You can’t study acting. You’re either born with it, or not ... is just one of the many gems Ranbir Kapoor tells Bhumika K
There’s something to say about the cool confidence blended with a meditated modesty that the younger generation of Hindi film actors wears on its sleeves these days. Just look at Ranbir Kapoor, and hear him hold forth on acting and films today…
You’d like to believe Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar did that to him. That all the angst, and pain of unrequited love that his character Jordan seethed and simmered in, seeped into him, and he suddenly came of age as an actor, overnight. “Yes it was a career-changing film. I grew as an actor. It brought me name, fame, awards, rewards…and an opportunity to work with the likes of Imtiaz Ali, my uncle Shammi Kapoor, A.R. Rahman…” After the scorching performance in Rockstar, Ranbir is following it up with the sweet bite of Anurag Basu’s Barfi!, which he was promoting in Bangalore. It releases on September 14.
The fourth generation of the Kapoor khandaan, one of the oldest families of Bollywood (he’s Raj Kapoor’s grandson, Rishi Kapoor’s son), Ranbir went to film school abroad — something his generation of actors compulsorily seem to do, irrespective of their already assumed “star” status.
Ranbir chose a course in direction, not acting. Just as he chose first to be Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s assistant director on Black, before he debuted as an actor in 2007, in Bhansali’s Saawariya. “I went to filmmaking school basically to get an exposure to life. You interact with people from different cultures, people of different thought bandwidths. If an aspiring actor comes to me for advice, I would say go to a film set, because that’s where you’ll really learn. Filmmaking runs in my blood. It’s the only thing I’m passionate about. You can’t study acting; you’re either born with it, or not. I believe there’s no method to teaching acting. You just have to connect to the material the director gives you. You become better with time, you grow doing better movies, working with different directors,” the sentences tumble out fast, each breathlessly after the other. Does he always speak that fast? “Yeah, if you’ve noticed, I even deliver my dialogues breathlessly. I have a deviated septum, so I only breathe through my mouth. So I do everything fast — I talk fast, I eat fast…to catch my breath.” And adds, rather cheekily, “Everything in my life is fast because of it.” We perceive a hint there of many things, and ask no more.
The current scene in Hindi films is still ruled by the ageing Khans. Does it make life difficult for the younger generation of actors to vie for space with them? Ranbir doesn’t agree. He believes the older generation of actors is pushing the envelope for his generation. “It’s amazing — they have over three decades in the industry and over 60 films. I’m only four-and-a-half years and eight movies old here. But the reach Indian films have gained because of them, motivates me — I mean we’re in territories like Germany, Brazil… Of course, I’m not replacing anyone, or following in anyone’s path. I have immense faith in my talent. I do want to be the biggest actor, the best, the top…But I’m an unaffected actor. Being a superstar is not the only way to achieve success.”
Whether it was the earnest and endearing small film like Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, or a humongous Rockstar, Ranbir insists that whatever work has come his way is because he was in the right place at the right time. “I haven’t planned these things. I don’t have an agenda. I’m not experimenting with my roles. These are entertaining and engaging films and that’s why I’m doing them. I’m not trying to shock my audience.”
In Barfi! Ranbir plays a deaf-mute boy (almost Chaplin-esque in his expressions, going by the film’s trailer), romancing an autistic girl. Was it intimidating to take up a role where he has to express himself without words? “I thought so, before starting this film. I thought I could do some show off, but dada (director Anurag Basu) was clear that the character had to be relatable. I had to over-express myself physically. The role had no trappings of a typical Hindi film hero —no dialogue-baazi, no serenading pretty heroine, no beating up villains. The simplicity was the challenge.”
In Hindi cinema, hasn’t the tendency been to go over-the-top with disabled characters? “Actually Priyanka Chopra had the harder character. We have been sensitive to the characteristics of a deaf-mute person while we shaped the role. On the sets of Black I had interacted with deaf-mute people, observed the way they behaved, how their eyes moved. But I had to forget all that and unlearn it.” Critics haven’t exactly been kind to portrayals of such characters in the past either. “I’m a fearless actor. I’m not worried about what people say. As actors it’s our responsibility to be sensitive to the characters we play. But we’re not here making a moral story. On Black we had a deaf-mute assistant director Sangeetha; we brought her on board here too. She would correct my finer nuances…I went ahead and played dumb charades. Not all people are going to understand sign language; you just have to act out what you want to say.”
Dad turned 60
Ranbir says he draws from his parents — Rishi and Neetu Kapoor — maybe subconsciously, on their acting skills. “I’ve not tried to be like them; only in terms of values. I’m a big fan of my dad and admire his passion for acting. He turned 60 last week and even today he has a childlike enthusiasm to go to a film set. I admire his passion. My mom’s films, I don’t like to watch. Yes, I’ll sound hypocritical, but I don’t like to see her romance other stars!”
Ranbir Kapoor’s got loads of films on hand — Ayan Mukherji’s Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, two films with the Kashyap brothers — Abhinav Kashyap’s Besharam, and Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, and another unnamed film with Imtiaz Ali again. Working on all simultaneously? “No!! We can afford to do one movie at a time now. It’s a time when we’re over-exposed in the media. There’s very little mystery left about us. And if I do so many films at one time, my career span will be pretty limited,” he grins.