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Ranbir Kapoor, who returns to the big screen with Shamshera, has his heart set on his new avatars

Back after four years, the actor is ready to play diverse roles in reel and real life — his first double role, a mythological hero, a soon-to-be father

Ranbir Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor films, Ranbir Kapoor career, Ranbir Kapoor interview, Ranbir Kapoor personal life, Ranbir Kapoor Shamshera, Ranbir Kapoor Brahmastra, Ranbir Kapoor wedding, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor roles, Ranbir Kapoor fatherhood, eye 2022, sunday eye, indian express newsKapoor has always harboured the desire to turn director one day. “I definitely have a burning ambition to direct — that’s something I always wanted to do,” he says.

After a four-year hiatus, Ranbir Kapoor returns to the limelight with a slew of releases. But months before these, the Bollywood “lover boy” threw a googly at unsuspecting audiences by tying the knot, at long last. Kapoor 2.0 is rejuvenated, responsible and is raring to go. He is picking diverse characters hoping to chart unexplored terrains. He has his eyes set on the mass market and, quite uncharacteristically for the private person that Kapoor is, it also seems to involve making regular appearances on our social media feeds. Routine media interactions on multi-city promotional tours aside, he is making reels with influencers, fun videos and engaging in banter with paparazzi trailing him.

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In his latest film Shamshera, he plays a double role — father Shamshera and his son Balli — for the first time on screen. With this Yash Raj Films outing, an ambitious dacoit-action drama set in 18th-century British-colonised India and filmed extensively in the stunning Nubra Valley, the star creates a larger-than-life image.

As if to make up for the gap between his previous release, Sanju (2018) and Shamshera, which released on Friday, Kapoor has lined up three more big-budget releases in quick succession. “The audience memory is short. I’m trying to do more work now,” says the actor. His next, Brahmastra Part One: Shiva, the first part of an Indian mythology fantasy adventure helmed by Ayan Mukerji, will release on September 9. Next year, he will be seen in a yet-untitled Luv Ranjan-directed rom-com opposite Shraddha Kapoor. And in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s crime drama Animal, playing a character with “shades of extreme grey”. Some of his projects have suffered owing to unplanned delays, but, he says, he’s not the kind of actor who will “tell the producer or director that I have only 40 days, so let’s finish the film. I’m ready to give 300-400 days to a film if the role demands it.” Shamshera, with all its visual effects, took two-and-a-half years to be completed while Brahmastra needed five.

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A poster of Kapoor’s latest film ‘Shamshera’

A maverick with a propensity for off-beat potboilers, Kapoor is currently headlining multiple projects which are positioned as mass entertainers. For Shamshera, he underwent physical transformation, shaking off his boy-next-door look. He rides a horse while wielding an axe menacingly and engages in a kalaripayattu-style fight sequence. “My driving force is not to earn more money but to be part of a good film,” says the son of yesteryear heartthrob the late Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor.

Being an industry insider, he is familiar with the roller-coaster life of a star and aware that all it takes is a Friday to upend stardom. “I’ve witnessed super-stardom as well as failure in my family. The movie always comes before the actor or star. The movies should be the superstars with actors essaying their characters in them. When Amitabh Bachchan or the Khans (Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir) acted in movies, the intention was not to be a ‘superstar’ but to chase excellence,” says Kapoor, who hopes he can continue the tradition of providing the audience good entertainment.

In his 15-year career, Kapoor’s film choices have been unconventional for an A-lister, with even his father frowning at them. If his much-hyped debut Saawariya (2007) tanked, the hit Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) saved the day. Undaunted, he followed his instincts. He threw his weight behind directors such as Anurag Basu in Barfi! (2012) and Jagga Jasoos (2017). His portrayal of different stages of Janardhan “Jordan” Jakhar’s life in Rockstar (2011) remains breathtaking despite drawing criticism from some quarters. He took a deep dive into the ’60s to essay the role of a hot-tempered street fighter in Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet (2015), whose co-writer Vasan Bala says, “Ranbir has the dancing grace of Gene Kelly and the acting chops of [Marlon] Brando and it’s not an exaggeration.”

Ranbir Kapoor and Ali Bhatt tied the knot in April 2022.

In 2009, successes like Wake Up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year shaped his dominant screen persona — boyish, charming, misfit and vulnerable. “The kind of roles I was getting earlier were that of young boys. Their conflicts are related to what the present generation goes through. In Wake Up Sid, Rockstar, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013) and Tamasha (2015), I played the characters I could relate to,” says the 39-year-old actor. He’s done more than one film for Basu, Mukerji and Imtiaz Ali, forging collaborations to escape run-of-the-mill fare. While Ali calls him a “super actor”, Shamshera director Karan Malhotra is impressed with his “childlike behaviour and curiosity”.

His choices, however, came at a cost. Some of the risks Kapoor took have been rewarding, bringing in impressive box-office collections, such as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) and Raajneeti (2010) or accolades, such as Wake Up Sid and Barfi!. But he also learnt to cope with setbacks early on in his career. “This journey is not easy. My debut film Saawariya was a huge disaster. Facing failure in your first film teaches you a lot. There’s a lot of luck involved; barring the hard work you put in, you can’t control anything,” Kapoor had told this writer ahead of Jagga Jasoos’ release.

A still from the film Shamshera.

After the film’s dismal box-office performance, despite its grand vision and ingenious music, Kapoor chose to essay the role of a controversial, albeit popular, actor Sanjay Dutt in his biopic Sanju. With a box-office earning of Rs 500-plus crore, it became his highest-grossing movie till date. Did that make the actor gravitate towards big-budget entertainers? “What does a masala entertainer mean?” Kapoor ruminates and then replies, “It means multi-genre; it has everything. To make such a movie is much harder than others. We have seen this with movies such as Baahubali (The Beginning, 2015 and The Conclusion, 2017), RRR (2022), KGF (Chapter 1, 2018 and Chapter 2, 2022) and Pushpa: The Rise (2021). However, I didn’t follow a herd mentality while picking an entertaining movie like Shamshera. I instinctively made these choices.” The actor, however, confesses that a movie like Besharam (2013) “probably came from a wrong intention”. After doing a few slice-of-life movies, he thought of adding “masala” to his filmography. “It doesn’t work that way,” he says.


Bala endorses the transition in Kapoor’s career trajectory. “It’s not easy being a great artiste and a superstar with unreasonable expectations, to always make great artistic choices and also deliver blockbuster hits. Ranbir and Shah Rukh Khan broke in, all guns blazing, with daring choices. But superstardom will eventually demand only and only commercial exploits. That’s the nature of the business we are in. They can’t be too selfish and unabashed as just an artiste, the way they started. Ranbir is at that curve now shouldering mega-budget movies.” Not only is Kapoor reinventing himself to earn the status of a mass hero but is also aiming for a pan-Indian audience. “Some years ago, the measure of success was the Rs 100-crore club. Today, it’s pan-India success,” he quips. Shamshera and Brahmastra will also release in south Indian languages.

Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in the song ‘Kesariya’ from their upcoming film Brahmastra.

Kapoor’s current crop of work reflects a significant departure from his earlier belief that “hero-ism doesn’t come easily” to him. According to him, the evolution of his screen characters was determined by the “opportunities” that came his way and the “choices” he made. “The opportunity to act in Shamshera came at the right time. I found the story credible and the characters I play exciting,” says Kapoor, who was the one to have orchestrated his first double role. “Initially, I was offered the son’s role in Shamshera. Then, the greed of an actor took hold of me. I offered myself to the director (Malhotra) and producer (Aditya Chopra) for the father’s role. We had to do look-tests, of course,” he says. Malhotra lets on that Kapoor had to step out of his comfort zone since his acting is not “loud”. “He’s worked hard in imbibing my sensibilities into his performance and given it his best,” says the director.

Like his khaandaan, Kapoor takes a keen interest in the music of his films. “For every movie, I go for song recordings. Working with artistes such as Pritam, AR Rahman, Mohit Chauhan, Arijit Singh, Irshad Kamil and Amitabh Bhattacharya has been instrumental in my growth as a star. If you give me a song, it gives a tone and direction to the character,” says Kapoor. Ji Huzoor (Shamshera) and Kesariya (Brahmastra) are raking in the views, over 43 million and 56 million on YouTube (at the time of going to press), respectively. Though the latter is garnering mixed-bag reactions. Pritam, who’s given music to Kapoor’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Barfi!, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, says: “Ranbir emotes it perfectly, keeping in mind what the song needs. The way he dances with ease and makes the steps look easy…he owns the songs, be it in Ae Dil… or Rockstar. He enjoys every bit of it and that shows on the screen.”

“During the pandemic, I have written a story that I would like to direct. I need to muster some confidence before I do that,” says the actor. (Photo: YRF)

Coinciding with his blockbuster-oriented developments are new milestones in his personal life. His intimate April wedding with actor Alia Bhatt in his Bandra home’s balcony, their “favourite” courtship spot, was followed by the recent announcement: “Our baby…coming soon”. “Marriage,” Kapoor says, “subconsciously changes things even though Alia and I were dating for four years. Two days after we got married, we were back at work. Then, she had to shoot in London for 45 days.” When Bhatt returned home, after wrapping up the shoot for her debut American film, the spy thriller Heart of Stone, Kapoor was waiting outside the Mumbai airport to receive her. Social media-shy Kapoor is now more forthcoming.

During the lockdown, Kapoor lost his father to cancer. Now, as he prepares for parenthood, he says, “Today, I understand that he (Rishi) has been a great father. My father has passed on great values to my sister and me. I would like to pass them on to my children. While growing up, we didn’t see our father much. He was always working. We were brought up by our mother who sacrificed her professional life for us.” He is proud and happy that his mother, who had quit acting after her marriage at the age of 21, is once again enjoying her work. He is categorical about not wanting Bhatt to “sacrifice her dreams” after having a baby.

A maverick with a propensity for off-beat potboilers, Kapoor is currently headlining multiple projects which are positioned as mass entertainers.

Kapoor has always harboured the desire to turn director one day. “I definitely have a burning ambition to direct — that’s something I always wanted to do,” he says. His turn as a producer, however, went off far too disastrously for Kapoor to try his hand at it again. “I don’t think I have the required skill set,” he says, referring to the debacle that was Jagga Jasoos, which he had co-produced. There is one more role he wants to take up though: that of a writer. “During the pandemic, I have written a story that I would like to direct. I need to muster some confidence before I do that,” he says. That, however, has to wait. Right now, the father-to-be is building a nursery for his first child.

Snap Chat

Double Role: Doubly excited
Theatrical release: Privilege
Marriage: Responsibility
Fatherhood: Looking forward to it the most
Superhero: Someone who does things for others
Future of entertainment: Good storytelling
Favourite corner at home: My balcony

First published on: 24-07-2022 at 06:00:30 am
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