There is a certain vulnerability to Ranbir Kapoor, all of 25. Watching him on screen is well, like watching Rishi Kapoor in all those incredibly romantic films he acted in—-soft chocolate hero looks, a shy smile—the quintessential lover boy. It’s this kind of vulnerability that sets him apart from the other boys profiled on these pages. While they push through their tough man/action hero image, Kapoor prefers playing the romantic hero. This November, he debuts in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opera-in-blue, Saawariya with actor-producer Anil Kapoor’s daughter, Sonam Kapoor. Everything about the past few days, since the time the promotions for the movie began, has been exciting but the best moment, he recalls, was when he first saw a photograph of him wrapped in a large white towel on the hoardings. “If god asks me to list the 10 best moments of my life, the day I first saw myself on the hoarding would top the list. I always dreamt of it.”
Does he find this strange? All the adulation even before the film is released?
“It’s a dream I always had, about being an actor, my first film, my first fan, my first autograph…But now I am speechless, even a little blank,” he gushes. Kapoor feels he learnt his craft on the job while assisting Bhansali in Black. “I was the man he trained to give cues to the stars on the sets of Black. And I learnt a lot especially about camera angles and performance,” he says.
He chats about his family, films and quirks:
Your father Rishi Kapoor or your granddad Raj Kapoor, who is a better actor?
Dad, because he is a natural actor. You don’t feel he is performing or acting when you watch him. How can anyone even copy him?
Are you anything like Ranbir Raj, the character you play?
In a lot of ways. Ranbir Raj is my grandfather’s name. There are conscious tributes, like the name, made by Mr Bhansali to my family and my grandfather. He is a happy-go-lucky character and a lot of inspiration is taken from Charlie Chaplin and Raj Kapoor. If the character from Shree 420 was alive today, he would be this guy.
Romance or thriller, which is the genre of film you identify with most?
Romance. I like to believe I am a romantic at heart. My favourite film in this genre is Shree 420. The chemistry between the two lead actors, my granddad and Nargisji was so amazing.
One person you would have liked to work with?
My grandfather. I was very young when he died. I have known him only through his films. I am fascinated by the cinema he made.
One film you wish you had acted in?
Mr Bhansali’s Devdas. It was beautifully directed and I was jealous of Shah Rukh Khan, who played the lead with so much conviction. Playing a hero with tragic undertones must be the most difficult thing.
Which director would you rather work with—-Sudhir Mishra or Karan Johar?
Can’t I choose both? I would like to work across the board. One film that I really enjoyed is Bheja Fry and that’s quite an alternative kind of film.
How close do you think you should get to a character?
Rehearsing is fine, trying to understand a character you are playing is good, but there has to be some kind of spontaneity in your performance. I am quite spontaneous in my reactions when the camera is rolling, but in personal life, I am a rationnalist, so I would bring a blend of the two into my performance.
Is it necessary to have a signature style or would you rather look like the character you are playing?
At some time every actor develops his signature style which people recognise him by. But the kind of film being made now allows you to experiment.
Okay, one quirk of yours we know little about…
I have a fascination for caps. Whenever I travel, I make sure that I buy a cap or two because I like wearing them.
Ranbir Kapoor came back from New York’s Lee Strasberg Theatre and Acting Academy to join Bhansali on the sets of Black. “My family considers him to be the real inheritor of the Raj Kapoor legacy,” he says, “and wanted me to debut with him.”