Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap, on the face of it, seem to be from different planets. While Ranbir has the perception of being the urban, super cool guy, Anurag likes to flaunt his rustic, real and raw cinema. But you look deeper and you can see that both are crazy about cinema and love being challenged.
Despite so much negativity around the film, people who have seen Bombay Velvet claim it to be Ranbir’s best performance so far. Even though Rishi Kapoor saw the film just three days back and could not stop raving about it, media happily claimed six months back how he had seen and rejected the film. And while the result of the fate of the film will be out only on May 15 when the film releases, Bombay Times spoke exclusively to the director-actor jodi of Anurag Kashyap and his Johnny Balraj, Ranbir Kapoor. Excerpts:
Conversation with Ranbir Kapoor:
Talk about your experience working with Anurag Kashyap?
Everyone had preconceived notions about Anurag Kashyap, that he is this rebel, intense, nasty, hater of the star system. So, I too had those notions. I had only seen his Gangs of Wasseypur and that too, after we had agreed to work on Bombay Velvet, but when you work with him, you realise that actually he is quite a softie, a teddy bear. He is someone who is really sensitive with the actors and is a big fan of Hindi movies. His earlier films must have been a depature from probably what a larger audience would like, as maybe he did not get a bigger budget or the set-up for it, but deep down he has grown up on those movies. It was unbelievable working with him. All the actors that have worked with him have given such great performances and they want to work with him repeatedly. He is such a good writer, so he understands the whole process of story-telling, is a big promoter of independent and foreign cinema, travels the world to see cinema, so I think he eats and breathes cinema even more than I do. We had a crew of about 300 people on Bombay Velvet and everybody just respected and looked up to him. Even if he sneezed, the whole set used to just turn towards him. And that kind of respect he didn’t demand, he commanded it. And that proves that he is not just great talent, but is also a nice guy. He helps a lot of people and will give most of his money to his assistants. He is generous, be it with his mind, his time or with material things. And that generosity sometimes translates on screen, as everyone loves him so much that they want to do the best for him. He is a great guy, a great friend and one of the best directors that I have worked with. What I don’t like about him is that sometimes he is also very arrogant and that I know is also his defence mechanism with the world, but his arrogance can sometimes get the worst of him. Because of his own misconceptions about the film industry, he has started becoming a hater of people and is wary of them. But now working with stars, his philosophy has changed and he will be more comforting and positive and welcoming to work with other actors.
Talk about Bombay Velvet?
It happened in a very weird way. I was doing a film at that time that did not materialise. Vikas Bahl, who is also one of the producers of the film, gave me the script of Bombay Velvet and said, ‘Just read it and tell me what you think about it.’ I was on a flight from Mumbai to Delhi and I read it. As soon as I landed, I called Anurag and said, ‘I have just read one of the best materials. It’s a great script and great character.’ He said, ‘Wait, wait, wait! I don’t see you as Johnny Balraj. Give me a few days. Let me think and I will call you.’ I have this image of being this urban coming-of-age star, given the kind of love stories I do, so I think he took his time but his faith to cast me was reassuring that I can do something other than what people expect me to do. At the heart of it, Bombay Velvet is a love story of Johnny and Rosie trying to make it in the big bad world of Bombay of the 1960s. The story is about how these two innocent people get trapped in the web of manipulation. But what really appealed to me was the vulnerable love story about Johnny and Rosie. I love every thing about Bombay Velvet, be it working with the technical crew and the cast that was so overwhelming and I don’t think I have ever felt so creatively satisfied. I can tell you that it is a great film for me as I have really enjoyed working on it. Also after Raajneeti, this is the only true-blooded ensemble film that I have worked for and that too, with such great talents and I am really excited about that.
How was it to work with Anushka Sharma?
Anushka is the sort of person who if you meet for a week, you will feel you have known for 10 years. She becomes your confidante, your buddy and you can trust her. She is one of those rare actors who doesn’t judge you, so you can do anything as an actor. She is a soldier and wants to be there for the film, come what may. This film is totally dependent on our chemistry and thus it was so important that we trusted each other. She is great talent we all know, but the great thing about Anushka is that she comes with no trappings of a star. She is just a pure actor.
How difficult is it as an actor to cry in a scene?
Be it crying or laughing, they are both very hard for me. Crying is something which is a very personal thing. Johnny is very vulnerable who can cry or laugh at any moment. In my experience of life, I could not relate with some parts of it, so Anurag really had to push me in that direction. I have never put glycerine in my eyes. He also wants the actors to feel the moment and he was pushing me to reach the intensity of what was required and that really surprised me, as on my own I would not have been able to do that. Crying is also very bastardised in Hindi films. It does mean that we take out buckets of tears, it can also mean a moment of just two seconds. Fighting your tears can actually be a greater cathartic moment than letting out your tears.
The shooting of Jagga Jasoos is reportedly delayed. So do we get to see another Ranbir Kapoor film in 2015?
Yes, we have a lot to finish in Jagga Jasoos but I have finished shooting for Tamasha. And while I can’t say which one right now, between Tamasha and Jagga Jasoos, one film will come in 2015 for sure.
So many stories doing the rounds about your marriage to Katrina. For the record, are you getting married?
Not yet. I still believe a lot in that institution and have a lot of expectations from that day. But right now, we have not decided when we will get married.
While your perception is that of being a girl’s guy, Anurag thinks you are a guy’s guy.
I am as much a girl’s guy as much as I am a guy’s guy. I am so lucky to be working with such lovely people who keep giving me the credit of being this nice guy, this humble person and all, but the reality is that all these people are instrumental in my growth.
People who have seen the film have told me that Bombay Velvet is your finest film so far. Yet, why is there so much negativity around the film?
The film is riddled with a lot of negativity, but the best way to kill negativity is not by speaking about it, but actually with your work. In a way, it’s good that it has killed the expectations from the film. And while the negativity bogged us down too, we knew that we have a good film and are very happy with the result.
Conversation with Anurag Kashyap:
Ranbir Kapoor is the first star you have worked with. How was your experience?
He is amazing. For the longest time, I did not work with stars as I had this kind of fear that stars will come and take away my film from me. Also, I shoot my films on the streets, so I thought stars would come with all their paraphernalia and would not work like I do. But working with Ranbir and Anushka, I realised that it was all unfounded. We literally had one makeup station, where all of them did their makeup. Ranbir is a kind of actor who completely surrenders once he has said yes to you. And he gives his everything after that. Imtiaz had told me, ‘You just work with Ranbir once. He is something else.’ My brother Abhinav Kashyap told me, Anurag Basu told me. But I did not expect that. I had the biggest fear as to how Ranbir would become Johnny Balraj, given that he is so refined but he became that. To play a boxer he worked out so much that he got himself a 6 pack. But I told him it was the ’60s so you are not even taking your shirt off. We don’t want 6 packs. We just want a very agile and fast moving guy. And can you imagine he lost his 6 packs? Actors have this vanity that when they get their 6 packs, they want to show it off, but he got it and he lost it. He let it go. And that is what I love the most about him. Today when I see Bombay Velvet, I cannot think of anyone but Ranbir to play Johnny Balraj.
What is he like?
He is a total prankster. He talks about everything and everyone and is curious. He wants to know everything in your life. I love his unending curiosity and his consumption of cinema. My set was full of girls, all in love with him. But he could handle all of them so well. He is also a guy’s guy. He stands by you and will immediately point out what is wrong. He has difficulty in crying scenes but he did finally in the film. Maybe, it’s due to some blockage that he has as a person. So everytime I had to get him to cry, I had to get him drunk, and then talk to him and take him to places that could help him cry. I was very self-conscious of working with RK in the film, as I had not worked with stars. The first time I had to meet RK, I took my brother Abhinav with me. I could not get myself to talk to him till I was drunk. I then hung out with him a lot to get into his head and know him.
Why was Bombay Velvet delayed, given that it was originally supposed to come last year?
We had a film before we all liked but I showed my film to Martin Scorsese and he loved it but he said, ‘There are things you can make tighter.’ He showed it to Thelma Schoonmaker and she loved the film and fell in love with Ranbir. And she wanted to work on the film (she has never worked outside of Martin’s films). Thelma is the world’s best editor and so we all decided to give it a shot. Anyways, our visual effects would not have been ready in time, so we decided to go along with her. And she did magic with it. Everything we had taken out she put it back into the film and as against our initial edit of 2 hours, 18 minutes, her edit is only 2 hours, 22 minutes. Bombay Velvet is my best film so far and I am very proud of it.