He is Bollywood’s most talked about newcomer, belongs to the fourth generation of one of the most illustrious families of the country and is waiting to burn up the marquee in his debut film, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya. Meet grandson of Raj Kapoor and son of actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, the very promising Ranbir Kapoor.
Rajeev Masand: Ranbir, welcome to CNN-IBN. Were you always destined to be an actor?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I think so. I don’t really remember the time when I sat down and thought what I would do in my life. I lived around films, so it was always about something to do with films. But I didn’t really say as a child that I would grow up to be an actor.
Rajeev Masand: Were the signs there like looking at the mirror and mimicking your father?
Ranbir Kapoor: Not mimicking but you see a trailer of a song and you suddenly start dancing to it or imitate what’s happening onscreen. So, I have done all of that and I guess those are the signs, which showed my passion for acting. It was slow and steady but it was always there.
Rajeev Masand: While growing up were you a big fan of your father?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, absolutely. But there was a point when I didn’t know that he was an actor because we were always shielded from the sets.
Rajeev Masand: Your mother was also an actress but she had given up acting.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I am a little shy about my mum being an actress. I don’t really watch her films because personally I am too shy to see her onscreen. Just the fact that somebody else might be judging her… So, I kind of stay clear of mum’s films. But yes, I am a big fan of my dad’s films.
Rajeev Masand: Which is your favourite Rishi Kapoor film?
Ranbir Kapoor: I would say Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai. Not many people have seen the film but the comedy timing was great in it.
Rajeev Masand: Your father was a great dancer and an actor. He was an all-rounder entertainer. Is that something you have picked up from him?
Ranbir Kapoor: I don’t know if I am as good as him. I also don’t know if I can live upto those expectations and can even be compared to him. Maybe I have a style of my own. I don’t think he had a style of acting, which could be copied. A lot of people say I sound like him and smile like him.
Rajeev Masand: But you look like your mother.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I do.
Rajeev Masand: What have you learnt from watching your father onscreen?
Ranbir Kapoor: I think I have learnt more from him off screen. Just his passion for cinema and acting like he listens to radio all the time and it’s uncanny that he can always drum the song on the desk with his fingers and he will be completely in tune with the song. He will catch the off beats and he also sings really well. So, he is passionate about the entire field of cinema be it songs, acting, drama or dancing. Also I admire his love for the family including his brothers, sisters and parents. So, I have learnt more from him off screen.
Rajeev Masand: Did you have a pet name? Your family is famous for pet names. Your father is called Chintu and your uncles are Dabboo and Chimpu.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I know. And because of these names I think my parents made a conscious effort to not give me a pet name. So, thank god, I have steered clear of a pet name.
Rajeev Masand: Do have early memories of your grandfather? I know you were very young…
Ranbir Kapoor:Yes, I have loads of memories of my grandfather. I was once four or five and I wanted to wear a suit because I always saw father wear suits. And in those days we didn’t get good suits for children so my grandfather was going to Russia and he was not the sort to go shopping but I called him to get me one. And he actually got me three bags full of suits. So, it’s these small things I remember. I was very little when he was around and don’t remember much but these are the very instances which I will always remember.
Rajeev Masand: You have grown up watching films that the RK Banner made. Which are your favourite films from the house?
Ranbir Kapoor: I am a big fan of the banner. I like Jagte Raho, Shri 420, Mera Naam Joker, Prem Rog. I think all of them, I can’t really choose. But my most favourite is Shri 420. I connect to that film a lot and it’s simply beautiful. That’s the kind of cinema that I believe in.
Rajeev Masand: Your father directed a film as well – Aa Ab Laut Chalen and you assisted him on that film.
Ranbir Kapoor: Actually, I assisted him on that film by default because my ICSE Board exams had just gotten over and you usually go for a holiday after it. So, dad was shooting in America and he told me ‘why don’t you come along. You can take a holiday and can assist me also.’ So, it was a mixture of both and that is the time I really started bonding with him. While I was growing up we never had a very friendly relationship because he used to stay very busy.
Rajeev Masand: You were scared of him as a kid.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I was petrified of him. He would tell me to eat my vegetables and I would start crying. But in the US we really bonded well because we stayed together. Every night after pack-up he would take me to these fancy restaurants. He is a big foodie and he is very particular that I taste different types of cuisine.
Rajeev Masand: How have you managed to stay so slim? The Kapoor men have a habit of putting on a lot of weight.
Ranbir Kapoor: I guess I have my mother’s genes. No, but I work hard on it. I run a lot, play football. So, one has to work on it because nowadays the competition is so tough.
Rajeev Masand: Do you think that being a star kid is a double-edged sword? Is there an upside and a flipside?
Ranbir Kapoor: There is an upside because you can get a big break and people look forward to your films but the flipside is that expectations are very high. People are critical right from your strand of hair to your nail. So, there are ups and downs to everything. I am not saying that somebody else’s struggle is more than mine or mine is more than his. But everyone has his own struggles and I had mine too.
Rajeev Masand: Whose reaction are you really dreading once Saawariya is released?
Ranbir Kapoor: I am not dreading but am really waiting for my father’s reaction because he is very honest even if he is talking about his own family. He will call a spade a spade, so he will not hide whether he hates or loves me in the film.
Rajeev Masand: Your debut, Saawariya, how did it happen?
Ranbir Kapoor: Honestly, I don’t know how it happened. I was working with Mr Bhansali on Black. I assisted him on that film.
Rajeev Masand: Like getting yelled at?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, as an assistant. But I think the process began then itself that he showed some interest in working with me in a film.
Rajeev Masand: But did you go to him as an assistant hoping in the back of your mind that he would cast you?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, absolutely that was my main motive to go to him. I had already set my mind that I would make sure he likes me and casts me in his next film. It was a dream three years back and now it is coming through.
Rajeev Masand: Then of course, your director cast Sonam Kapoor as your co-star. She was also another assistant like you on the sets of Black. Were you childhood friends since your parents knew each other?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, yes we knew each other very well. My grandfather knew her grandfather and then our parents were very good friends. You know we used to joke and call each other satellite cousins because we aren’t related but our families are so close.
I known Sonam since childhood, we have gone for film shootings together. I don’t recall family holidays but shoots were like family holidays for us. So, working with Sonam is like working with someone from my family. I love her to death and I think she is a wonderful co-star. She is an amazing actress and her dedication matches her father’s passion for acting, which everyone is aware of. So, I feel blessed that I had Mr Bhansali and Sonam to begin with. Everything was so perfect.
Rajeev Masand: It’s like a dream launch.
Ranbir Kapoor: Absolutely, I don’t think I could have had it better than this.
Rajeev Masand: Was it a hard film to make? Was it difficult shooting your first film?
Ranbir Kapoor: I wouldn’t call it an easy film to make. I think am too new so I don’t have experience to gauge it. But yes, it wasn’t an easy process. We worked really hard. Mr Bhansali gave us everything that he had. He imparted all his knowledge of cinema and life to us, which helped us a lot. So, I wouldn’t call it easy but I wouldn’t call it difficult because he made it easier than it could have been for us.
Rajeev Masand: What was the most difficult part of your first film, was it the dancing? I know you have taken lessons in ballet and jazz.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, those are mandatory classes when you are in school. But I have not perfected ballet or jazz.
Rajeev Masand: You have done a pretty good job of whatever little we have seen.
Ranbir Kapoor: No, but there was a lot of work behind that. Like every aspiring actor when they start out they have to take up these mandatory classes. You do fight classes and dance and diction. I have gone through all of that. But if you are complimenting me on the songs that you see on screen then I think the credit goes to Mr Bhansali for his way of picturing songs. Yes, I did work hard and I rehearsed a lot. And the choreographer Mr Longi was brilliant. So, it’s everyone’s efforts put together.
Rajeev Masand: Was it awkward doing love scenes with a friend with whom you have literally grown up?
Ranbir Kapoor: I don’t think so because Sonam is amazingly beautiful and so it made it easier for me to romance such a pretty girl. I don’t think it was awkward at all. Yes, I know what you are saying – you grow up with someone and then suddenly you are mouthing romantic lines for her but I think it came out very natural because of the way she looks and the way she is as a person.
Rajeev Masand: How did you react when you saw yourself on the screen for the first time, whether it was the trailer or when you went dubbing?
Ranbir Kapoor: You know honestly I cringed because I saw myself on the edit and I said, ‘I look like that and that is how I act!’ That is because you have a different perception of yourself and also of what I have seen all my life. But when you see yourself it feels really odd. Also, I was always worried that people will catch me doing it wrong. But it was a wonderful feeling because when I went home and was thinking about it I slept with a smile on my face. So, it was a good feeling.
Rajeev Masand: Okay now we will do a rapid fire round to get to know you better. Give honest, quick and short answers.
Who is the better actor – Amitabh Bachchan or Rishi Kapoor?
Ranbir Kapoor: Rishi Kapoor.
Rajeev Masand: Who is the bigger Khan – Shah Rukh or Salman?
Ranbir Kapoor: Salman Khan.
Rajeev Masand: The face to look out for – Sonam Kapoor or Deepika Padukone?
Ranbir Kapoor: Sonam Kapoor.
Rajeev Masand: The film to watch this Diwali – Saawariya or Om Shanti Om?
Ranbir Kapoor: Saawariya.
Rajeev Masand: How much was your first pay cheque?
Ranbir Kapoor: Wow! (smiles) It was more than I could ask for.
Rajeev Masand: When was the last time you cried?
Ranbir Kapoor: I cry often and I am not ashamed to say it.
Rajeev Masand: When was the last time you got into a fight?
Ranbir Kapoor: Never, I don’t think I have ever gotten into a fight. Touchwood.
Rajeev Masand: What do you never leave home without?
Ranbir Kapoor: My cellphone.
Rajeev Masand: Who is on speed dial?
Ranbir Kapoor: Mom.
Rajeev Masand: I read somewhere that you still get pocket money from your mum.
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I do. Rs 1,500 per week.
Rajeev Masand: The last film you watched in a theatre?
Ranbir Kapoor: Chak De India.
Rajeev Masand: A film of your dad’s that you never want to see again.
Ranbir Kapoor: With due respect to the director I think that should be Jai Hind – The Pride.
Rajeev Masand: The last time you asked someone for an autograph.
Ranbir Kapoor: Al Pacino.
Rajeev Masand: So, did he give it you?
Ranbir Kapoor: Yes, I had gone for his off-Broadway play called Salome. He is a really sweet guy because he came out after the play and there were loads of fans. I mean he is Al Pacino and people worship him. So people were screaming out his name and he gladly interacted with everyone. He shook my hand and gave me an autograph. I told him I am a student of Lee Strasburg (acting school). So, he told me he too studied with Strasburg.
Rajeev Masand: If you were stuck on an island what are the three films that you would take with yourself that you could watch over and over again?
Ranbir Kapoor: Shri 420, Life is Beautiful and Devdas.
Rajeev Masand: I think you did very well in this round. Finally, tell me what goes through your mind when you see the big hoarding of your film in Juhu? What is the first thing you said to yourself?
Ranbir Kapoor: You know it’s funny because before we started Saawariya, me and Sir (Bhansali) used to go for drives talking about the film. And I would always pass Juhu and I would tell him that I cannot wait for the time when my banner goes up there. I used to say that I would just go there everyday, park my car and just look at myself up there.
And the day the banner went up, on the music release day, I was supposed to meet Sir at Marriott. So, he said, ‘Don’t me at Marriott and don’t come through Juhu, come through the back road because I want to take you somewhere.’ So, we did that. I was driving the car and he said to me go towards Juhu beach and there I saw myself staring down at me.
I cannot explain that feeling, it’s one of the most important moments of my life. If God came down and told me you are dying tomorrow and write the 10 best moments in your life then this is definitely one of the 10.
Rajeev Masand: Best of luck, we are of course looking forward to seeing Saawariya. Hope you do your family proud.
Ranbir Kapoor: Thank you so much.