Everyone knows I am in a relationship — Ranbir Kapoor on everything from Bombay Velvet to she who must not be named!
It was a different Ranbir Kapoor we got to see this week in Goa — fun and funny with an easy vibe and just wanting to let his hair down and have a good time. Ever attentive and focused while promoting his May 15 biggie Bombay Velvet by day — co-stars Anushka Sharma and Karan Johar for company — it was Ranbir the party-man who took over by night at the three-day junket for the Anurag Kashyap film in the picturesque Park Hyatt Resort and Spa in south Goa. After partying the night away with us on Monday, Ranbir — ever charming and ever candid — chatted with t2 a little after noon on Tuesday on his film and failures, process and ‘partner’…
We have been hearing about Bombay Velvet for almost a decade now and Anurag Kashyap went from the Anil Kapoors to Saif Ali Khans to even Ranveer Singh until you lobbied for the role of Johnny Balraj. Are you that rare actor who comes with no ego when it comes to actively asking for a part?
There has never been any ego. There are many films floating around and sometimes they just lie dormant in the market, just like Bombay Velvet was. Bombay Velvet is more senior than me. I have been in this industry for the last eight years (since Saawariya, 2007), but Bombay Velvet has been in the planning for the last nine years (smiles). I always say that it was destiny that it ultimately came to me. But honestly, when people go to watch a film, no one really cares who was initially supposed to do the role… what matters then is who is in the film and how has it shaped up.
To answer your question, I have always been someone that if I like a script and if there is no actor attached to it — I never want to step on anyone’s shoes or snatch anyone’s films — I grab it as fast as I can. No hang-ups or ego involved.
Even if it is a Ranveer Singh who is junior to you in the industry?
When I came to know of this particular case while I was lobbying for the role, I told Anurag to first clear the matter although I knew that things were not really working out with that actor. I told him: ‘I don’t want any bad blood… I don’t want to step on his shoes’. But Anurag assured me that I wasn’t getting the film at the cost of someone else. See, these things happen to all of us. Sometimes, you sign on a film and it doesn’t work out for whatever reasons and it is done by someone else. It’s happened to me quite a few times. The feeling is never nice, especially when you get inspired enough to do a film and it doesn’t stay on with you.
When Anurag initially said that he couldn’t think of you in this role, did it sting a bit?
(Smiles) It didn’t actually because honestly, I couldn’t really see myself in that role. The question that kept popping up in my mind was, ‘How will I pull this off?’ It’s not something that I could blend into. But that was the challenge… that was the interesting part. To do something so much outside your comfort zone. It’s fun, you know. To keep playing yourself on screen can become rather boring. The characters I have played in Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani are those that I know like the back of my hand… they have all been me. It’s safe and people like that, but sometimes you really need to mix things up a little.
I felt I really needed to do a film like Bombay Velvet because I was increasingly being associated with only the coming-of-age kind of films… in fact, I had almost started feeling like Harry Potter! (Laughs out loud) When you do films like Bombay Velvet, you become aware of your level of talent. Sometimes you can pull things off and then sometimes you can’t… like I couldn’t pull off Besharam… but it’s important to try.
Was there ever a moment on the Bombay Velvet set when you felt you couldn’t pull it off?
No matter what your doubts are before, once you are in, you are in… then you have to pull it off with conviction. An actor can only convince a viewer if he himself is convinced about what he is doing. That was very important and Anurag really helped me a lot in tapping into that lack of self-confidence and turning it around… my co-stars helped me a lot, as did my team. Johnny’s emotional depth and vulnerability was there in the script, but on set, it was up to me to build on it. And the character is totally unlike me. I haven’t ever slapped anyone in life or even in my films, for that matter. And here I am killing people at the drop of a hat, sticking knives into them, firing from Tommy guns…. The good thing is that I am someone who is a little arrogant about my talent (smiles), but once I am in, I prepare myself to the point of surrendering myself to the part completely.
Was the chance to revisit the era in which your grandfather Raj Kapoor made his films a reason to be a part of this film?
It’s rightly said that the ’50s is the golden period of Indian cinema. It’s my favourite period in Indian films…. If I had to be reborn in any era, it would be the ’50s. But no, that was not a reason why I did this film. What Anurag was creating… the glamorous side of ’50s Bombay… was what attracted me. He’s showing the way Bombay actually was in the ’50s… the whole era of vintage cars, jazz, rising business tycoons, young men of lesser means but with great ambition…. For him, it was never about, ‘Come let’s shoot in old structures and make it look like the ’50s’… it was always about being authentic and detailed and never compromising on his vision. The costume designer, the lighting team, the property person… they have all worked extensively to bring the ’50s alive and that’s the first thing that will jump out at you when you watch the film.
But yes, my style inspirations for Bombay Velvet have been my grandfather and Kishore Kumar. My scraggly hair is exactly how Kishore Kumar’s used to be. The biggest challenge was the language and for that, I channelled quite a bit of Johnny Walker in Mr and Mrs ’55.
Anurag’s understanding of cinema is huge, to the point of being a passion. Did you find yourself struggling at any point to match up to that or…
He’s really an inspiration… that man is a walking-talking film school! (Laughs) Sometimes, I feel he knows a little too much about cinema and really needs to calm down and focus on his movies (smiles). It’s actually a disease with him, man… he has to know which films are releasing in France, in Korea, in Canada…. He has to see every film… he is in touch with all the great filmmakers across the world… (Martin) Scorsese, Danny Boyle… filmmakers from Europe… filmmakers from everywhere. And all of them are so fond of him and his movies. He’s truly a cinema person… if there is a cinema superhero, he can be Cine-Man! (Laughs out loud)
[‘I just gave you a super name… I said if Anurag is a superhero, he can be Cine-Man!’ Ranbir shouts out to Anurag who is sitting at the other end of the room. Anurag chuckles. Ranbir repeats ‘Cine-Man, Cine-Man’ twice to the tune of Spider-Man! ‘You had to say that thrice for us to react?’ cuts in Karan Johar from another side of the room. Ranbir to KJo: ‘I didn’t know you were awake… good morning!’ Everyone laughs out loud]
Naseeruddin Shah, who was initially slated to play Khambatta, has called Karan Johar replacing him as “the most inspired case of casting ever”. . But you were apparently not too convinced…
The first time I heard that Karan would play the main villain, I honestly laughed. You tell me, how does one see Karan as a villain? He’s always been this really easy and cool guy, cracking jokes, being his funny irreverent self and here he had to play this villain and that too a villain who isn’t the typical loud and menacing kind… very understated, very suave… a man who believes in bringing his enemy down by playing mental games.
But I really bullied him on set because I was the senior actor! (Laughs) And the sport that he is, he never had a problem with it. But Karan is just born to be part of the movies, more than I am. Karan Johar is a bigger star than I am. More people in this world know Karan than they know me and I have no qualms about admitting that.
The film has a lot of passionate scenes. Do you need to have some sort of rapport or chemistry with your co-star before being able to do those scenes?
Firstly, chemistry is always written into the script and the characters. How you build on that as actors is what makes it leap off the paper and come alive on screen. In Bombay Velvet, there is no sexual chemistry. There is this childlike vulnerability between two characters who are intensely passionate about each other. That was very tough… it’s actually easier to have sexual chemistry, but this childlike buddy vibe between lovers is difficult to pull off. Actually, you can’t really say what translates into good chemistry… it can be the script, the energies of the actors, how the director shoots it, how the guy lights, how the background score works… it just doesn’t come from me and Anushka.
But having said that, Anushka is great fun to be with and that translated into easy chemistry between us. Anushka and I have never worked together before but we share the same passion for doing good films and great work. The best thing about Anushka as a person is that she never judges you. She’s a good person… easy to hang out with and has an easy and inherent good vibe that immediately puts the other person at ease. There’s no sense of boredom around her… she’s a weird animal (laughs).
How are you with kissing scenes?
Easy (smiles). I treat them like any other scene… a dance scene or an emotional scene. I am not that much of a method actor that I really become that person (smiles). Whoever the co-star is, there is no palpable discomfort. And with Anushka, there is no discomfort at all because we are such thick friends.
With Bombay Velvet coming on the back of the failures of Besharam and Roy, what is your state of mind currently?
I have always been detached… whether it’s been success or failure. I didn’t feel the extreme disaster of Saawariya nor did I feel the success of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, my first hit film. In a way, it’s unfortunate that I manage to keep myself detached, but then, I am also grateful because I am someone who gives my life to a film and then I move on to another film. By the time the first film releases, I am already on to the next one and I can’t let my mood in my current film to be dictated by the success or failure of the first film. It’s not my process… I am happy to be detached.
But doesn’t detachment signal a lack of a competitive streak?
I am very, very competitive by nature (smiles). I believe in healthy competition… I believe that a good performance by a contemporary or a senior can only inspire me. Sometimes, when I see a good performance, I am like: ‘Yaar, can I do that too?’
The last time we had spoken you said you were in a good personal space, settled and in control and focused. There’s so much speculation about your love life and marriage plans. Don’t you ever feel the need to clarify anything?
See, more or less, everyone knows I am in a relationship… I am not hiding that. Also, people are aware it’s a serious relationship and that the level of commitment is high (smiles). As you said, there is a lot of speculation and conjecture and somehow, I never feel the need to contradict that. I am very happy with my life and my work and I try and fiercely protect that. I don’t want my life to end up as a reality show. If I really feel I need to clarify something, I can always call and tell you, but I don’t want to go through that challenge of contradicting everything that’s written about me, my partner or my relationship. Sometimes good things are written, most often bad… but I haven’t reacted and I will not react.
But why not take a leaf out of Anushka’s book who has admitted to her relationship with Virat Kohli?
Not talking about my life is my stance. Once I start talking, it will be like opening a Pandora’s box… then it will just go on and on and on. If I am not talking, there’s a thought behind it. There’s a sense of understanding that I’ve had in my life about how I want to deal with my relationship… and I am just going about it that way (smiles).