It all started one evening, a few days ago when Ranbir Kapoor was in London. We had a quick chat over the phone that went like this:
ME: "Hey Ranbir, can we do the interview now over the phone?"
RANBIR: "Hey buddy, why don't we meet and do it. We can spend an hour talking about Barfi! and more. Text me in couple of days and we'll take it from there."
Ok, so what did just happen? I question myself, pause and ponder and in exactly two and a half minutes jump in excitement.
Two Days Later
ME (text message): 'Hey Ranbir, let me know when and where are we catching up.'
RANBIR: "Why don't you come to Film City. I'm here till 8.30 pm and we can drive down to my house from here."
Ok, so what happened now? In the next one hour - Shower, Shampoo, Trim, Shorts, Belt, Tee, Eau De Toilette....and I see myself at an arm's length away from the green screen, in front of which Ranbir Kapoor was so effortlessly being Barfi for his movie's promotions. The Kapoor off screen is a very different creature. He is frequently the rugged everyman, a simpleton, bit of rough, the man's man and the woman's craving, that equals sex symbol.
He walks out of the studio, greets me with a hug and in a jiffy says, "Give me 5 minutes, I'll change and we can go."
It's the 6th minute and Ranbir is busy contemplating Barfi's chances at the box office by stretching his legs and resting his back. He leans forward to open his Pepsi can. I ask, "Wow! That's one brand ambassador." Ranbir takes a sip, sits back and delivers, "I endorse products that I genuinely like and the same with films."
One look at Ranbir and you can tell that there are no rules to making great films. It's just the passion that makes them a cult in years to come. He looks at me, smiles and asks, "So, how's it going?" Was it not for that smile the man sitting opposite me could be a businessman or diplomat. Like his face, Ranbir's chequered shirt and cotton pants is handsome and well-cut, but unremarkable. It's this unassuming demeanour and general likeability that makes him stand out from his colleagues, his very presence seeming to reject the notion of celebrity.
The conversation continues inside his sparkling white Audi, but it's only after I leave his residence Krishna Raj later in the evening that I realise - I had the most fun not because a journalist was interviewing India's next superstar, oh no! It was as simple as two friends talking about what they passionately endorse - their love for cinema and that hunger to succeed.
So put on your headphones, tune in to the Barfi soundtrack and start reading this special Part 1 on Barfi...oops! Murphy....oops! Ranbir Kapoor! It's an exclusive!
You come across as an interesting mix of Hank Moody and Vincent Chase. So who are you exactly?
As of now, I am a nobody yaar! These are also characters I see quite often. I watch Entourage. I aspire the good life that they live and lead. Honestly, I am just trying to be me by trying to do good films, have fun at it and trying to work with good directors and of course, I am a bit of a silent party boy also. I have my share of fun sometime too.
With movies now being seen as a 100 crore and 200 crore film in definition, you have chosen the path of your own - the path of quality cinema.
Movies are a commercial medium. We don't make movies to impress our friends and critics. It's an expensive medium. We have to gain money from it. When a movie does business of Rs 100 crores and Rs 200 crores, it means that the audience has lapped it and liked it. Whatever faults you and me have with it, it doesn't really matter. Of course I aspire to be in that club but you need the longevity in your career. You need that fan base that grows over the years. You need the kind of films and directors that these heroes are working with. When I do a film like Barfi!, I am not doing it because it's an art film. I am doing it because it's an engaging cinema to me and entertaining. I can't sign films only because they will work in a certain territory or with a certain class of audience. I hope in the long run, Barfi! too garners Rs 100 crores and even more and becomes a cult film.
One look at Barfi! trailer and it reminds you of Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean.
Yes, Charlie Chaplin has been the inspiration for Barfi but more or less he has to express himself with silence, with physical antics and comedy. Chaplin was the father of that. We haven't blindly copied him. Yes, we were inspired by Mr Bean and Raj Kapoor too. He too was heavily inspired from Chaplin. This film really doesn't have a genre. Barfi! has a mood of Life Is Beautiful and Anand. The late Rajesh Khanna put it across so beautifully, "Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi." These are the things we are trying to say through Barfi! One should celebrate life. You will know I am deaf and mute in Barfi! but after that you will forget that and will be transformed in Murphy's world. You will become a part of his world through his physical craziness.
Be honest! Didn't you feel like going up to Anurag Basu and yelling at him - 'I want to talk now?'
(Laughs) It was kind of frustrating because I desperately wanted to open my mouth and talk. I started this film after Rockstar. It was an intense experience working in Rockstar. It kind of made me feel heavy after I completed shooting. Barfi! then came across as a breath of fresh air. It made me happier, lighter and joyful. I am not saying I have done a superlative job in it. Having said that, Anurag Basu has made it his own. He has sensitively and carefully approached my character. We as actors backed his vision. Yes, it was frustrating for not having dialogues for a year now. A film like Barfi! borders on simplicity. It's hard to be simple. I ask myself - Is simple good enough? As an actor I am insecure. There is nothing heroic about my character here but I guess there is a lot of heroism in being the under-hero too.
I've got to know this that you forget your mother's birthday everytime you shoot a film. Now that's not good.
(Laughs) Yes, I keep forgetting my mother's birthday. The first time I forgot her birthday was when I was shooting for Saawariya. It's not good I know. But I am a forgetful person sometimes. I keep forgetting my best friend's birthday. During Rockstar too I forgot mom's birthday. I hope I forget mine someday. I hate celebrating birthdays. I have to be more responsible and can't afford to miss any of mom's birthdays now.
You have that aura and the kind of fan following that James Dean used to have in Hollywood. Less movies but more fans!
Thank you for the compliment but I can't accept it. I cannot be compared to anyone. It's wrong. I myself am a great James Dean fan. He had this aura and enigma about him. Today's actors can't have that. We are all so easily accessible today. We are in the Press, news channels and award functions. James Dean did few films but he still had that mystery about him. Gone are the days those days that actors could have that mystic quality about them. We can't repeat the stardom what actors back then had.
Let's talk about the beauty of Ileana D'Cruz.
You know, while the casting was happening, we went to many mainstream Hindi film actresses. Since she is a normal person in the film, she talks and is narrating Barfi! in the film as she witnesses this magic of Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) Barfi aka Murphy. I had lots of suggestions for Anurag Basu and told him to meet a few actresses. He then urged me to see an audition. He didn't tell me who Ileana was. I too didn't know who she was. I never saw any work of hers. When I saw the audition, I was bowled over. It was just a shot of her talking to the camera. Anurag has this quality of talking to the person and getting quite deep with him/her so that person becomes transparent in front of the camera as far as their acting is concerned. Ileana has surpassed my expectations. The kind of films she has been doing in the South and then adapting Barfi! is phenomenal for her. It's a whole new world for her, the language, etc. She does everything with ease, poise, beauty and dignity and it's not an easy thing.
You know what? I am quite a contradicting person. Sometimes I want to do things that I want to do and then I see the craze of these superstars and the kind of business that it does. As I said earlier, even I want to be a superstar. I think the superstar thing that you said is quite an immature statement because you're either the big thing or you are not. So unless my films touches the 100 crore and above mark like all the 'Khans' films are touching, I will never have the superstar label. None of today's generation has a fan following that Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan have. The aspiration is that, the want is that, but you have to have that large body of work. They've made so many sacrifices too. It's a journey to reach there and I can't say I want the superstar label tomorrow. I have a desire in me. I see Aamir Khan on the TIME magazine cover and I say - 'I want that.' I see AR Rahman on the Oscar stage and I say - 'I too want to be on that stage.' I dream about these things. I see the craze for Salman Khan, the respect for Amitabh Bachchan, the love for Shah Rukh Khan. I just don't want what one actor has. I want what every actor has.
Watch this space for Part 2 Ranbir Kapoor 'fan-boy' special!