Sony Pictures’ first Indian Co-Production “Saawariya” is a unique collaboration with one of India's best known and acclaimed directors, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. On November 9, 2007, the visual splendor and tender story of “Saawariya” will transport audiences worldwide back to the golden era of the ‘great romantic movies.’ The film features the much anticipated debut of two new stars, Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, both blessed with impeccable “Bollywood” pedigrees and lineage.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said, “For Saawariya, I wanted two young newcomers and I found them in Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. Ranbir and Sonam became like my own children and the time spent with them gave me a fresh perspective on life and new way to look at film. I suddenly felt alive once again”.
Ranbir Kapoor hails from the “first family” of India Cinema. Founded by the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor, four generations of the Kapoor family have contributed to Indian Cinema by way of acting, directing and producing. His eldest son Raj was perhaps the first of the ‘superstars’ in Indian Cinema while his other sons, Shashi and Shammi went on to become stars in their own right.
Raj Kapoor’s descendants have carried on the family legacy. It is into this legacy that Ranbir Kapoor was born. The grandson of Raj Kapoor and the son of one of India’s most romantic on screen couples, Rishi & Neetu Singh, makes his debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya. He is today one of the most sought after talents in Indian Cinema.
A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York as well as the Lee Strasberg School of Acting, Ranbir acted as an assistant to Sanjay Leela Bhansali on his feature film Black. Ranbir is also accomplished in tap dancing, jazz, ballet as well as acting.
The grandson of the legendary Raj Kapoor and the son of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, Ranbir Kapoor shared his thoughts on his film debut in Saawariya and his family’s legacy.
Were you always destined to be an actor?
Yes, I think so. I don’t really remember the time when I sat down and thought what I would do with my life. My life has always been around movies, so it was always going to be something to do with film. But as a child I didn’t announce that I would grow up to be an actor. You just see a trailer of a song and you suddenly start dancing to it or imitate what’s happening onscreen. So, I did all of that and I guess those are the signs which showed my early passion for acting. It was slow and steady build up, but it was always there.
While growing up were you a big fan of your father?
Yes, absolutely. But there was a point when I didn’t know that he was an actor because we were always shielded from the set. I would have to say that Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai is my favorite Rishi Kapoor film. Not many people have seen the film but comedic timing of it is excellent.
Your father was a great dancer and an actor. He was an all-round entertainer. Is that something you have picked up from him?
I don’t know if I am as good as him. I also don’t know if I can live up to those expectations and can even be compared to him. Maybe I have a style of my own. I don’t think he had a style of acting which can be copied. A lot of people say I sound like him and smile like him. I think I have learnt more from him off screen. He is passionate about the entire field of cinema be it songs, acting, drama or dancing. I also admire his great love for the family including his brothers, sisters and parents.
Do have early memories of your grandfather? I know you were very young…
Yes, I have so many memories of my grandfather. When I was four or five I wanted to wear a suit because I always saw my father wear suits. In those days there weren’t get good suits for children so when my grandfather was going to Russia, and although he was not the sort to go shopping, I called him and asked him to buy me one. He actually came back with three bags full of suits for me! So, it’s these small gestures that I remember. I was very little when he was around and don’t remember much but this is the kind of moment that I will never forget.
How does it feel to be from the Kapoor Clan? Do you feel it’s a heavy burden to shoulder?
It’s definitely feels great to be a part of Kapoor Clan. I know people expect a lot from me and I am confident that I will live up to their expectations. It’s obvious that people will compare me to my dad and granddad. I don’t see it as a burden and I look forward to the responsibility it involves. I am happy to put up with their expectations and hopefully I can meet them.
Although I'm aware of the responsibility, I don't think about it all the time. If I did, I'd feel bogged down and might get depressed. I'm driven by my own ambition to do my best possible work. However, I'm the biggest fan of my grandfather (Raj Kapoor) and father (Rishi Kapoor). I have not seen that many of my great grandfather's (Prithviraj Kapoor) films, though I've seen Awara, Mughal-e-Azam and Kal Aaj Aur Kal. I've a huge portrait of my grandfather in my bedroom. It's a collage of his face from all of his films. It reminds me of where I come from and where I have to go.
I would love to achieve as much as my grandfather Raj Kapoor did. That's how ambitious I am. But my favorite actor is my dad. I loved him in Mera Naam Joker, Bobby, Prem Rog and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. He's passionate about everything. Even when he's just playing on the computer, he's constantly drumming out a tune. I wish I could do that. My dad and R D Burman were buddies. Dad has a great treasure-chest of musical anecdotes about RD.
Do you think that being the child of a star is a double-edged sword? Is there an upside as well as a downside?
There is an upside because you obviously can get big break and people look forward to seeing your films but the downside is that the expectations are so high. People are critical right down to how your hair or nails look. So, there are ups and downs to everything. I am not saying that somebody else’s struggle is more than mine or mine is more than his. But everyone has his own struggles and I have mine too.
Did you have a pet name? Your family is famous for pet names. Your father is called Chintu and your uncles are Dabboo and Chimpu.
Yes, I know. And because of these names I think my parents made a conscious effort to not give me a pet name. So, thank god, I have steered clear of a pet name.
Saawariya is a dream launch for an actor. Was it a hard film to make? Was it difficult shooting your first film?
Absolutely, I don’t think I could have had it better than this. I wouldn’t call it an easy film to make. I think am too new so I don’t have experience to gauge it. But yes, it wasn’t an easy process. We worked really hard but Mr. Bhansali gave us everything he had. He imparted his knowledge of cinema and of life to us, which helped us a lot. So, I wouldn’t call it easy but I can’t say it was difficult because he made it easier than it could have been for us.
Tell us your experience ….on Saawariya?
It was an out of control experience. I was acquainted with life behind the camera, but being in front of the camera was entirely different. But Sanjay really took good care of Sonam and I. It was a brilliant experience working with him and given the chance, I would love to work with him again. I am utterly happy and satisfied with my experience on the film, but also sad that it's over. I now have an anticipatory feeling of nervousness, excitement and anxiety leading up to the launch.
How was the experience of working with the taskmaster –Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
The whole experience of working under Sanjay’s tutelage was enriching. I’ve learnt more just working on this one film with him than I could in 10 years. He is a perfectionist. I also learned a lot about cinema in general from him as his cinematic knowledge is so great.
How did you react when you saw yourself on the screen for the first time?
To be honest, I cringed because I saw myself during the editing process and I said, ‘Do I look like that?” and “Is that is how I act!” It’s because you have a different perception of yourself and then you see yourself on film. I was also always worried that people would catch me doing it all wrong! But ultimately it was a wonderful feeling and I went home that night and the more I thought about it the better I felt. That night I went to sleep with a smile on my face.
You worked behind-the-scenes on Black, as an assistant to Bhansali. And now you're his leading man. How different was that experience?
I don't think there's much of a difference to be honest, because I was learning then and am still learning now. He's given both Sonam and I a lot of love. He's imparted a lot of knowledge about cinema, and about life to us. And we're just grateful to him for giving us such a big opportunity and launching us in such a big way. It was always a dream to work under him and my dream came true, so I'll always be grateful to him. I just hope that he continues to love me as much as he does right now!
So when did you decide to finally work with Sanjay?
After I saw Devdas. That’s when I decided I wanted to work with him and eventually ended up by assisting him on Black. Now, I am blessed to be a part of this project and shall always cherish it. We are more like friends now and through this experienced we were able to share a father-son like bond.
Your father directed a film as well – Aa Ab Laut Chalen and you assisted him on that film?
Actually, I assisted him on that film by default because my ICSE Board exams were over and I had the usual holiday break after that. Dad was shooting in America and he said “Why don’t you come along. You can take a holiday and can assist me at the same time.” So, it was a mixture of both, and that is the first time we really starting bonding as two adults. While I was growing up we didn’t have a close a relationship because he was always away working.
How was the experience of working with Sonam?
I am so happy to have worked with her on my very first film. We’ve known each other since childhood. Sonam is very intelligent and straightforward, she talks from her heart. If she doesn’t approve of something she speaks out. Our friendship has grown stronger during the shooting of this film since as newcomers both of us were going through the same emotions. We have shared a lot of feelings.
Whose reaction are you really dreading once Saawariya is released?
I am not dreading anyone’s but I am waiting for my father’s reaction because he is completely honest, even if he is talking about his own family. He will call a spade a spade, so he won’t hide whether he loves or hates me in the film.
I can’t think of anything but Saawariya now. But some day besides acting I do want to produce & direct films. I have no time frame for this…when I have something to tell, I’ll go for it. I have often dreamt of the moment when my first film would be released. And now when the moment is almost here, I can't believe it's actually happening.
Who is your anchor ?
My mother is the brightest spot in my life. I cannot see beyond her and everything that makes her happy makes me happy. She is always thinking of us. I am very protective of her and don't like any one judging her, which is why I don't see her movies.
The last time you asked someone for an autograph.
So, did he give it you?
Yes, I had gone to his off-Broadway play called Salome. He is a really sweet guy because he came out after the play and there were loads of fans waiting for him. I mean he is Al Pacino and people worship him. He shook my hand and gave me an autograph. I told him I was a student of the Lee Strasburg (acting school) and he told me had studied with Strasburg.
If you were stuck on an island what are the three films that you would take with you that you could watch over and over again?
Shri 420, Life is Beautiful and Devdas.
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