Bollywood Star Ranbir Kapoor on Influences, Disappointments, Fatherhood, Fake Beards

Hindi cinema heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor travelled to the Red Sea Film Festival on Wednesday to receive the Variety International Vanguard Actor Award, in tribute to his career achievements – from his debut performance in “Saawariya” to his lead roles in two big-budget films released this year, “Shamshera” and “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva.” He is currently filming gangster pic “Animal,” by Sandeep Reddy Vang, and took a one-day break to fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the festival takes place. Kapoor entered the packed auditorium to rapturous applause and delighted the audience with his self-effacing charm.

After the onstage interview, several audience members asked questions, including a boy in his early teens, who broke into song, prompting the entire audience to sing along, with the actor visibly moved. Another audience member stood up to say that although she didn’t have a question she might need an ambulance because her heart was pumping so fast. At the end, people crowded around the actor to shake his hand or grab a selfie, before he was whisked out by security. The event highlighted how Bollywood stardom ignites audiences across the Arab world.

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But the session involved much more than singing and embracing, as Kapoor talked about his inspirations, challenges and future goals.

He hails from one of Hindi cinema’s best-known families and said that one of his biggest inspirations has been his grandfather, Raj Kapoor, who incarnated a Chaplinesque tramp character, to which his grandson has paid direct tribute in his films “Saawariya” and “Barfi!”

Ranbir Kapoor enters the ‘In Conversation’ event at the Red Sea Film Festival (Courtesy of Getty)
Ranbir Kapoor enters the ‘In Conversation’ event at the Red Sea Film Festival (Courtesy of Getty)

As a teenager he says that he was an introvert and under-performed in academic studies, but excelled at playing soccer, a passion he keeps alive today as co-owner of Mumbai City soccer club.

He came out of his shell while studying at the School of Visual Arts and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, which helped him learn how to live alone and interact with students from different cultures. In terms of method acting techniques, he says it was when he worked for nine months back in India, as an assistant to producer/director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, that he truly began to learn his craft.

He talked about his close working relationship with director Ayan Mukerji, director of “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva,” and of previous pics “Wake Up Sid,” and “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.” He added that the role with which he most closely identifies is “Sid”: “You know in my head I thought being an actor means being the hero, but when Ayan showed me the script for ‘Wake Up Sid’ I realized you can play a character who has the balls to say they’re a slacker and have no dreams, no ambition. That felt really liberating for me.”

Kapoor says that he’s most interested in ordinary people who do extraordinary things. “I met Aamir Khan before I became an actor and asked him if he had any advice. He told me just to pack my bags and get on a train and travel around my country, to see different cultures and meet people because he said later on I wouldn’t be able to do that. I really regret that I didn’t do that as much as I could have. But that would be my advice to any aspiring actor.”

He talked about the demanding preparation required for several roles, in particular the prosthetics on the biopic “Sanju,” but said that the most uncomfortable prosthetic was a pasted beard on the 2022 pic “Shamshera” – “In the blistering heat, you feel like your face is melting. You can’t open your mouth, you can’t smile, you’re irritable. I decided that I’m never again going to wear a fake beard and instead should take time to grow my own.” Since he was sporting his own beard at the talk, this delighted the audience.

Kapoor also addressed the films that have under-performed at the box office, including this year’s epic “Shamshera,” and 2015 pic “Bombay Velvet.” But he said that his biggest disappointment was 2017 musical fantasy “Jagga Jasoos,” which was a passion project for him: “It was really a very heartwarming sweet idea about a stammering detective, a singing detective, but it didn’t do well. I think that’s the only thing in my career that really hurt me.”

The actor said that he would be interested in shooting in Saudi Arabia: “Saudi is really making a lot of efforts you know for film productions to come here and shoot. And they’re making some amazing arrangements. Shah Rukh Khan just shot a movie here. So yes a lot of shootings are going to happen – in Jeddah and Riyadh and other places.”

Asked about his marriage to Alia Bhatt in April and the birth of his first child in November, he said that it’s a wonderful moment for him and that becoming a father is “a joy like I never experienced before.”

Looking ahead he says that he has high hopes for Luv Ranjan’s upcoming romantic comedy, where he plays opposite Shraddha Kapoor, for which he recently shot scenes in Spain, and for his current shoot on “Animal.”

When asked about his biggest influence, the actor said that in addition to his grandfather, Raj Kapoor, his biggest inspiration in life is Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi.

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