chatline What is it like to play hero instead of an underdog? Ranbir Kapoor talks to harshikaa udasi about his role in the forthcoming Besharam and sharing screen space with his parents

Ihave just got my wisdom tooth extracted when I reach the venue to interview Ranbir Kapoor. He senses something amiss and, over some conversation about cavities and root canals, we discover a common hatred for all things dental. “Two of mine are giving me terrible trouble but I am scared to go to the dentist. Hate the stitches and antibiotics. Anyway with Besharam promotions, this visit’s gone for a toss!” says the heartthrob of the nation.

The toothy topic just gives you a glimpse of what this successful young actor is like in real life: casual, candid and someone who has regular fears like any of us. Through the interview, he also comes across as self-assured about his position and self-confessedly “arrogant” about his work. “I consider everyone right from Mr. Bachchan down to Varun Dhawan my competition. As a community and generation, I genuinely believe that we are encouraging of each other’s work. Also look at the number of new voices in filmmaking; right from the directors to writers to lyricists, singers…everyone wants to make something new. It’s a great time to be an actor. Earlier actors used to play repetitive characters, which were more often than not caricatures of themselves. I am getting a chance to do so much more, so much different,” says Ranbir.

For a soft-spoken guy like him, playing Babli in Abhinav Kashyap’s Besharam was a challenging task, he concedes. Babli is a car thief with an I-don’t-care-a-damn attitude and is forever being chased by two cops, Chulbul and Bulbul Chautala (played by Ranbir’s parents Rishi and Neetu Kapoor). “There were many firsts for this role. I haven’t played hero except in Bachna Ae Haseeno which didn’t add up for me. I am happy playing the underdog. With Besharam , I am letting go of that comfort. He is the ‘hero’ of the movie. Also, he is supremely vulgar and repulsive. Given my DNA, it was quite a task to slip into his character. But with a lot of help from Abhinav, I think I have been able to hold him together. As a person, I tend to bottle up my emotions. With Besharam, I couldn’t afford to do that. This character needed to be externalised.”

Ranbir clarifies that the Kapoor clan is not a package deal for Besharam . “Before we signed the film, I thought it would be a great privilege if they agreed to be in the same frame as me. When the three of us eventually did sign the film, it was because we individually liked our parts. There have been several offers pouring in for me and my father together, but we didn’t take them up. My mother is returning to a mainstream film after 30 years. This wasn’t simply a package deal. Moreover I thought they’d bully me on the set, but I would often tell mom how to better a scene! My father, I realised, put in so much effort to make scenes look effortless. It was an altogether different experience,” he says.

The only question which ruffles the otherwise cool guy is whether filmmakers ought to make films with greater responsibility. “The besharam attitude is not negative. It doesn’t mean you take off your clothes. The concept is to be yourself. Why Babli has become the way he has is shown in the film. He didn’t have anyone to tell him that there is no right way of doing the wrong things. The movie shows him undergoing a transformation when the girl (Pallavi Sharada) enters his life.”

The actor, who will turn 31 this month, is set to co-produce his first movie Jagga Jasoos about a 17-year old detective with a stammering issue. “Anurag (Basu, co-producer, director and good friend) and I are trying to invent a new genre. Let’s see now. This boy has to sing as that’s when he doesn’t stammer. It’s a brilliant story and I love feel-good films. I am very convinced about the concept.”

Ranbir will also be seen in Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet with Anushka Sharma. He plays a boxer in the 1950s and 1960s crime drama with a fictitious romantic story. Ranbir is also working on Imtiaz Ali’s next, tentatively titled Window Seat .

On playing a character named Babli: “I like the weirdness of it; he is a total rasta guy — Babli Besharam. It worked for me in Barfi! (Murphy/Barfi) and Rockstar (Janardhan Jakhar). They have a strange connect.”

On being a director’s actor: “I think I am as good as my director. I like working with people with whom I vibe well. Ayan Mukherjee, Anurag Basu, Imtiaz Ali… and I suppose I’ll work again with Abhinav Kashyap too. I like how he likes to keep it simple.”