Interview By: Amul Vikas Mohan

Ranbir Kapoor is one of the finest talents our industry has produced in the last decade. His relentless pursue of greatness has finally got him here to his latest movie SANJU, directed by one of the biggest filmmakers in the country – Rajkumar Hirani, is out in cinemas this week. I met the actor just a few weeks prior to the release and spoke about everything under the sun and then some more. Read on for the excerpts.

This is your 11th year at the movies do you still feel nervous about anything?

Absolutely, every shot I do, even if it is an Ad film or I have to go on a stage or I have to give a shot in front of a camera the feeling is not like a super confident guy who is out there thinking now I have so much of experience or these many films, I know what I am doing, so yeah the struggle is still there. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to work with good people, good filmmakers, good characters and that gives me lot of confidence and probably in the worst phase in my career Rajkumar Hirani offered me a film and to be a part of this film, SANJU, is such a big responsibility; one being a Sanjay Dutt life, two being a Rajkumar Hirani hero, I understand the value of it, so I am feeling a lot of anxiety, lot of nervousness and I am really looking forward to how the audiences are going to react.

In one of your interviews you said that there was a bit of apprehension from your end to get on board SANJU initially was it because Sanjay Dutt is still a very relevant person in pop-culture and in the movies?

Raju sir messaged me that I am making a film and I was the one who messaged back that I hope it’s not the Sanjay Dutt biopic. So yeah, my apprehensions and my understanding was how will I play Sanjay Dutt, he is this alpha macho tremendous superstar who has gone through so much in his life and I have a very different personality, I didn’t understand how can you make a biopic on an actor who is still so relevant, who is still acting but once Raju sir gave me this script and I read it, all my apprehensions and doubts went away because I think what the film deals with is not the Sanjay Dutt we know, it is the Sanjay Dutt we don’t know, it is the human side of him, it is a boy who made certain mistakes, a young man who was irresponsible, who fell down and paid the price for it, who had this complex relationship with his father and a life that I didn’t imagine could be possible for one man to live, we all have known Sanjay Dutt over the years, we all have interacted with him and he is this wolf on the outside but puppy inside, when you see his story and what actually happened and believe me it is all the honest truth, nothing fabricated, it’s not a propaganda, it is not to do a PR clean up image but when you discover it you have shown much of empathy towards him and my respect and admiration towards him has only doubled now and to be honest  Rajkumar Hirani is a director at a place today where he doesn’t really need to do a PR clean up job for any actor, he will only make a story he believes; there is an engaging story, entertainment which first and foremost is very important and which has a certain message and I think the message this film will teach, you will say out loud, is learn from his mistakes and for a man to be brave enough to give out his mistakes, to be so honest about it , to portray him as a fallen hero it requires a lot of guts so I completely stand by Raju sir’s vision for this film, it is not a cleanup job and it is a story that you will not believe.

In another interview you said that Hirani Sir has taught you how selfless entertainment can be like as a filmmaker, that is something you have picked up for the first time, what did you mean by that?

You know at times when I was doing films, when I was signing films, when I used to hear a subject, I used to always see from my point of view, from the character that is offered to me, what is in this character, what all I can do, is it challenging enough for me but now I think, to understand when you hear a film or the film that’s offered to you on the whole, of what kind of entertainment this film delivers, what kind of engagement this film delivers, who is this film for. I can safely say that I still don’t know my country, I am still born in Mumbai, I have had a sheltered and a privileged life, my take on things is very sugary and I didn’t have that experience, I don’t have the duniyadari  and I think when you work with certain filmmakers they open up a certain blank spot in your canvas that there is more to just what you want to show as an actor or you want to do as an actor, It’s about the messaging of your film, what is your philosophy as an actor, what do you want to stand up for, what kind of films you want to do, is it just to confuse the people through these various different characters or you also have a take on what you want to say as an actor. I am not saying that I have figured it out, I am not saying that I won’t make mistakes in choosing films but definitely, seeing the films on the whole, when you hear a script or a narration I think that is something which I really will be conscious about.

Your career has had a little bit of dip, but still you have that quality to always come back, did you take that for granted or you felt that now you are just going to knuckle down and keep working hard?

Never, my head has always been down and just focused on my work, I have never taken success in my head or failure to my heart, yeah you do feel bad when your films are failing, you do question your own being, you think your shine is fading away, do I have it in me, there are so many different opinions that suddenly people start giving you about yourself, you read about them, advices begin, what kind of film I should do, what kind of mistakes I am making but at the end you have to go back to yourself on what you really think, who was the guy who signed Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani or Rocket Singh or Rajneeti and all the other films that I have done. At the end it is your own instinct, I can’t really change the person I am but when I went through that phase I still saw a lot of support from the film industry, a lot of support from the media that today there is not one or two young actors, there are twenty young actors and the competition has increased, the quality is evolving and it’s very rare that you get so many chances or somebody gives you the opportunities, so I am very grateful and I don’t take my work for granted, I love my job and I do understand I come from a very privileged place, it came really easy to me, everything, every opportunity, but I work really hard. I don’t work for money, I work for the love of cinema and it’s high time that I shift gears also, I change my perception, my choices and explore a different side of me as an actor, I am also kind of bored doing the coming of age roles and the chocolate boy films.

What is the idea behind your film production company which you launched last year?

To be honest there is no plan, it’s a joint thing. So Basu (Anurag Basu) and I, when we finished BARFI and we decided to do another film, we decided let’s do it together. I believe that whatever film I produce in the future I will always partner with the director, I don’t have the skill set to produce alone and I believe that films are a director’s medium and he should have the incentive of owning his film and it came out of that, I also have my own banner RK films but I feel, revival of certain things, I find it a bit pompous, I believe that RK films was alive because of my Grandfather, because of his talent, because of his stories and I don’t want to bask in that glory and take an advantage and I definitely don’t want to tarnish it. So I have decided that if I ever produce, it is not something that comes easy to me but if I will produce, I will always partner it with the director.

“It’s interesting phase for me, new directors and new genres, something which is giving me an opportunity to work in films which are more mainstream, so I am excited.”

Especially with JAGGA JASSOS, it was a lengthy film to produce, so does that give you a different idea?

No, I think JAGGA JASSOS, when it started, it was not like this, the entire journey changed through making of the film. It was a children’s, happy, musical film which kept changing, there were a lot of great things in JAGGA JASSOS but it just didn’t come together. I think Anurag Basu is a brilliant mind, brilliant director but he just took too much on his plate you know to deliver something which is totally engaging but it is like that child of yours which you have, who is faulty, so it will always be very close to me because we did spend three years of your lives on it, got very excited about it. Disappointed that it didn’t work, we had many sequels planned of it but then again, it’s the movies, you don’t really have a formula; you don’t realize what is going to happen.

Now you are coming back stronger with the choices like a SHAMSHERA, BHRAMASTRA and then there is the Luv Ranjan and Ajay Devgn film?

To be very honest, I haven’t signed a film for four-five years because I was always on this repeat with directors I was working with – Imtiaz, Basu, Ayan. Rajkumar Hirani is a no brainer because you are not really selecting it by script, it also comes with the fact that it has such a great director attached to it, so in this phase of my life I have met these two filmmakers and I really like their films, I really like their take because it was also very important that I could collaborate with new energies, new genres and it instinctively happened, it wasn’t just by design, it is just that these opportunities came. So it’s an interesting phase for me, new directors and new genres, something which is giving me an opportunity to work in films which are more mainstream, so I am excited.

So is there a conscious decision to do mainstream commercial kind of movies?

I don’t know what mainstream commercial is, it doesn’t come naturally to me, I am not Salman Khan or Aamir Khan that I do any film and I make it mainstream and I don’t know what subjects are mainstream, I really thought JAGGA JASSOS was a mainstream film, I really thought BOMBAY VELVET was a mainstream film when I read the script, so I am still learning, I haven’t really understood the concept of it but I guess that struggle will keep going on, it’s been 10 years, I really hope that I can work in this industry for 20 years, after 20 years I will probably understand something or maybe I won’t.

Do you still look out for numbers; do you still do that entire thing?

I don’t understand the layers of the numbers and the territories and stuff but I do understand the importance of how much money your film earns, so that it is very important, so yeah I do. Alia keeps telling me about how you are educating her about numbers and stuff. So I don’t know that side and I don’t think that interests me too much also but a little bit I understand what this film should do, what it should open at, what is a bad opening , what is a good opening, so slowly- slowly now everybody knows.

Finally, what was that one thing you spoke to Sanjay Dutt about during the making?

I used to call him every night, before I was approaching the drug phase, about the jail sequences, about when the verdict came out, then when we were shooting the scene of discovering when his mother died in front of him two days before the premiere of ROCKY, so I used to call him at night and used to chat for long hours to understand what he was going through, what was his mind space was, what was he feeling because I want him to feel nostalgic after seeing the film, of what I have portrayed, and not feel okay, its superficially there and I have made a caricature out of the character and he was so graceful, so honest, it must be so hard for him to talk about again and again as these are tough things to talk about. So apart from the trust that he has, he has entrusted me with his life, he also used to help me, also before the start of the film I did superficial  things like went to his cupboard and took his shoes, his jeans, took some of his perfumes, so apart from these superficial things that I did I really, really picked his brain and his heart, I really tried to show what he actually felt and that really helped me in building this performance, it really helped me in understanding this role as this is a very complex, and not an easy part, it’s not a character which has a beginning, middle and end, every sequence is a beginning, middle and end.  He has gone through so many different phases in his life.

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