When Ranbir Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz and Anurag Basu visited the Hindustan Times office last Friday, they were nearly two-and-a-half hours late. But the crowd that had gathered to chat with them at 4.30 pm had not dispersed. They were keen enough to meet the Barfi! team to even delay their Friday evening plans.
And when they finally arrived, Ranbir, Ileana and Anurag more than made up for their unpunctuality. Starving after a day filled with promotions, they asked for and got pizzas and soft drinks, and cheerfully sat through an hour-long interactive session with the crowd, answering questions, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
Most of the questions, of course, were directed at Ranbir, whose films in the past have made him quite a hero. But the actor did all he could to share the limelight with his co-star Ileana, and director Anurag dada (as Basu is fondly referred to).
So what did the three of them talk about?
Lots of things; from Barfi! (of course) to Dabangg (2010); competition and rivalry within the film industry; Ileana’s surprise role in the film; and Anurag’s bond with the "fine-bred" star kid, Ranbir. Ranbir also surprised the room with his candid responses to questions regarding rivals of the same age, the people he draws inspiration from (Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean!), and how he selects his films.
‘Actors take too much credit’
Ranbir, Ileana and Anurag talk about films, inspirations and a famous grandfather
Ranbir, was it a planned move to do different genres — romantic comedy (Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahaani, 2009), then a political thriller (Rajneeti, 2010), then Rockstar (2011) and now Barfi!?
Ranbir Kapoor: It’s a fluke, not a planned move. I get 10-15 offers a year, and pick only one or two. You choose the subject and the director you connect with. With Anurag, I connected with his story. And he is like a five-year-old, with an infectious energy. I fell in love with Anurag.
Tomorrow, if someone comes to me with a film like Rowdy Rathore, I would do it. But maybe I don’t have that ‘hero personality’ to carry off such a role. It’s been four-and-half-years so far in this industry, I guess I will have to build my body of work. I’m here for the long run.
On working with Priyanka again, after Anjaana Anjaani (2010)
RK: What impresses me is her desire to do different kinds of films. Playing an autistic character can be tricky. Priyanka has a harder part in the film, and once she got the hang of the character, she flew with it.
Was it tricky to play a deaf and mute character?
RK: I was nervous as I felt I would have to learn sign language, but Anurag was clear that he wanted Barfi! to be relatable and wanted the audiences to understand what he meant. I drew from the comedy of Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson). I had to express with my face and through my body. It was fun, it felt like dumb-charades. I did feel insecure at times since I
hadn’t uttered a dialogue, sung a song, punched a guy or done a break dance.
Ileana, how was the Bollywood debut experience?
Ileana D’Cruz: This is unknown territory for me. I thought that in Bollywood, I would be a glamorous heroine. I never thought I would do a film that wouldn’t require me to dress up sexy or put on tons of make-up.
RK: Basically, she thought she was in Dhoom 6!
IDC: No! I didn’t doubt Anurag, I connected well with him, though I saw all his films only after signing Barfi!
Anurag, what do you think of Ranbir as an actor?
Anurag Basu: I think he is one of the best actors we have today. It reflects his upbringing. I think he’s a well-brought-up star kid.
Ranbir, do you agree?
RK: I am how I am. I’m not trying to be anyone or put up a façade.
How did you discover Illena?
RK: He basically googled ‘Illena hot’. We both did!
AB: While we were casting, I met her and realised she was perfect for Shruti’s role. I hadn’t seen any of her earlier films.
On comparisons with Raj Kapoor
RK: Of course, since I’m his grandson, there will comparisons between us. But I’ve taken inspiration from Charlie Chaplin, as did my grandfather. Mr Bean has also inspired me. I’ve learnt from them how to express oneself through body language.
Is it difficult to act in a period film?
RK: Actors take too much credit, but in reality, all the homework is already done by the director. I am as good as the director and the story. We shot for few days in Darjeeling and Kolkata, but then we shifted to a set in Chandivali Studios in Mumbai. I used to wonder how it would look on screen, but Anurag was clear in his vision. I was dressed for winter but shot in the sultry Mumbai heat. Now when I see the promos, I can see that he has transported us to a different world — that of Darjeeling in 1970s.
RK: I think it’s great. It’s all healthy competition. We’re not here to replace anyone. We’re just here to make a place for ourselves.
You haven’t done a massy film yet?
RK: What’s a massy film? A good film is a massy film. If there’s emotional connect, you will understand it. That’s massy.
We mean masala films like Dabangg (2010).
RK: That depends on the star. Salman (Khan) has a pan-India fan base. Even if I do a film like that, audiences here (Mumbai) will come. But someone in, say Indore, who doesn’t know me, may not come. With time and more films, I will get that. I’m not trying to jump the gun now.
Illeana, have you received feedback to your part in Barfi!?
IDC: I’ve got tons of reactions. But the one I’ve cherished the most has been from my father. I’ve waited 10 years for him to say that he is really proud of me. He is really stingy when it comes to giving compliments. The day he told me that he’s looking forward to seeing the film, it made me feel like I achieved something.
Ranbir, all the directors call you the most promising actor amongst the current lot. That can’t possibly make you friends with your contemporaries. Do you feel any pressure?
RK: I’ve never felt any pressure. When I started, people asked if I felt pressurised because I come from a film family. But I am here to make a name for myself. I think my parents will be really proud if they are called Ranbir Kapoor’s parents. I love movies and I love acting. There’s no pressure. I’m friends with everyone.
Friends to your face?
RK: No, no. We’ve all hung out together. I know Arjun (Kapoor) and Ranveer (Singh) really well. I also know Shahid (Kapoor), Imran (Khan) and the others. We’ve all gone out together. Sometimes we exchange messages, hang out and do cool stuff. There’s no animosity, at least from my side.
On the Oscar-winning silent-era film, The Artist
RK: I started working on this film (Barfi!) before The Artist (2011) released. But when I did see the film, I messaged Dada (Anurag) saying, ‘I’ve seen a beautiful film.’ Ours isn’t a silent film. But it’s fantastic that films like The Artist reach a wide audience purely on the basis of good story telling.
It’s been said that the music of Barfi! is on the lines of Amelie (2001). Did you guys draw inspiration from it?
RK: I’ve heard of that.
AB: It’s not Amelie, but if you see any European films, the soundtracks are similar. I had given the brief that I wanted to use the violin, accordion, harp and such instruments. I wanted that style of music.
The movie is set in Darjeeling, but could it have been made
AB: I could have set the movie anywhere, but I chose Darjeeling for the simple
reason that I know that place well. The film takes you back to the ’70s, and Darjeeling suited the kind of world I wanted to show.
On political opposition to Ranbir’s films – Wake Up Sid (2009) angered MNS because of the word ‘Bombay’, while Rajneeti ran into trouble too.
RK: This is not planned. I hope no film gets into political conflict. We’re not trying to make a political statement. What they (politicians) do is serious work, we’re just entertainers.
Ranbir, people say that you’re taking a risk by playing such a role...
RK: (Cuts in) Yaar, sometimes you say I’m playing safe, sometimes you say I’m taking a risk. Tomorrow, if the film works, everyone will say ‘Well done’. It’s fine to take a risk. If someone else doesn’t want to, that’s his or her call. I’m here to do my own thing. I think it’s best to encourage me rather than scare me by saying what I’m doing can be risky.
Illeana, you worked with Ranbir and Priyanka (Chopra), two big stars. Was there any fear of being overshadowed?
IDC: Not at all. I already have such an intimidating father that it’s very difficult to intimidate me (laughs). My only worry was whether I would be able to pull off the character. I wanted to live up to Dada’s expectations.
Ranbir, you mentioned that you get a lot of scripts every year. Do you read every single script?
RK: Yes. Sometimes, you read the first 10 pages and it
doesn’t interest you. Sometimes, you have a good filmmaker coming to you with a great story, but he’s possibly the worst narrator. Films have their own destiny.
How good a narrator was Anurag?
RK: He’s really bad. He mixes time, characters and names. I was lucky I got a good four-hour narration. Illeana didn’t even know which film she was doing. She thought she was in Dhoom:6!
Transcribed by Kavita Awaasthi and Shalvi Mangaokar