Even as opinions are divided over Rockstar, they are unanimous about Ranbir Kapoor’s moving performance, and the fact that the film continues to rock at the B.O. In a candid interview, the star talks about playing the angst-ridden character, Janardhan, his own growth as an actor and more.
How does it feel to be praised profusely for your performance in Rockstar, even by those who did not like the film?
I am still numb, because I don’t think the experience of making Rockstar has left me as yet. For the last two days I have been just lying on my bed and doing nothing. But it’s wonderful how the industry people have reacted to the film, especially the people I have grown up looking up to. Mr Amitabh Bachchan wrote me a very sweet handwritten letter praising my work, my grandfather Mr Shashi Kapoor went to see a movie after 15 years and asked who the boy in Rockstar was (as he does not remember people) and said he’s very good. The best was when dad said that my grandfather, the late Raj Kapoor, would have been very proud of me if he were alive today. These are things I shall always cherish.
Will it be easy to surpass the performance of a troubled Rockstar you have played so convincingly?
I am just eight films old and I have much more to achieve. But with Rockstar, I have understood the process of movie making. Still, there will be movies I might be bad in, others unbelievably bad, but there will be movies I will connect to, and to which the audience will connect with as well.
Did you expect this kind of a response to the film?
Not at all! In fact before we started work on the film, Imtiaz and I would often discuss how Rockstar is a new story, a little abrupt and even the narrative flow is broken at times, the characters are different, especially the woman’s (Nargis Fakhri) character who sleeps with another man in spite of being married. But the whole film has been made with a feeling and I think that’s what the people have connected to, because whatever the faults there may be, there’s honesty.
Considering there are no rockstars in India, who was your reference to play Janardhan?
My only reference was the character written by Imtiaz, who himself was not influenced by any person. He just told me to submit to Janardhan, a Jat boy who wants to become a rockstar and to feel the experience of the film rather than take anyone’s reference. That’s what we have attempted but it seems we have been successful with the experimentation.
Was it difficult to portray Jordan’s (who Janardhan later transforms into) angst?
See, the trick is to connect and become one with the character during the initial days of shooting, and then go with the flow. The angst period post-Sadda haq was hard, but it came naturally because by that time I had started feeling what Janadhan was going through with the loss of his love, Heer, society telling him what was right and wrong, and the aggressive image he had developed. As an actor I could feel what’s happening inside me, and then Imtiaz also helped a lot.
Did you, in any way, identify with Jordan?
Not at all! In real life I am not a very expressive person. I cannot laugh wholeheartedly if I am happy, or show remorse to anyone, be it my parents, girlfriend or friends. So films give me a medium to express all the emotions like anxiety and anger that I find difficult to express in real life.
How did you manage to sing like a true rockstar?
I was intelligent enough to know that I was playing a musician and had to make the lip syncing believable, or the people would not connect to it. I spent time with Mohit Chauhan and A. R. Rahman, who made sure that I was there for all the recordings and rehearsals and listened to the songs a million times on my iPod before shooting to connect with the voice and the notations. I must credit my father too because once he was watching the promo of Anjaana Anjaani and suddenly he said, “Ranbir, sing loud!” He was so good with songs and music, so I took that from him and put it in this.
Was shooting live concerts with thousands of people easy for you?
Initially, I was scared as there were about 3000 people out there and any comment could have distracted me, but I went with the flow and connected. The crowds that came were my fans and very supportive. In fact it was like a rock concert and I really felt like Jordan. They were a big help in bringing out the honesty.
How about Janardhan’s college scenes in Delhi University? Were they fun to shoot?
We shot the film in reverse, finishing the intense part first and then coming to the college part. I had lived Jordan, the rockstar’s character first and then had to unlearn it to play Janardhan the simpleton. I had to become a virgin again, so it was fun. The dialogues were funny and that whole world of Hindu college, the theater and Junglee Jawani, felt real. I enjoyed that part, except for wearing jeans that were too tight!
Imtiaz took me to Delhi University at least 20 times before we started shooting as he knows that world so well. He made me understand that this was the world Janardhan came from and to connect to the people, the flavour of the place, the taste of the samosa and the chai, and other aspects that added to the nuances of my performance. And in the Dargah song, the fakirs were real.
How was the experience of working with A.R. Rahman?
I spent a good 45-50 days with Rahman-sir in Chennai and Mumbai before we started shooting. I imbibed a lot from him not only for my character but as a human being as well. He works in solitude and with passion with no yes-people around him, and the kindness that he shows in his work is because he is a very humble person. There are lessons we should learn from him.
This is the first time that you are playing a character like Jordan who has some negative shades. How did you relate to it?
My character in Raajneeti also had some grey shades but he was more sophisticated. This guy is more relatable as he is an ordinary guy to whom extraordinary things happen. Yes it’s the first tedha character, but like I said Imtiaz made it very easy for me.
Like Janardhan in the film, do you also feel that you need to feel pain to bring out the emotions as an artiste?
I may not have seen struggle and pain , but I have had my share of sadness. I have felt all the emotions of envy, love, angst, jealousy, and yes, it has all added to my growth and enriched me as an actor. In fact I want to do things which every person enjoys, like travel all over India, eat the local food and experience different cultures and meet different people. Through this I will imbibe things that help me at some point in my career as an actor.
Does a part become more challenging if you have not experienced the emotions?
To an extent only, because as an actor it’s my job to make every character look real.
Coming to your future projects, is the Kishore Kumar biopic to be directed by Anurag Basu happening?
n Actually I have been very busy for these last few months, but now I am going to sit and decide what I am going to do next. The biopic is there on the agenda, but as of now I am only part of Barfee and Ayan Mukerji’s film, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I haven’t signed any other film as yet.
There were reports of you working in a film based on Chetan Bhagat’s Two States, to be directed by Imtiaz Ali.
That was grossly misreported. Imtiaz does not even know about Two States. Since I was offered the film, and I have worked with Imtiaz, someone just put two and two together to make a nice story.
What can we expect from Barfee?
Barfee is a fun film, an Indian interpretation of Mr Beans. It’s a comedy set in the ’70s about how two abnormal people can make a relationship work. It’s not depressing, as one would think. On the other hand Ayaan’s film is a fun coming-of-age love story, a mix of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege, Wake Up Sid! and Westside. After the intense Rockstar, this film will bring the youth back in me.
How do you feel about working with Deepika Padukone?
I am looking forward to that! So much has been said about us, but for me, it’s just two people who were a part of each other’s life coming together again to work. Deepika was a very important part of my life. I am what I am as a person because she has added that value to me and made me grow as a person. I have only done one fourth of Bachna Ae Haseeno with her, so hopefully we will get rid of that baggage and the media perception, and really shine in our characters
Does this image of Casanova affect your work in any way?
Not at all! Today I see so much appreciation for my work, despite what is being written about me (some true, some untrue). If your work is good nothing else matters. Tales and rumours don’t make a man. If it had affected me it would have affected my work, and the negativity would reflect on my face. I am 29 years old and have been here for four years and understood what’s important for my goals. And Rockstar is the beginning of what I want to achieve. It gives me the ticket to do a lot of things I always wanted to do.
What if Rockstar had not done well?
I have always maintained that failure or success have never affected me. The experience of making a film has always been more important. Of course I would have been sad, but not that my goals would change. I have still lots to achieve and prove and I can do a lot more.
How did you find Imtiaz as a person?
I have connected with Imtiaz on a large scale as a brother. I am glad to have met a man whose vision is very honest, true and spiritual. I loved that experience, and I have made a friend for life. Ayan and he are two directors who will be friends for life whether I work with them or not.
Brand Ranbir has become an enviable name today. How do you view your endorsements?
I have always maintained that I do endorsements not to make pot loads of money, but to endorse products I believe in. It’s a bonus that has come with films.
What about your dream of directing a film one day? Have you set yourself a time limit?
If I come across an interesting script I will make a film tomorrow. Marriage and movie making is the same thing, the answer has to come from the heart. You cannot direct a film or marry for the wrong reasons. I will direct a film when I have something to say, not because I want to make a profession out of it. I already have my acting for that.
What kind of subjects would interest you?
Something like Shree 420, or Life Is Beautiful, a film that has the fantasy element, a character with lots of positivity, a musical instrument in his hand and a song on his lips. A beautiful love story, and something on life.
Is it true that you enjoy gossiping?
I love to hear gossip, but for me it’s confined to which movie is happening, or which actor is doing which film etc. Most of the time I read about myself in papers so it’s interesting to know about others. (Laughs)
How much do box-office figures interest you?
I don’t understand figures, but am trying to understand them now as it’s important. But I would not like to get too much into it, as I do not want to corrupt myself as an actor and get bogged down by numbers. It will start showing in my work.
Is there any role that you are dying to play?
I would love to do a negative role, an out-and-out mean guy, or play a psycho or even do a Judwaa wearing orange pants and dancing, Romeo Juliet, Schindler’s List, Braveheart, Rang De Basanti…that’s the dream.
What about international projects?
Hollywood does not excite me, as I am very close to my culture and country.
What about playing a superhero?
I don’t know if I have the persona or star power to pull off a superhero act or even a Bodyguard or Krrish, but if I could, I would like to play the underdog who doesn’t have super-powers but his human side is super-powerful. I connect to real characters.
Who are the directors you would like to work with?
There’s Rajkumar Hirani, Aditya Chopra, Anurag Basu, Imtiaz ali, Ayan and Shimit Amin.
What excites you about the film industry today?
That we have the potential to grow 10 times bigger than Hollywood. These are progressive times for us with our new-age films and characters, and many movies breaking records at the box-office.
What about animation films? If offered, would you do one?
I would love to, whether it’s lending my face or doing a voice over. That’s another side of cinema. Anything that engages the audience! But not television, as I am too young and I do not want to dilute myself, and let go off the aura of mystery. At least not now.