?
I want to do a negative role. I want to do a film like Anand (the role that Rajesh Khanna played), Naya Daur, Ram Aur Shyam, Judwaa (that Salman Khan did) a sports movie like Chak De! India or a political movie like Rang De Basanti... I want to do a Joker from The Dark Knight, I want to do a Braveheart, I am hungry. I am always looking at other peopleís movies, always getting inspired, jealous that why wasnít I a part of these films and hope that people feel the same way about my films also. So itís a give and take. You inspire people and you get inspired by people.
Now that you have settled the question of carrying off solo-hero successes, would you act in multi-starrers?
I believe Raajneeti was a multistarrer, but you can only do a multi-starrer only if directors write one. But because film-making and stars are such an expensive proposition, they start with the thought ki bahut mehngi ho jayegi, we canít have two actors in it, letís just write for one actor. I am always open to a good film. Like a film I am doing called Roy, which is being directed by my friend Vicky, I play a supporting part in it. The lead characters are Arjun Rampal and Jacqueline Fernandez. Vicky is a childhood friend and I believed that this is a story that must be told. Thatís why I am a part of the film. I hope that people can write multi-starrers ó the drama between the characters should appeal to the audience. I havenít been offered any multi-starrers as of now, but I would love to do a two-hero film. I would love to work with my generation of actors, I would love to work with the Khans, I would love to work with Hrithik Roshan. I would love to pair up with these actors, take something from them, give them a tough competition and try and be better than them in that movie. Thatís the incentive that you should have.
Your generation actors, particularly the girls, are making overtures to Hollywood cinema, would you consider audtioning for a Hollywood film?
I really believe that even if (Steven) Spielberg wanted to work with me, I would refuse. I would rather work with Anurag Basu and Imtiaz Ali because I truly believe that if you want to make a mark in the world, you have to do it with your own culture. Life Is Beautiful made a mark in the world as an Italian film, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a Chinese film, Amelie was a French film and yet they made their mark worldwide, so I donít need to go there to be a part of a Hollywood film. Lagaan goes from India and gets nominated in the foreign film category and the spotlight is on them. Films like 3 Idiots do such great business in China, so I think you have to make a film which is very steeped in your own culture, your own language, something that you can identify with. I canít identify with Hollywood emotions and the kind of blockbuster films they make. I like watching them, but Iíd rather be a part of my own film industry.
Speaking of sensibilities, there is also the change in dynamics between urban and non-urban centres, thanks to the arrival of multiplexes. Does that work well for young stars like you?
There are very rare films that have a mass appeal as well as class appeal like Yeh Jawaani... and the money that it made ó85 per cent of it came from multiplexes, only 15 per cent from single screens. When you have a film like Dabangg, it has a ratio of 40:60 ó a healthy divide of 40 per cent single screens and 60 from plexes. There is a healthy mix of Rowdy Rathore, Chennai Express, Besharam, at the same time there is a Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, there is Barfi! which are multiplex films. I heard today that Shuddh Desi Romance is doing very well, Kai Po Che did well, so everyone is getting an opportunity.