He has played a Sikh salesman and a wayward Sid. He doesn’t want to just run around trees nor does he believe Hindi films are all about Rahul and Raj. Actor Ranbir Kapoor, in an interview with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk the Talk, says he counts both Amitabh Bachchan and Darsheel Zafary as competition. Excerpts:
My guest today is Ranbir Kapoor, a star who conforms and defies many stereotypes. Very big star, very young.
I don’t know about big star. I’m 27; age has nothing to do with success. My grandfather directed, acted in and produced a movie when he was 21.
You are a Kapoor, yet, in many ways, not quite a Kapoor.
On the contrary, I’m quite a Kapoor. The only difference is that I don’t like alcohol.
You are breaking a family tradition.
Yes, but I love movies and food.
And you are a slim Kapoor.
I guess that comes from my mom’s side, but I’m as much a Kapoor as a Kapoor can be.
But you have broken more rules than most Kapoors would have done.
I guess times are changing. I’ve been fortunate to be at the right place at the right time when film-makers are approaching new kinds of films, new subjects, new characters. The superstars have crossed a certain age and I’m part of the newer generation.
That’s a very kind comment to make on all our 40-plus stars.
Not at all. They have got different characters to play. They aren’t doing the college-boy roles; those are coming to me.
As Neetu and Rishi’s son, you would have been expected to be a bit more of a yahoo than you are.
The word expectation has been attached to me from the day I started working. But I have certain ideologies about how I want to work.
Tell me about your ideologies.
It’s stuff I relate to, that I’ve grown up with. I’ve had a comfortable life; I’ve studied in New York and have been exposed to different cultures. I just don’t want to run around trees. I would rather do films like Rocket Singh and Wake Up Sid. These are films I connect to, I’ve friends like these characters.
More likely to have friends like Sid than Rocket Singh.
Yes. That film is an underdog’s story. Everything is not about Raj and Rahul in films.
I don’t think I’ve seen many characterisations of a sardar as an underdog.
I think that has to change. It’s not only about Singh is Kinng, though that is also part of cinema. I have nothing against commercial cinema.
Which film do you prefer, Rocket Singh or Wake Up Sid?
I like Rocket Singh as a film. I thought it would explode the scene, that it would be like Munnabhai. But nobody really went to see it.
The experience of acting out a character like Sid was awesome. I got to work with a dear friend, director Ayan Mukherjee.
Are you friends with many young directors?
In this industry, friendship is based on success or on whether you guys are going to do another film together. You have to have friends you’ve grown up with; there are no new friends.
So, who are the friends you’ve grown up with?
They are my parents’ friends’ children: Abhay Chopra (Ravi Chopra’s son) and Rohit Dhawan (David Dhawan’s son). They are aspiring directors. There’s also Binoy Gandhi, an aspiring actor. And Ayan.
And your famous cousins.
Of course, but Karishma, Kareena and I don’t really hang out much. They have their own lives and are very busy. I’m busy myself.
One little complication right now in Bollywood is that we can’t have you and Kareena doing something together.
I disagree. Characters don’t have to be lovers; they can be brothers and sisters or friends. I believe such characters are going to be written and must be written for Indian cinema.
Do you talk a lot of cinema at home?
Not at all. But if we are talking about Barack Obama or Daffy Duck, we come back to cinema. But we don’t dissect a film or talk intellectual stuff.
Have you watched all your parents’ movies?
I’ve watched all my father’s movies but I’m a little shy about watching my mother’s films because I feel nobody has the right to judge her. My parents have just done a movie together; it’s called Do Dooni Chaar. Now that I understand this profession, it’s heart-warming to see my mother on screen.
That should also make you understand the pressures that come with it.
I have no pressure. I’m not running after money. I love my job. I’m very ambitious. People say I want to be the biggest actor or the greatest star. But I want to be both. And I am finding the middle ground without any restrictions. My parents don’t interfere in my career. My father only helps me with the monetary side of the profession.
Does he help you invest money?
Where money is concerned, I don’t understand much. The most boring one hour of the week is when I have to sit with my chartered accountant who explains to me where the money is coming from and where it’s going. But I guess it’s really important because I have to be independent and start a family soon.
Do you want to start a family soon?
I’ve grown up with certain values. My father is very orthodox and family-oriented. I don’t have modern sensibilities. I don’t think I can be in a live-in relationship. I don’t think I want to get married after a certain age. I want children but there’s no hurry. I may get married tomorrow or after two years. Giving a time limit to marriage is wrong. You don’t look for love. It comes to you.
You’ve been in relationships. Are they part of work or part of life?
That’s part of life which transcends work. But because you are a celebrity, there’s an invasion of your private life. If you are in a relationship, it’s not for the public, but for yourself. Actors live like gypsies and are constantly travelling; you need a stable factor in your life and when you meet somebody like that, why should you not do it? Why should I not have a normal life like another guy my age?
You are the youngest challenger for the top spot. Do you see a generation gap between you and the Khans, Hrithik Roshan?
My competition is not just Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Harman Baweja. From Shah Rukh Khan to Mr Amitabh Bachchan, right down to Darsheel Zafary— they all are competition. I feel jealous of anyone who gives a good performance.
Which was the last performance you were jealous of?
Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots. But I don’t have a favourite actor nor do I have this notion that I’m going to be the next big superstar. Tomorrow I may have three flops and you wouldn’t even want to do this interview with me.
Do you analyse the problems that Abhishek Bachchan has been having lately?
When I started understanding my needs as an actor, I saw two great examples in Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan. I started understanding cinema around the time they started acting. So, I followed their careers. I saw every film of theirs. Both are talented and hardworking. But it’s also about doing the right movies. When a film and a character connect, an actor makes a mark.
Shah Rukh Khan has a Baazigar, a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a Dil To Pagal Hai and a Chak De! India. People love Shah Rukh Khan because of the memorable characters he played in these films, not because he did a good deed in his personal life.
You studied in a film school in New York. How much did you hear about Indian cinema there?
There’s awareness but I don’t think Bollywood has made such a great impact as Satyajit Ray has. They have this notion that Bollywood is all about song, dance and fun. What’s also sad is that people think Slumdog Millionaire is our film. The interest in Bollywood started with it. It took a British director to make a film like that.
But now we have new filmmakers, new ideas and actors who are willing to take the risk and do different characters. We should make films for our audience. If we make a good film, it will transcend any language. You don’t have to make a cool English or Hinglish film to hit the Hollywood market.You hear a lot of new directors saying they want to make an English or a Hollywood film. That doesn’t make sense. A Mother India or a Lagaan went to the Oscars because these are our films, our culture.
Have you seen a lot of your grandfather Raj Kapoor’s work?
When I returned from America, my father told me that before I start acting, I should see all the movies by Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, Mehboob Khan, Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt. So, for one year of my life, I just sat and watched all these DVDs.
Which are your favourites among your grandfather’s films?
Shri 420 and Jaagte Raho.
And your father’s?
I am a big fan of my father as an actor. I am not saying it because he is my father.
You can’t sing and dance like him.
No, I can’t. He is not a method actor. He acts from the heart. He is spontaneous. Whether he is romancing a woman or saying an emotional dialogue, you believe him.
Yes, you see the innocence. I think he was 17 or 18 when he shot that. Going back to our talk about age and success, he saw success when he was 18. So, I’m 10 years late.
Are there any films from the Kapoor banner you might want to redo now?
I don’t believe in remakes. A film is made to its best potential for its time. When you re-make a movie, you are riding on someone’s success.
Remakes are something I’ll never venture into.
I keep hearing that you want to work in a Kishore Kumar biopic.
A film was offered to me. The writer, a fan of Kishore Kumar from Kolkata, narrated his script to me on a flight and it engaged me. I’m confident it’ll engage the audience because it’s about a legend.
What other frontiers remain to conquer at an age, which you say is 10 years too late?
I have not done even 5 per cent of what I can do. I want to produce, direct, work with all the good directors, work with them again. I want to romance the most beautiful actresses. I want to make my parents proud of me. I want to be the biggest star and the greatest actor. I have miles to go. I’m not happy with anything I’ve done so far.
Well, I think you are on your way to being there. Maybe, we’ll have another conversation when you become an even bigger star.