Seated in a room on the fifteenth floor of Taj Land's End, Ranbir Kapoor gets up to welcome us with a handshake accompanied with a smile. He is tired, he admits, but the good news is that he is also on his final interview for the day. That's a reason to celebrate. So is the release of Bombay Velvet, his first film as a leading star in a year and a half. The actor spoke to Suhani Singh .
There are a few directors with whom you have good partnerships which go beyond the sets. You have said in interviews that Ayan Mukerji, Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Basu are people who now have a larger role to play in your life. Where does Anurag Kashyap fit into the scheme of things?
Anurag Kashyap is a hard person to connect with on a personal level. He has a lot of angst about his own life and conflicts. Ayan, Imtiaz and Anurag Basu are easier that way. As an actor or person, I don't have as much exposure to life as these people have. I am stealing from them. I am just becoming the characters they are creating, which they are giving to me on a platter selflessly. I am aware that I can only better myself and grow as an actor if I steal these people who they know, have written and envisioned. If it is just left to me, then I will be very boring because I have a very bland personality and I don't want to just keep putting that across the screen.
I want my filmography to have a graph of different characters, with different temperaments and flavours. So I am aware that their contribution to my life is more than my contribution to their films is. I want to hold on to these people. They are helping me grow and helping me doing some exciting stuff.
When the project was announced, there was buzz about you doing a film with Anurag Kashyap. Nobody saw it coming. Was he on your list of directors you want to work with?
No, to be honest. I hadn't seen any Anurag Kashyap films before signing this film. [Kapoor saw Gangs of Wasseypur and Ugly only after it.] My participation or my desire to work with Anurag was purely on the basis of the script he had written. But with this film I discovered Anurag only in the process of making this film. I didn't want to collaborate with Anurag because I felt it'd bring an edge to my career. I thought the character would do that. I thank my stars that the process and the partnership that I had with Anurag on this film only bettered it.
He is the kind of director who makes you want to contribute. Of course he gives you everything with the world he creates. He brings the best of talent, be it set designer or cinematographer or the props team or the costume designer. He throws you out and makes you do what you want to do. It is an interesting process. It is also harder because I think Imtiaz [Ali] and [Anurag] Basu and Ayan [Mukerji], they give me more, spoil me more and direct me more. I don't how successful or unsuccessful this [Anurag's] process is. I will only know once the film releases. But it was creatively very satisfying. When I came out of the schedule, I felt I did something, I felt I was part of something that was quite special.
Are there other directors you want to collaborate with?
I want to work with Dibakar [Banerjee] and Vishal [Bhardwaj]. I was also engaged in trying to do something with them for a long time but it didn't work out unfortunately. I want to work with Zoya [Akhtar], Rajkumar Hirani and Shoojit Sircar. There are so many interesting filmmakers coming with interesting takes, interesting worlds and they are creating a new hero. My stardom can only help them create that. I should empower these directors. If I have certain stardom today, if I can give Anurag Kashyap Rs 80 crore to do a Bombay Velvet and the kind of film it is, that really excites me.
It is also important actors do that because otherwise audiences are stuck with formulaic, staid films.
It is very boring for me also. I have to do an Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani to do a Wake Up Sid and Rocket Singh. But it is important to have a film like Ajab because India loves those films, so you can't run away from that.
But does the poor box office performance of films like Rocket Singh discourage you from doing other projects like it?
No. It will never stop me. With Bombay Velvet too, I don't know if it is a commercial film, if it's going to make the numbers. But we had no idea with Barfi! too. It made Rs 100 crore, when we thought it would do Rs 40 or 50 crore. If it's a good story, if it's new, original and engaging, then there is no limit.
Bombay Velvet is set in the 1960s. If there was one aspect you would like to transport to present day, what would it be?
There was so much ease and trust back then. In today's rigmarole of life, we are sitting and could be watching a sunset or having a conversation with someone who is engaging and interesting, but your mind gets distracted so easily. There's the television, telephone, internet, cell phones. It is all buzzing. The ease of just having a conversation and enjoying a moment, that quality over the years has died out. Materially, the car I was driving - the 1962 Ford Mustang - was something I completely fell in love with.
Tell us a bit about the physical appearance of Johnny Balraj. The haircut in particular has become a topic of conversation.
That's the easy, superficial part. It is important that I break the image people have of me. So I did something drastic with it - whether it is a hairstyle change or having a thin moustache. Johnny comes from a low stratum of society. He has grown up in Falkland Road. His mother is a prostitute. Main thing is to try to have an emotional connect with the character and develop an individualistic approach once you are doing the film. I am not that kind of method actor that knows the character before I start filming it. It only comes after four to five days of filming, working with actors and the world that is created around you and the emotional depth of the situations. It is something that comes in the course of the film.
But does the physical transformation help you get in character?
It does. Two things that really help me are the hairstyle and the shoes. So it's from the top to the bottom. If you just do that, you can just work on the energy in between. I always try a lot of shoes. With the hairstyle there was a risk that it could look really funny. I had to wear a hairpiece which could come across as really girly and different. It was important to look and feel different for me. Subconsciously it brings a change.
Johnny Balraj is a street fighter who wants to make it big especially to impress his ladylove Rosie. He is ambitious and tough but he also seems vulnerable.
These shades [to the character] is what makes a performance rich also. It is in the material. In a scene or moment there are so many nuances you can work on. My contribution was just to play him someone who is not the cat's whiskers but trying to be the cat's whiskers. He doesn't know anything. He is thrown into this big bad world of Bombay with the ambition and opportunities, and he is really proud and excited. But he has no idea what the next step is. He doesn't have a plan. He doesn't have the mind or the bandwidth in his brain to plan ahead. The idea is to bring a human side to him. He is not your hero who is going to achieve. He is the guy who is struggling. Just to see him trying to be this person is more endearing than to see this guy who is sorted.
You are venturing into production next year. What's the kind of cinema you want to present under your banner Picture Shuru?
I believe if you like something and believe in it, then people will like that something. You have to make the film for an audience but you can't direct or write or act in every step keeping them in mind. You are exposed to world cinema, so many good and bad films, sometimes we ourselves are part of so many laughable films. But at the same time our audience is very different, we are not that evolved but we are still evolved with the way how musical our cinema is. To incorporate that without it seeming stupid and making it believable is challenging.
With Picture Shuru, I told Dada [Anurag Basu] that we don't really have a film that children like. We just give them Krrish. We take children for granted, the kind of films they like. They like ET and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. These are films that grownups like also. With Jagga Jasoos we are offering audiences an engaging and thrilling detective story. There's a kid who has this ability but he also the handicap of a stammer. We present it in the musical format with 25 songs. But it is not singing and dancing. Even if it is a dramatic scene he has to sing it and perform it. If he doesn't, he will start stuttering. Basu has this madness and I have an understanding of it. So we decided to do something new and it could fall flat on our faces but we thought let's give it a try. How do you write scenes in a musical format? It is challenging but there is still lots le
ft to do.
Jagga Jasoos is postponed to next year. So begins the negative publicity around it.
I think there is an advantage to negativity. It kills the expectations of the film. The best way is to kill it with good quality work. You want to put more into it. There's no better way than that. You can't start screaming from top of your lungs, 'No, it's a good film, Believe in us.'
Edited by Scorpio_Velvet - 12 May 2015 at 8:05am