He is the finest we have, better than fine wine most of the times. He aces whatever part he picks up and makes sure you never forget it. I sit with Ranbir Kapoor to talk about how he crumbles the cookie, all the time.
You wanted to revive the RK banner but with Jagga Jasoos you started Picture Shuru Productions. Do you still plan to revive the family banner?
My intention is to make a film for my own banner but that is when I direct a film. Anurag Basu is a very big name and his contribution to this film is way more than mine. It was only fair for me to produce with him 50-50. I did not want to take the entire credit of producing this film. That is why we started Picture Shuru Productions for Jagga Jasoos and not to start a big company or anything. We have made Jagga Jasoos like a franchise film and want to do more films relating this character but all that depends if the film does well.
Did all the waiting whilst you act and produce your first film get a little easier as the family understands how things work in the business?
My father was completely against this process. He used to take my case every time. He would keep telling me that I am not being responsible while producing a film. He would say, “ Why is this taking so long? There is money involved by other people and your reputation, your money is at stake too…” Honestly, I am an actor and that is my skill set and do not have a skill set of a producer. It is a job that I don’t do well. I am not the actor who will tell the director that I will give you 50 days and you have to finish the film in it. I understand film making as an art that requires a certain time and everything happens in its own time and destiny. Eventually, when the audience watches the film, it doesn’t matter if you have taken 5 years or 3 days. As long as the film is good, that is what matters. I have always lived my career by this principle and would follow that in future as well. But having said that, I think Jagga Jasoos was made in an irresponsible way. We could have been more responsible. But it was a very hard genre for dada.
You have been touted as the finest actor of the generation. Do you sometimes feel that some scripts don’t do justice to your talent?
I don’t feel that I am so talented that nothing is on my level. But I feel that I have been very lucky that I have got support from the film industry, the media, the audience. and so many good film makers have come to me. They have really supported me even in my failures. You know, whenever I have tried to go by formula like a Besharam, I have fallen flat on my face. It is not something that comes naturally to me. The riskier parts, the non-heroic parts where the deeds are heroic are the roles I connect with. I like playing the under hero and not the larger than life hero. I go by my instinct so if my gut likes the story and the director, I sign it. You know, my father always pulls me up for the fact that I do a lot of risqué films. He wants me to do more Hindi-masala-commercial films. That is the school of thought that he has lived his life by. I know that if I follow that, I will fall flat on my face. I have my own perspective about life and pre conceived notions about certain things, so I follow my instinct. My mother is a healthier creative partner to me. Whatever script I get, I do give it to her. She always has some very interesting things to say. Not that she will ever influence me to do or not do any film but she will always give a very honest opinion. My father is a little over critical, so I don’t think he would be able to operate my career.
The nepotism debate has been stirred again. You hail from the first family of Indian Cinema, do you feel any differently?
Well of course it exists. I am a product of nepotism. I got opportunities because of my parents, my father got opportunities because of his father and his father got opportunities because of his father’s father. For my children, if they choose to be actors, I would give them a platform also. If they want to become doctors, I would give them that platform as well. I would give them the education, the backing to follow their dream. So I mean it in that way. My family business has lasted for the last 85 years. It is unfair to a lot of people who are way more talented than us but we do get opportunities and attention. This is a big example but if Lionel Messi’s son wants to become a footballer, you want to watch him play to know if he has his father’s talent.
If any person has accomplished something in any person in any field, you want to see if their kid is as good as them. There is a curiosity about them. The film industry is more glamorous and more focused on because it is exciting. People like to get point of views and a debate on. Yes, nepotism exists everywhere but in the film industry, it exists more. I don’t want to be a cry baby about this that I have so much pressure on me or so many expectations. I have been given a lot and I am very grateful. I am grateful for the fact that I get to do what I love. Very few people in the world get to do what they love and am very grateful that my parents gave me such an opportunity. Sanjay Leela Bhansali launched me but after that, it is about your talent, your vision and how hard you work. Thank fully I have not been compared to my family. I had my own stamp. There are certain actors who have a style and their children try to follow that. My father didn’t have a style as he has always been a spontaneous natural actor. So you cannot compare our styles, so that is a positive.
Things were not going the way you must have wanted in the last few years. Did the negativity ever boggle down your confidence?
You are as good your last film. But I have got tremendous support from everyone around me. People know my intention as an actor and like my work. I have a Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Basu- the premier film makers come to me. Yes, I accepted the failure and understood that I was a hard time but it was a very important time. You know, the first few years of an actor’s career you don’t think because there is so much adulation and fame that you’re getting. Like after 10 years, a saturation point comes when you think how can you take it to the next step. I have been tagged as the next superstar for a really long time but honestly, I have not really reached that stage. I think it is very important to accept that and not be in denial of it. Those films happened because I chose them, not because of any other reason. So they are a part of me. Even when a successful film has come to me, I have not been affected by it because for every actor it is a case of survival in the industry. I have survived for 10 and hope to survive for the next many.
That is what I want to do- do good work, with good people. I had this ambition to become the biggest superstar of the country but that was very immaturely said. It takes a lot to reach there. Now when I have finished 10 years here, I admire the efforts of the Khans, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan for so many years. They have been constantly reinventing themselves for so long. It is admirable as it is very hard to do that.
Every character that you play is searching for something and the emotional graph of them seem to touch my heart. All the time!
To be honest, I don’t think it is by design. Subconsciously I get attracted to these characters. Fortunately or not, I have done a lot of coming of age films where this guy is on this journey of finding himself until a girl reminds him of what he actually is. I think I have to change that too and discover a new me. The core emotion in Hindi cinema is very important as people want to laugh and cry. You can’t make a superficial film and just impress them visually. The core emotion always stays with the person. If I have moved you in one way or the other, then the love stays.
Speaking of emotionally driven parts that you’re terrific at, you’re not expressive at all when it comes to the reality of things. Right?
I am an introvert and a very closed person. It is very hard for me to express in my real life to my family and friends about what I am feeling. With cinema, I have an outlet so I find it easier to express myself in films. I don’t fear judgment here but I fear judgment in real life. That has helped me. I think it is a manufacturing defect. I have always been like this. My mom tells me when I was a kid, if I was scared, or saw a snake or something, I would never express. I would just feel some chemical imbalance in my body. Yes, it is a manufacturing defect.
You’ve often said that you’re not expressive enough to be on social media as opposed to your father’s tweets.
I read it only when there is some controversy. My father is a very honest person, he says it how it is. There are very few people in this world and especially in the film industry who are not hypocrites or marketing themselves. He is not marketing himself, he believes that he is a normal citizen of the country. So be it a political statement, anything related to entertainment or if he has a point of view, he will say it. He doesn’t fear judgment. He gets into a lot of trouble. There are constant morchas outside his house. People are trolling him, they are hating on him. My mother is constantly fighting with him, throwing him out of the room. But that is how he is and you have to accept him how he is. He is not coming from a negative place to hurt anyone but is just expressing himself. I admire that as I can never be like him.
You’ve always wanted to be a director, do you have a plan to execute the dream?
I went to a film school because I always wanted to be a director. I became an actor and found some success in it and every year I used to say that in 2 years, I will direct a film but that is again very immature. I can’t direct till I have a story to tell and I believe that I am not a writer. It is another shortcoming of mine. Once I get a story where I feel that I can express myself and make a nice film out of, that will be the time. It would be really silly otherwise. I don’t want to do it just like that. I want it to come very naturally.
Barring all the negativity that was buzzing around for the last 3 years about Jagga Jasoos. Did you feel full, vacuum or indifferent when you gave your last shot for the film?
I felt disbelief. I felt that he ( Anurag Basu) would call me anytime back on set. Iska kuch barosa nahi hai. He works in chaos and will always shoot till the last minute. So I was prepared. I’ll tell you, I have had 4 last shots in the film on 4 different days too. They all clapped for me, I hugged everyone then I was called to set again 4 times.