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There's something enigmatic about this Kapoor prodigy. Unlike other stars, Ranbir Kapoor refrains from maintaining an eye-contact when he's talking to you. Instead, he prefers to invest in his words after lending a patient ear to your question. He confesses that he's shy and an introvert. But once he's comfortably settled into a conversation, he opens up without filters.
A few days before Sanju hit the marquee, we caught with the talented actor for a quick chat.
'Sanju Was An Opportunity Of A Lifetime For Me'
Q. Were you prepared for the comparisons with Sanjay Dutt when you took up Sanju?
A. Yes, of course. I think when I took the responsibility to portray Sanju Sir in a Rajkumar Hirani film, I understood the pressure and baggage that it comes with. Sanju Sir is such a loved superstar. He is still working in films. I think it's for the first time in the history of cinema that somebody has made a biopic on a living actor. But I recognized from the script of the film that it was an opportunity of a lifetime for me to do this and I had to have complete conviction and belief in myself that I could do it.
Initially, I didn't have that confidence and wasn't sure that I could look like him. He has this macho alpha image whereas my personality is very different. But once I read the script and story of the film, it showed Sanju Sir in a very human way. It's not the Sanjay Dutt that we all know. It's Sanjay Dutt behind the scenes- what all he went through with his family- his drug phase, jail phase, the death of his mother, his friendship, his bond with his father. So, I saw a very human story which excited and inspired me.
Q. Whenever you do a biopic, there is always a risk of glorifying the said person. Did you ever ponder upon that thought and discussed it with Rajkumar Hirani?
A. I think Sanju is an absolute honest portrayal of a man. Sanju Sir has been brave enough to give his life in a way that he's a fallen hero and shown the grey side of him. The whole drug phase and where it takes you in life. There's a great learning in that. His mistake with the AK 56 gun and the underworld and everything that happened in his life. I don't think Rajkumar Hirani needs to make a propaganda film for him. He saw an honest and great human story in it. That's why he took it up.
Q. You now know Sanjay Dutt in and out now as a person. Was there anything which shocked you?
A. Everything shocked me. To be honest, I knew Sanjay Dutt in a very different way. I knew him as a family friend, somebody who has been very fond of me. I used to work out in his gym so I would hang out a lot with him. But when I read the story of the film, it had the classified files of a human being which even I didn't know. Often when I was enacting a certain scene and sequences, I myself used to think what he must be going through and thinking at that point. Now, I only have more deep respect and admiration for him after doing this film because I saw a completely different side to him.
Whenever I used to do any important scene, I used to call him up at night before shooting and speak to him for long hours just to understand what he was going through in his mind and psyche. I am really happy that he supported me and my performance and gave me a lot of his own personal emotions which I am sure is quite disturbing to relive and redo.
'As An Actor, I Understand How To Detach Myself From Certain Emotions'
Q. Did you break down at any point while enacting any scene?
A. Sometimes when you are giving a shot or doing a sequence, you feel connected so much to the moment and emotion that you really feel something. However, as an actor, I understand how to detach myself from certain emotions. You have to be in and out. When I was doing Rockstar, that film really took me to a certain emotional phase in my life where I really felt tired and spent. So, you learn with experience. Now after 10 years, I can understand how to step back from the scene or the character. But subconsciously somewhere, you do get affected and I really enjoy that about being an actor. It's not really superficially coming on sets and doing few lines and going back. The more I feel, the more I connect to a part or an emotion, I feel alive as an actor. So, I look forward to such parts and such emotions and scenes. I really enjoy doing them.
Q. When Rajkumar Hirani approached you for Sanju, did you discuss it with anyone in your family or in the industry?
A. I did speak to my family and they did have a reaction. When my father first heard about it, he said it was a great idea. He probably knows Sanjay Dutt's life inside out and felt that a good film could be made on it. But at the same time, I was staying at my grandmother's house and she was like, 'Yeh biopic kyun kar raha hain. You should do more commercial films. You are a Hindi film hero, sing songs, look good." So, she comes from a school of thought which is probably my grandfather's era. But when she saw the promo, she was happy.
'I Don't Take Success To My Head & Failure To My Heart'
Q. Do you think this is one of the best phases of your career right now?
A. I don't know. Before this, my last few films haven't work. But still, I am working with one of India's greatest filmmaker- Rajkumar Hirani in a film like Sanju. Good and bad phases are something which you experience it at home or by yourself. But that's not in my control. Success and failure are not in my hands. What I can do is work with honest intentions, be good at my job and keep my head on my shoulders. I don't take success to my head and failure to my heart. I have been like that since my debut film.
My first film Sawariya was a big disaster but it taught me a lot. It prepared me for this world of cinema. It's not that I am born into a film family so everything is going to be easy for me. There will be a lot of brickbats. There will be a lot of people who will hate me for the work I do. And then sometimes there will be a lot of love when my films are appreciated. I have that understanding and reality check. Also, it helps that I am born into films so I am prepared for this. I have seen all of this in my family over the years. My father used to be crying at points when his films weren't working or he used to be elevated to a point where it was really amazing. But that's really not something I am connected with. I am very happy just doing my job.
'When A Film Releases & It's A Success, You Are Like, 'Phew, I Am Saved' And Then Move On To The Next'
Q. Like you mentioned in the last couple of years, you didn't have a success. Does Sanju bring in some kind of pressure on you?
A. Every film is a pressure. When Ae Dil Hai Mushkil released, it was a successful film. But Jagga Jasoos failed to connect with the audience. When a film releases and it's a success, you are like, 'Phew, I am saved' and then you move on to the next. That's all you feel with the success. But failure stays with you for a longer. A lot of it is written in the media. There are a lot of opinions which your friends and film industry gives you. They tell you to do more commercial films, work on the physique etc. But I guess what helps is having complete faith in myself and a belief that I can be strong in this phase and continue doing good work. I guess that's what takes you along.
I am really grateful for Sanju, Brahmastra, Shamshera and the Luv Ranjan film. I have exciting films ahead in my life. It's also a very important phase in my life as an actor where I really have to take the next step after doing coming-of-age films and young boy roles. I am also growing older and have to evolve myself as an actor. So, I am looking forward to this new phase.
'I Am Scared Of Attachments'
Q. What was your state of mind on the last day shooting of Sanju?
A. I feel really relieved and happy when a film is over. I am scared of attachments. When a film is over, I am very happy to go on my next journey. That has really helped me as an actor. I am not emotionally sad when a film gets over. Of course, there are some bitter-sweet emotions. But I am pretty good at that switching off.
Q. Irrespective of how your films fare at the box office, your performances have always managed to leave behind a mark on the audience and won rave reviews from the critics. How do you view this?
A. A film process is not just about me or another person. What I hold in the highest regard is that the film has to work. Me being good or bad doesn't matter. I am a part of a story which has to entertain people. So, I don't give too much of attention to a film where I am appreciated. I don't care about that. The film has to be loved. That's the bigger picture and I think that's the endeavour in every film of yours that a film has to reach out and entertain them worth their money. You feel bad when a film doesn't do well. In such cases, I don't necessarily feel good when I get positive reviews or people applaud my performance.
'With Me, Samaira Is A Bit Shy'
Q. Your sister Ridhima often posts some adorable videos featuring your niece Samaira...
A. Samaira is very young. She hasn't experienced a lot of films. She has seen my songs on YouTube and stuff. You know she's in such a phase right now where I am also trying to connect with her. With me, she's a bit shy. But I hope I can build a very healthy relationship with her. I feel that's a very new dynamic in my life, to have a niece. She's my own blood. So, I am looking forward to building a very strong relationship with her.
'At This Age In My Life, It's Very Important To Have Real Things'
Q. You belong to a very rare breed of actors; whether the film is hit or flop, your acting talent has never been questioned. When you get all these things, does it make you elated and confident as an actor?
A. No yaa. Because I have been born into a film family, I understand that 'yahan sab chadhte suraj ko salaam karte hain'. Success is very fickle. It takes you to a place where you yourself don't know how you have reached this place and then everything just goes away. At this age in my life, it's also very important to have real things- family, relationships. One must have a life beyond films. I can't be too dependent on the destiny of my films because it's too much of a roller-coaster. It really takes you to certain places and drops you and that can really be detrimental to your mind and health. So, I do my work, give it my best and then have a life beyond films.
'I Feel If People Are Writing More About My Personal Life, Then My Films Ain't Good Enough'
Q. Lately your personal life too has been a lot under the scanner...
A. Maybe my work isn't good enough. No, I really believe that. I feel if people are writing more about my personal life, then my films ain't good enough. It builds that drive in me that maybe I should do better films and work harder. But then these things are part and parcel of showbiz. If I have a favourite actor or somebody whose work I like, I would want to know what that person is doing in his life, who is having dinner with, who he is dating, what's he wearing and stuff like that. I understand that part. When I was younger, I used to get upset. But now, I am fine. As long as people don't judge me in a way that 'No, we don't like him because of all that's written', I am okay with it.
'Most Of The People In The Industry Are Just Trying To Portray A Very Different, Cosmetic, Nice Person Image Of Themselves'
Q. Is that one of the reasons why you refrain from joining social media?
A. I haven't really thought about it so deeply that this is the reason why I am not on social media. It's just something that I have been shying away from. I am happy being away from it. 'Abhi tak gaadi chal rahi hain theek thak', (laughs). I don't need another platform to do PR or my publicity. That's fine. Maybe tomorrow I will be on social media. But today, I am happy staying away from it.
Q. But you are aware of the happenings in the film industry right?
A. Yes. I am also a very big Hindi film industry fan. I always want to know what kind of films are being made. I am a fan of a lot of actors and really admire their work. As much as you want to see any actor's profile on Instagram, I am also a stalker on Instagram. I have an account on Instagram which nobody knows. I don't post pictures there but I know what's happening around.
Q. Your father is very active on social media. Does he never encourage you to join too or tell you what's written about you?
A. Never. Most of the times when he tweets something, when my mother feels he might fall in trouble, she messages or calls me up late night saying 'Look what's he has done now and he's already gone to sleep. He has two drinks down and said something.' She then lectures him. But yaar, he is an honest guy. He doesn't keep anything censored. If he feels about something, he will say it. He is not doing it for publicity or impact. He actually feels it and then impulsively writes it. There are very few people like this in the industry. Most of the people are just trying to portray a very different, cosmetic, nice person image of themselves. But my father is really brave in that sense. He understands that people may hate him for his opinion, but he has an opinion and wants to exercise it like any citizen of this country.
'The Khans Have Been A Huge Influence On My Work'
Q. What kind of films were a part of your childhood?
A. I think mostly my parents' films. Me and my sister while eating meals at home used to watch films like Amar Akbar Anthony, Khel Khel Mein, Rafoochakkar and all of that. We grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan, our parents, Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra. The Khans have been a huge influence even on my work because those were the actors I admire. Then, of course, the phase of Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. I have seen every generation because I loved films and wanted to be an actor. So, I have really studied them all in front of the camera and beyond that.
Q. Is there any film of your dad whose remake you would love to be a part of?
A. I don't believe in remakes because I feel that I can never bring a better impact than what my father has done. But if I had to do something, I really like this film of his called Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hain. It didn't work back then and was a flop. But I really liked his work in it.
'There Can Be A Great Biopic On My Grandfather Raj Kapoor's Life'
Q. Apart from Sanjay Dutt, which actor's life do you think would make for an interesting watch on screen?
A. I think Kishore Kumar's life. That time, me and Anurag Basu were really trying to put it on floors. But we didn't get permissions from certain families to make it. But I think that life is really colourful. He is a mad genius. I think there can be a great biopic on him. Another one could be on my grandfather's life (Raj Kapoor). But I have always believed and learnt that from Sanju that it has to be a complete honest portrayal. It shouldn't be only showing the great side of a person. You have to show the grey or flawed side as well. I hope my family at some point gets permission to really open up about Raj Kapoor's life because he's had a cinematic life itself. I would like to direct or act in it. I can take the advantage that I am his grandson so there would be nobody better to play him.
Q. Recently there are rumors that Karan Johar had made some changes in the script of Brahmastra script and wanted to add a little bit of intimacy quotient in it...
A. These are absolutely false and baseless reports. Ayan Mukerji has worked so hard in the last five years to make Brahmastra and Karan never interferes in his director's lives unless he is asked for help. Ayan is one of the rare talents that I have worked with.
Q. What's the best part of being an actor?
A. The best part of being an actor is that it's an exciting life. You choose and you are your own boss. You choose your own journey and stories. You have so many people to take care of you on-set. You feel very special. But then when you go home and are all alone by yourself, then you wonder what are all these people. So, you always want to be spoilt for life.
'I Would Love To Do A Film Like Hera Pheri Or Andaz Apna Apna'
Q. You are also teaming up with Luv Ranjan for a film.
A. I am very excited about that film. After Brahmastra, I have Shamshera with Karan Malhotra and Luv Ranjan film with Ajay Devgn. It's a dramatic love story. It's also a departure from what he has made. I really enjoyed watching Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. I myself had contacted him. It's the first time I ever contacted a director saying that I would really like to collaborate with him. We had been talking for a while. We discussed different scripts and different ideas. We really liked this one and it's a full-out commercial entertaining film.
Q. Do you feel people are ready for a film like Brahmastra?
A. There are a lot of different perceptions about this film. Brahmastra is your summer blockbuster, an entertaining film rooted in Indian cinema. There's a way how Ayan wants to portray a film. I am extremely excited to work with actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Alia Bhatt.
Q. Shamshera is something which you have never attempted before. It's a completely different space for you. What made you take up that film?
A. Well primarily, the script and the character. It's set in 1800s. It's about a group of Daku tribes who are fighting for their rights against the British East India Company. The way it was written was very entertaining and action-oriented. Sanjay Dutt is playing the antagonist in that film. So now, I am looking forward to working with him as an actor. Karan Malhotra is an exciting director. I really enjoyed watching Agneepath and am looking forward to Shamshera now.
Q. Would you be okay taking up a light-hearted film like Bachna Ae Haseeno or Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahaani today?
A. Ya, I am looking forward to doing a comedy. I have been searching for one. But the problem is there ain't many people in the industry who are dabbling with this genre right now. I would love to do a film like Hera Pheri or Andaz Apna Apna.
'There's Nothing Controversial Or Conflict In My Life That Would Make Good Cinema'
Q. Ranbir, you have had a very interesting life so far and of course in the coming years as well. If ever a biopic is made on your life, which part of it would you want to portray and hide?
A. I am 35 today and I don't think right now, there's anything which is a cinematic material in my life. I am also a little introvert, shy and lazy person. So, I don't do much in my life apart from working in films and doing normal things. I haven't got into a lot of trouble. I have had a very normal, sheltered childhood. So, there's nothing controversial or conflict in my life that would make a good cinema.