Kapoor! A licence to entertain. The first family of filmdom. Cinematic royalty itself…Johar! An expert on jewels. Master craftsman. Can weave gems into set pieces and celluloid art…
It takes one to sparkle the other. The gemstone needs the facets of the storyteller. The jeweller needs a stone to polish into his weaving of stories. They complete each other. So for Karan Johar, life comes a full circle after growing up on Rishi Kapoor‘s histrionics in ‘Chandni’ and for Ranbir Kapoor, it’s back to playing the eternal lover after a series of experimental frames in tepidity. While for Karan, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ (‘ADHM’) was “liberating”, Ranbir was “deeply moved”. The two are a crackling combo, like you will just find out. So read on for a fiery, witty, candid dialogue. With coffee, confessions and more…
Ranbir, you have said that you play Karan Johar in the film. Is it true?
RK: Well, Karan had a very personal connect to the story and my character (Ayan). I am sure he’s been heartbroken many times in his life. I don’t really know the details, but the heartbreak and the pain felt real. There’s a lot of pain behind the smile and humour that you see in Karan Johar. When he narrated the story, I was deeply moved and I knew that I wanted to do it — apart from the fact that he is Karan Johar and every actor wants to work with him. So, even if it was a bad script, I would still do his film.
KJo: All the characters that I have projected before ‘ADHM’ have come out of my views, travels and observations. This one felt deeply personal, there are scenes, I have to accept, that have happened with me. Perhaps, even the conflict of the film is derived from my life, though this story is nowhere close to a true story. I want to clearly say that this film is not about infidelity. It is not a film that will question your morality, but your sense of love.
Ranbir, are you the kind of actor who goes very deep into the character of your film? To the point of isolating yourself to prep for a role?
RK: No, I think it all comes from the filmmaker. Everything is in the script, everything has been thought out. Between action and cut – that’s the life you live. I am too lazy to become a method actor or go into the entire process of living a part. I did that with ‘Rockstar’, as that’s the only film that demanded it, considering I don’t have any connect with music. I can’t sing or play an instrument. I had to prep for it. Other than that, I really haven’t surrendered to a character so much.
Karan, given that the film is so personal, you must have emotionally invested the most in this?
KJo: Well, I have come to a juncture where I am making a personal film and I also feel the most liberated. It takes a phase in your life for you to really tackle your inner self and tell a story. Before that you have so many layers, sometimes you are acting, sometimes you are putting up pretences within the industry and saying things because you are expected to. Finally, at 44, I have reached a point where two things happen – either you hit a mid-life crisis or you feel liberated. So when I am asked why I am dancing on a reality show, why I am pouting in a selfie – it doesn’t matter to me. I feel alive, active and relevant. Today, when a ten-year-old kid recognises me and says he loved ‘Student of the Year’, I am thrilled because I am a part of his pop culture and it makes me feel alive. Today, Ranbir Kapoor is a close friend of mine. He is a decade younger to me, but we talk like friends. He doesn’t talk up to me and I don’t talk down to him.
Have you ever felt that the actors you have worked with have taken you for granted, as most of them are your friends?
KJo: Taking somebody for granted is just so passe. Taking yourself seriously is so passe. Believing and achieving is what’s important today. I always feel that it’s the middle order of the world that actually has all the complexes. When you are a failure, you have nothing to lose, but just go up. When you are an achiever, you have nothing to fear. There are a lot of filmmakers of my age who take their role very seriously. Sometimes, seeing them, I feel maybe even I should play-act being a director. But I guess it’s just not me.
Ranbir, you met Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) for the first time when you were 15, right? Romancing her on-screen must have been different?
RK: Yes. When you meet Aishwarya, her eyes glitter. She doesn’t have to try; she doesn’t have to do anything, yet, at the same time, she does a lot. The first time she walked onto the set, I asked Karan, ‘What should I do? Should I go and say hello to her?’ I didn’t know how to approach her.KJo: (laughs)…There was so much build-up about Ash coming on set. To me, it felt like she is the only star in the film. I am not undermining my love for Ranbir and Anushka (Sharma), but when Aishwarya walked in, I was like OMG… one star has finally come on the set.
Karan, you say that Ranbir is very casual about his stardom…
Yes, and I love that about him. And I am so glad that I am almost indifferent to his indifference. His approach to life is so much like mine. Both of us don’t take ourselves too seriously. He is the easiest actor to work with. He’s always on time, knows his lines and brings the X-factor to every scene. Usually, I have three ‘Wow’ moments on a set, this time I had around 20. And it’s not like I wept and hugged him. Ranbir has never told me that I have made a good film and I have never told him that he’s given a great performance. We don’t talk like that.RK:
Anushka and I told Karan that he has to give us ten pounds every time we gave a good shot.KJo:
No Ranbir, the dare was fifty pounds!How did you react when Ranbir said that you are a legend?
I am not a legend and he has not said it.
RK: ( laughs) This word actually has been planted in my brain by Karan.
KJo: It’s also me making fun of myself. On the sets of ‘Student of the Year’, I asked Sid (Sidharth Malhotra), Varun (Dhawan) and Alia (Bhatt),’How do you feel a legend is directing you?’ I also have a chair that was gifted by my production team, with ‘legend’ written on it. I mean, who does that? It’s actually a take-off on the people who take themselves seriously. I am no legend and I am nowhere close to it and I don’t want to be one because I associate legend with age (laughs).
Ranbir has expressed that someday he would want to direct a film. Karan, do you think he will make a good director?
KJo: Not at all. I don’t want him to direct, he is too good an actor, why stand behind a camera when you are so brilliant in front of it. There’s no reason yaar, hamare pet par kyun laat maar rahein ho?
Well, Karan maybe you should direct more films then…
KJo: I completely agree with you and I really want to. It’s partly because I do so much else, and also I think the biggest reason why most directors take so long is their fear of failure. We are so nervous about holding on and maintaining our equity. I am very afraid of failure. I am afraid of failing not just for me, but also for the people who have joined the ride with me. God forbid, if a film of mine failed, I would feel more accountable than upset.
What was your reaction when you saw Ranbir in his debut film ‘Saawariya’?
KJo: It was #Instantlove. It was unabashed, unapologetic love. Mostly, you see young actors with raw edges in their first film. Here, you had a completely fleshed out great chip of, what we can call the legendary block.
RK: He was the first producer to offer me a film after the disaster of ‘Saawariya’. So, he had faith in me from the start.
Ranbir, which is your favourite Karan Johar film?
RK: ‘ Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’. Of course, it sounds like a selfish answer, but honestly, the reason for me being an actor is Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar’s films. I was in the 7th grade when I saw ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, it was at the time when you are getting interested in girls and you want to flirt with them. In my head, I had embodied the character of Rahul. I bought the cool pendant and the polo neck tees. We thought that the world of romance and how to woo a girl is like this. When ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ released, I was studying in New York. I went for the first night show in Times Square, the theatre was packed and I had to sit on the floor. These two films have really impacted my notions about a lot of feelings in life. Next was ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, though I was never really a very big fan of that film.
KJo: It’s sheer coincidence that I grew up wearing the kind of sweaters his father (Rishi Kapoor) would wear. I would tell my father (Yash Johar) to buy me the sweaters that Rishi Kapoor wore in ‘Chandni’. I would wear them even in the heat of Mumbai. I was obsessed with Rishi Kapoor. I grew up wanting to be like Ranbir’s dad and I used to perform to every song of ‘Chandni’. I wonder if that is the reason why I reacted the way I did to Ranbir.
Karan, your favourite Ranbir Kapoor film?
KJo: ‘Barfi’!. I had a cardiac arrest while watching that film. I was weeping more than the entire cinema put together. There was like this Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati coming out of my eyes. I was moved by his performance in the film, and I loved the entire cast and Anurag Basu’s work. There’s a reason that I didn’t watch ‘Besharam’, I knew he wouldn’t be good in it. I don’t want to watch a bad Ranbir film. I have not seen it and I turn it off even now when it comes on TV.
How do you both deal with failure?
RK: I have been a part of a lot of films, which have failed at the box-office. I remember Karan came to my house the day ‘Bombay Velvet’ released, and he sat on the couch and said… ‘Well, you are f****d now. What are you going to do?’ And that’s about it. We moved on from there. Karan was a very important person when my whole failure phase was on. He’s always shown me the real picture.
KJo: When a film is a mid-level success, it bothers me more than extreme failure. When it’s the former, you don’t know what you are learning. Was the timing galat , or is that the film didn’t reach its optimum? Fortunately, one quality that I have is that I’m not delusional. I almost always know when a film is not going to work. I always see the failure coming. I have told filmmakers, ‘Listen, this film is not going to work, but now let’s get out and tell the world that it is working and build that energy around it’.
Karan, do you want to act again?
KJo: Can you please tell the whole world out there that I really want to act again? So what if it didn’t work the first time? I am not being offered any roles.
RK: What kind of characters would you like to play Karan? Like, would you play Rajat Kapoor’s role in ‘Kapoor & Sons’ (Since 1921)?
KJo: Yes, I would, though I think I’m a little young for it. Nobody is coming to me with these roles. I want to refuse a role at least once in my life; I am not being given that option. I want to act in one hit film and then maybe I will retire.
Ranbir, what do you have to say about Karan being a fashion icon?
RK: Honestly, I believe that I am ten times more fashionable than Karan. There was a point and shift in our friendship when he started copying the brands that I wore (laughs). There was a time when I looked up to his fashion sense, but right now, I am 10 steps ahead of him. Okay, let’s say if not ahead, equal to him. Earlier, he would judge my fashion sense a lot, we would joke about it. But that has changed. Now, I do that to him because he repeats his clothes, like four days in a row.
Yes, only sometimes at work. But I really feel that there is no reason for some people to not make an effort to look good. Sometimes, people just wear things that don’t compliment them. If you are walking the red carpet, it doesn’t mean that you look like one. Power to Sonam Kapoor
, she changed the whole game of red carpet in our country. Alia, too. For me, being fashionable is a multi-billion dollar business. Sidharth, Alia and Varun get messages from me all the time, with screen grabs asking them why they have worn a certain outfit.
RK: While we were shooting, I have seen messages on his phone from other actors asking if they should wear this or that to the airport.
KJo: Yeah, sometimes it’s funny how the cost of your airport look is more than the cost of the tickets. It is more important than where you are going or what you are doing. I am just saying there is going to be paparazzi, so get your airport look right. And if you have so much of a problem, then take the train!