Boy wonder Ranbir Kapoor emanates sense. Even so, we’re caught off-guard when he says wants to be the biggest actor in the country, and one or two films aren’t going to do it. But he’s willing to work hard and be a Kapoor among the Khans
‘Are you going to grill me?” For a minute, we’re thrown. It’s a first interview with Ranbir Kapoor and you’re unsure whether to impress the bloke by saying you will put him through a Spanish inquisition or put him at ease by smiling Mona Lisa-like and saying the thought didn’t cross your mind.
Turns out, it doesn’t matter much to Ranbir. He answers anything that’s thrown at him. Polite to a fault, he’s amiable, honest and laughs easily. It’s at odds with his constant refrain that he’s shy and it takes a lot to do an interview.
What’s more revealing is his stance in a blue checked shirt, New York Yankees cap and denims, he sits on the very edge of an alcove seat in a snug outhouse at his KrishnaRaj home. Between questions, he sips black coffee or keeps chipping away at the flaky white paint on the walls. What’s refreshing? The fact that Ranbir is probably the most sensible actor you have ever met Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and Madhuri Dixit included.
You’ve taken a vacation from the press. Where were you?
I’ve been working nonstop. The last three months, my personal life has been primarily written about. That was bothersome. I’d rather be connected to people through my movies than the tabloid press. But now, Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani are done, so now I feel comfortable talking.
Unlike other actors, you’ve actually said that there always is a germ of truth in the stories that appear in the tabloids. So what truth is there to the rumour about you and Katrina Kaif?
Our beginning. Katrina and I are dear friends. We’re doing Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani together. We’ve done this long outdoor for 45 days in Ooty. So we did strike a close friendship. We connected. I hate the clichÃ©, but it’s just a platonic friendship. We’re both in different relationships.
I finished Ajabâ€¦ at the same time as Ayaan Mukherjee’s Wake Up Sid. So I worked with Katrina and Konkana (Sen Sharma), both on different ends of the spectrum and it’s brilliant. Konkana makes me feel like a fish out of water because she’s got this immense talent. I don’t know if she has a method, but her acting is layered, it’s moment-to-moment.
Konkana says you’re so well-versed with the whole process of filming.
I contribute because I’ve grown up in a film family. I always wanted to be a director and an actor. I went to Lee Strasberg’s acting school and came back and assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali; movie-making runs in my blood. Anything I can do to better my movie, I will. It’s my love for movies.
Is it taken in the right spirit?
If it’s given in the right spirit. Movie-making isn’t about dictatorship. People put their heads together. But the director decides. It’s every actor’s birthright to give suggestions. It isn’t interference it’s involvement.
About Wake Up Sid, how did it get mixed up with this tagline? ‘An attractive guy falls for an older, not so attractive woman’!
I read that it’s complete bulls***. Konkana’s doing the role because of her sheer talent. The unattractive woman is nonsense. She’s extremely attractive and radiates beauty. Primarily, it’s a coming-of-age movie, which is why it’s called Wake Up Sid. Sid is a Bombay slacker boy, rich, lazy. When he meets Ayesha Banerjee, this girl from Calcutta, his life changes. It’s a sweet film and shot like a homage to Bombay. The director, Ayaan Mukherjee, is just a year younger than me and has one of the finest heads.
Were you a Bombay slacker boy?
I wasn’t really lazy. I was always in a hurry to start acting and assist a filmmaker. I finished college, went straight to film school. I didn’t do business school. People told me, “What if films don’t work out?” But I’ll only fall back on films. If not acting, then production or something. That’s why I assisted a filmmaker (Bhansali).
I have ambitions to become the biggest actor in the country. But I know I can’t see that by resting on my family’s achievements. It takes a lot of hard work to be Shah Rukh Khan today, but I’m willing to do that.
People regard me as a potential star. I haven’t reached there yet because I haven’t had a bonafide superhit. The three Khans, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan have repeatedly proved themselves. I’m lucky that talented directors have faith in me.
You have a variety of films.
Yes, Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani isn’t a rom com, it’s a comedic romance slated for July 10. It’s Rajkumar Santoshi’s return to comedy after Andaz Apna Apna. Then Wake Up Sid on October 2. Today I start my prep work for Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year (directed by Shimit Amin) and shooting on May 5. I play a sardar, so I’ve started growing my beard. It’s a fabulous script by Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India, Khosla Ka Ghosla) and Shimit. It’s a kicka** role. Then I get ready to shoot Prakash Jha’s Rajniti in September. It’s an ensemble cast (Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai, Katrina Kaif, Arjun Rampal), but a great role.
Speculation is that you’re playing Rajiv Gandhi to Katrina’s Sonia.
I don’t think Katrina is Sonia Gandhi but yes, there are some similarities, this guy too returns from America and gets into politics. But I don’t think you can justify Rajiv Gandhi’s life on film; this is a fictitious film.
How political are you?
I’m not too involved with politics, but I voted in the last elections and I know who I want to vote for now. Our youth constantly crib about how our country is going to the dogs, but we don’t do much. The beginning is to vote, elect our leader, exercise that.
Is it a plan to do a variety of roles?
There’s no plan to do different movies, but I want to move to progressive cinema. The line is blurring between commercial and art. People want to see good performances.
Your father is a firm believer in commercial cinema. What are the films you believe in?
All kinds. The best script can turn out boring. Nobody has the formula to success. I don’t think anything is offbeat. You take a Shah Rukh Khan out of Chak De India and put Naseeruddin Shah, it’s considered offbeat. But if you had Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan in A Wednesday, it would have been the biggest commercial film. The difference isn’t in the movies, it’s in the actors.
It was reported that you had an exchange of words about commercial cinema with Kunal Kohli when you turned down his film.
Kunal has been a family friend. He’s worked with my father in three films. If he had a movie I didn’t believe in, I have the right to say that. He would move ahead to another actor. But he didn’t even approach me.
Imran Khan said that post Jaane Tuâ€¦, everyone wanted to give him money or handle it. Did you go through that?
Money was never the issue. It was Disneyland for me because I was getting to do what I loved. Of course, because of the boom I had an obscene amount of money thrown in my face. And my father, with his experience, has a clear vision of money and he handles that.
It was cool in a way because I was brought up on strict pocket money by my mom and suddenly you have these massive sums. What do you do with it? I eat the same food I always have, drive the same cars, sleep in the same pajamas. But I’m building a future and getting responsible. I deserve it, so no complaints.
Money you can handle, but what about the scripts?
It’s lovely. I have a principle.
I read everyone’s script. An assistant director, someone from Bhopal… I’ve met
many, many aspiring filmmakers.
How does one get access to Ranbir Kapoor?
Very easy. If you get my number from someone, I don’t direct you to my secretary or manager. I meet people when I’m not shooting and read their scripts. It’s my birthright to accept or reject you. But I’m ambitious. There are no friends or family in this business. You have to be selfish about your choices.
You’re from a film family and relationships are everything. Is that how the industry functions today?
I don’t know about the industry, but that is how I function. There are emotional attachments. If I don’t like a movie but have to do it, I put in extra effort to make it better. I don’t want to be dishonest; the audience catches that first.
I saw a bit of your first film Karma.
(Laughs) Yes, that was a 12-minute short film. I was 18 at the time.
Eighteen? You look the same.
(Nodding) I know. I made it with my really close friend Abhay Chopra (director Ravi Chopra’s son). We made about 300 short films you just saw this (laughs). I’d want them to release after I die. Save myself the embarrassment!
Who helps you in script choices?
Nobody really does. I ask my mom. She reads it and gives me her thoughts. That’s it. I don’t have a barrage of people. It’s the pleasure of making a choice, making it happen and seeing it work.
My dad never sits in on scripts. He sees the final product and I wait for comments. He calls a spade a spade, good or bad.
Yes, I’ve heard what he thought when he visited you on Saawariya’s sets. Does it hurt?
No, if I’m ever super successful, I’ll have people around who’ll only tell me good things. At least, I’ll always have my dad to give me a reality check!
Your parents are finally back together on screen.
My mom was really shy all these years. She didn’t want to make a comeback. Now that my sister is in Delhi and I’m busy, she was open.
Just yesterday, my parents were discussing shooting it in Delhi for 2 Â½ months. It was lovely listening to her talking about getting back to work, character nuances. I’ve never seen that because she quit when she got married. I’ve always been protective about seeing her on screen.
Why is that?
I think it’s because someone sees the movie and judges my mother no one has that right. She’s my mother; she’s the best. I’ve grown up seeing my dad in the movies so I understood that. I’ve never felt that connection when I saw my mom’s films. I couldn’t see the line between real and reel. I’ve only taken that spontaneity and vivaciousness from her, as I have from my dad. It was off-the-cuff, from the heart. I try that.
Did you have to give her a pep talk?
I did actually. She said, “I’m making a fool of myself.” I told her, “They’re going to love you! There’s an entire generation that tell me they’re your fans. Their favourite screen idol is back.” It’s like the pep talk she gives me.
The downside of being Ranbir Kapoor is that your Facebook account gets hacked.
I’m not on Facebook. There are apparently five-six guys impersonating me. I’ve seen Facebook, never been on it. I keep destroying that account, but it comes up. I’ve written to Facebook, but (shrugs)… It’s part and parcel of being an actor. Lots of imposters.
What about blogging or writing a column?
I don’t have much to say. I’m not well-read enough to go on perhaps about some leaf I found in the country. If I had anything to say, I’d direct a movie. The audience owns you, but they care about your character, not you. An actor needs mystery. I’m also shy, bit of an introvert. It takes a lot from me to just do this interview you’re a stranger and millions are reading this. It’s my duty to share something, but I don’t feel the need to blog.
Are you and Imran Khan the new best friends even turning producers together?
He’s a dear friend, but I’m more a fan of his acting. This generation’s doing well Neil (Nitin Mukesh), Imaad (Shah), Harman (Baweja). Harman may be going through a bad phase now, but that will change. He’s a good friend. Even I’m coming from a disaster like Saawariya. There’s no negativity. We’re not starting a production house. Imran and I are keen to work together. We talk of movies we want to do we may co-write or be part of a movie we believe in.
You’re really keen on directing, aren’t you?
The first time I assisted was my uncle Rajeev (Chimpoo) Kapoor on his Prem Granth. My uncle and I have a great bond. When I watched him in his world, with the sets, costumes, camera and saying, ‘Action!’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is like playing God.
What were your first impressions of film?
When I was growing up, I felt every kid went through that. It was my world. I lived around lights, screenings, passionate people fighting over a stupid costume or a dialogue. I fell in love with this world. When we sit in the garden at night, my father sits with his drink, my mother asks me if I had my veggies, my dad asks what time I slept last night. But whether we talk about Obama or Mickey Mouse, we always come back to the movies. It’s fantastic.
Earlier, you’ve spoken of how you weren’t close to your cousins Kareena or Karisma, but were getting there.
When I was in college, Karisma was acting and my sister was in London. Now we’re extremely fond of each other. Three days ago, I was doing this Wake Up Sid photo shoot and Kareena dropped by. She spent an hour and a half just chatting. There is no negativity.
Which Kapoor cousin are you closest to?
My bua, Reema Jain’s kids. Armaan aspires to be an actor. Both are younger than me and look up to me. I’m their idol, I play soccer, so they did too. They’re really protective about me.
You did a cameo, turning down your father’s character Romy Rolly in Luck By Chance.
My father has seen such producers. But even after 30 years, he’s so passionate about every character. He went and bought the clothes and shoes for his character. You have to see his excitement on the eve of starting a film: it’s unparalleled. The way he talks about a movie, music, politics, a boiled egg, my mother, his mother, his brothers, his children. I live with an extremely passionate man.
Have you and Sonam really become distant?
Sonam is my first co-star and a great friend. We’re family friends before that, we danced at birthday parties together when we were kids. Now we’ve danced onscreen together. Our relationship I can’t simplify or explain. It doesn’t matter to her or me what’s written. We’ve been offered lots of films since, but we decide on scripts individually. I’m sure we’ll work together again.
Bhansali was your mentor, but is working now with Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.
He’ll always be my mentor. He taught me about movies and life for nearly four years. Even if he called me to hold a light, I would be there. I’ll always be his assistant and he, my boss. I’m like the son he doesn’t have.
Do you think you’ll live down the Saawariya towel-dropping act?
Live it down?
It’s become like a gag now.
See, we did it then with so much conviction this young boy in love. I thought people would laugh. But my major fan following has been from that song. I owe it that. If it’s a gag or someone makes fun of you, it shows that you matter.
The other speculation is that your mother and your girlfriend Deepika Padukone don’t get along.
It’s totally untrue. My parents don’t interfere in my professional or personal life. But if I have a girlfriend, my mother isn’t going to treat her like my wife. I’m just 26, my career is my priority. My mother is fond of Deepika, but she isn’t going to make an extra effort thinking she is her bahu. I don’t know what tomorrow holds for Deepika and me. But my mom isn’t the type to pass bad vibes.
It’s great to be in a relationship. It’s companionship. If I pack up early, I go for a movie or dinner with my girlfriend or have dinner with my parents. It’s normal. I’m too young to get married because I still have to get a foothold in the industry.
Are there lessons you’ve learnt early on, being from a film family?
Songs were something I was really scared of. So I turned to my dad, who’s like the king of songs, and asked him how to do it. He smsed me these simple lines, “Smile, sing loudly and just have fun. Don’t think too much, just feel.”
Do you share the Kapoor family passion for food?
Of course, I’m just blessed with my mother’s genes! I’m a complete foodie but I don’t put on weight. I’m a Peshawari so galouti kebabs, paya, junglee mutton, Hyderabad dals. Bring it on!
How did your parents react to your candid interview in a men’s magazine recently? You admitted to smoking marijuana in college and losing your virginity at 15.
Oh, I got so much flak for that! A TV channel aired a two-hour special on how Ranbir was a druggie, inserting Dev.D clips with my face. They kept harping about me losing my virginity at 15. The magazine hadn’t hit the stands yet. My parents started getting calls from lawyers and asked me what was going on. But it was ok. My mom knows everything.
Dog or cat person?
Dog I have two pugs called Dudley and Pugley and I think my parents love them more than they love me or Riddhima.
Beaches or mountains?
Tea or coffee?
Which Hollywood movie are you dying to see this year?
They have so many interesting things coming up I want to see Public Enemies directed by Michael Mann. It stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
Which Hindi film apart from your own?
Oh, I cringe while watching my own films I feel so shy. This year, I’m waiting for Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots (Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi) and Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal (Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone). I’m a fan of both. I’ve seen Love Aaj Kal’s trailor it’s beautiful.
Which guy from FRIENDS, Joey, Chandler or Ross, are you closest in nature to?
Ross; he’s a bit of a lover, goofy and hey, he has Rachel!
Batman or Superman?
Superman, for sure. I mean, he wears the underwear on the outside and pulls it off.
What obsession of yours do you sink money into? Do you collect anything?
Not really. I’m just a giant soccer fan. I carry my football to the sets. I’m not into bikes I have no need for speed. But I’ve traveled to London for soccer matches. Now the Barcelona football club wants me to be their brand ambassador for India. They’re going to fly me to meet the club I’m going to see players like Thierry Henry. I’m super excited; we’re just working out the dates.
Which is your favourite Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Singh song?
Ek main aur ek tu (Khel Khel Mein). It’s the ultimate date song.
Which of the RK Films movies would you like to remake?
Jagte Raho or Shri 420 (both starring Ranbir’s grandfather Raj Kapoor), which is my favourite film, but I think it’s done to perfection. I wouldn’t have another take on it.
And Rishi Kapoor’s?
Gosh, so many. Sargam, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai or even Chandni. Just look at how he plays that dafli in Sargam.