He may be playing a ‘besharam’ in his next film, but in real life Ranbir Kapoor is a gentleman. Polite SMSes, punctual phone calls and friendly banter define any tete-a-tete with Bolly’s newest superstar, who had bowled over the t2 girl gang when he came to our office in May. With Besharam slated for an October 2 release, Ranbir chatted with t2 on the film and beyond.
You had told us earlier that you hate promoting your films. Has that changed post the success of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani that you promoted widely?
I hate it… I just simply hate it! (Laughs) But it’s something that is the call of the day today. It’s very important to make people aware of the fact that you have a film releasing on a particular date, so that a large audience comes and sees it. And I guess we are all very insecure and the fact that we don’t really have enough belief in our films is what makes us promote them so much. Hopefully, with a little bit more success coming my way in the next few years I will be able to break that and not promote a film that much. Sometimes I feel that I am really overselling myself and that’s something I want to avoid.
Is it also a little uncomfortable this time given that your personal life is so much in focus now?
I know what you mean. But I always feel that we should be here only to talk about our movies and our work. Anything personal [reference to the context: Ranbir’s pictures with Katrina Kaif while on holiday in Ibiza that were splashed all across] is fine to a certain extent, but not when it crosses a line. What has happened is something that could have been avoided, but I am someone who doesn’t like to be bogged down by these things. I have friends from the industry and I will continue to be seen with them… I don’t let these things affect me, honestly.
What’s the feeling like for Besharam? The promos are being widely spoken about…
To be honest, we’ve got a lot of mixed reactions to the promo… the music. But we have made the film we set out to make. It’s quite different from the kind of films I have done. It’s larger-than-life and a bit vulgar and repulsive (laughs). But I wanted to do something in this space. I have been a fan of Abhinav’s (Singh Kashyap, the director of Besharam)… I really liked Dabangg. I really liked his simplicity and the kind of story and character he brought to me. It’s a fun film… it’s a quintessential masala movie and hopefully the audience will have a good time at the cinema.
So how did you react when Abhinav came to you with his “vulgar and repulsive” character called Babli?
I loved the fact that it’s challenging. It’s a film that really excited me. I am not at all like the character in real life and I wanted to see if I could pull it off. When I say “vulgar and repulsive”, I mean a guy who’s a little over-the-top, he mouths corny dialogues, he embarrasses people with the way he walks and dresses. All these years, I have played sober, coming-of-age characters… I have played the underdog in so many of my films. Besharam was a good departure… it was a fresh change. You know, it’s important to constantly reinvent yourself as an actor and be a part of different worlds.
As for the name Babli, I just loved it! I have played guys with quirky names in many of my films, be it Barfi in Barfi!, Janardhan Jakhar or Jordan in Rockstar and even recently Bunny in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I like names like this… I think it builds a bit of curiosity. It has this weirdness to it that I really like.
So how besharam did Ranbir have to get to play Babli?
I think besharam is a term that is always used a little loosely and often out of context. It’s not about removing your clothes and embarrassing people. Being besharam has a lot to do with your attitude. It’s about being open and honest in life and doing the right thing and we are treating being besharam in a positive way. How I became Babli had a lot to do with my director. Abhinav instilled a lot of confidence in me because playing a character like this requires a lot of self-confidence and self-belief. Babli is a full-blown hero and initially, it was a little hard coming to terms with what I was required to do. I guess you have to be really besharam as an actor to play a character like this.
Including growing your chest hair?
(Laughs out loud) Oh, that was very, very tough. The story behind it is that Babli is a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan and when Abhinav narrated the script to me, there is only one thing he gave me as homework — to grow chest hair like Mr Bachchan! It took me four months to grow my chest hair (laughs).
How did you react when Abhinav told you that you would share screen space with your parents Rishi and Neetu Kapoor?
I think it was an amalgamation of everything — I was excited, nervous and psyched out at the same time (laughs). When we came together on set, because they are such hardworking professional actors for so many years, it was a cakewalk for me. I got to learn so much from them… I got to spend time with them that I normally can’t because of my shooting schedules. They were never intimidating… they were never overbearing. In fact, I was telling them what to do and what not to do! (Laughs)
Was it tough to remain Babli and not slip into Ranbir with your parents on set?
No, we never got our relationship on set. What we came in with was just our characters. We really loved the script and our parts so much that we just surrendered ourselves completely to our roles. My dad is someone around whom I am always a little intimidated but our characters were so much fun that we just let go of our inhibitions.
What’s the most besharam thing that Ranbir’s done in life?
I dropped the towel in my first film (Saawariya) and got butt-naked in front of hundreds of people on a film set! (Laughs out loud) I don’t think it can get any more besharam than that.
You are currently shooting Bombay Velvet with Abhinav’s brother Anurag Kashyap. How are their working styles different, given one is a masala filmmaker and the other makes serious cinema?
There are a lot of differences. Abhinav’s heroes are flamboyant while Anurag’s are rooted and more real. In Abhinav’s films, the hero sings a song to woo the girl, while in Anurag’s he probably picks up a gun to impress a girl! (Laughs) But at the heart of it, both are very passionate and true to their craft. For me, they both add to me as an actor and star and are helping me grow with their films.
You are paired with Anushka Sharma for the first time in Bombay Velvet, but it is Karan Johar’s casting as a villain that’s making more news…
Absolutely! He’s playing one of the principal characters and you should see the kind of nuances he’s bringing to his character. Even veteran actors can’t do what he’s doing. I am very fond of Karan as a person and to just be on set with him and to see him act is so exciting for me. Even Anurag was amazed at how Karan’s been able to bring so much to his character.
How has the huge success of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani changed the way you are picking and choosing your films now?
It hasn’t changed anything. It’s of course rewarding and brings a lot of happiness that so many people have liked the film. But I am still groping, I am insecure about my movies, I am arrogant about my talent… I feel I can do much better, work with newer filmmakers… repeatedly work with the directors I have made good films with. I think I have come a long way from Saawariya that was a big disaster to Yeh Jawaani… which did the kind of business I never could have imagined even in my dreams.
Last week, Salman Khan counted you as someone who is as big as the three Khans. How do you react to that?
It feels amazing, especially when a superstar like Mr Salman Khan takes your name in the same breath as Mr Aamir Khan, Mr Shah Rukh Khan and himself. It makes you realise that Salman Khan is such a big superstar and yet he isn’t insecure about anything. He wants everyone’s films to do well… he is very welcoming of new talent coming into the industry. And I think that is the attitude we should all adopt… we should all hope for each other’s films to do well. I, of course, can’t even dream to think of myself in the same league as the Khans. Nobody can take their place. I just want to make my own place.
So how welcoming are you of new talent? How do you feel when you see a Sushant Singh Rajput or a Ranveer Singh doing well?
I love it! There’s Ayushmann (Khurrana), Sushant, Arjun (Kapoor), Sidharth (Malhotra), Varun (Dhawan), Ranveer… they are doing so well and I feel so happy. We all know each other personally and whenever any of our films releases, we call up each other and appreciate it and also criticise it (laughs). There’s good brotherhood happening and also healthy competition because we all have to drive each other to carry this industry forward.
Do these guys come to you for advice since you have been around a little longer than they have?
I don’t think I am in the place to give anyone advice (laughs). All these guys have come well prepared and know what works for them and what doesn’t. They have their own path. I can’t ever do what the Khans have done… I have to have my own path. Similarly, all these guys can’t do what I have done.