He has completed 10 years in showbiz: Saawariya, his debut as a leading man, was released November 2007. Ranbir Kapoor also represents the fourth generation of Hindi cinema’s first family—the Kapoors.
At present, he is working on his friend Ayan Mukerji’s 3-D opus Brahmastra, a unique experiment, because if this film works, it will have two more parts. The film, in the sci-fi/ superhero/ mythological fantasy genre, is expected to hit the screen in 2019. 2018 will see him essay the role of Sanjay Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic, tentatively titled Sanju. Planned, but not yet confirmed with the actor, is a thriller with Raja Krishna Menon, of Airlift and Chef fame.
Summing up Ranbir Kapoor’s career in a nutshell, we would term him as an exceptionally lucky man. His career is riddled with flops, films that have lost serious money for their investors, and yet, he is largely unaffected. This not only resembles the career-graphs of grand-uncle Shashi Kapoor but also is great proof of the axiom in Hindi cinema that professionalism, good nature and a solid acting talent can help a good actor go on unconditionally.
Who else would—in a growingly ruthless commercial scenario—survive consecutive debacles of the scale of Besharam, Roy, Bombay Velvet and Jagga Jasoos and still come out unscathed? In fact, since 2013, he has not had a single hit, with even Tamasha being a flop and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) crossing 100 crore but losing out on investment.
What’s going wrong?
It would thus be well if Ranbir decides to respect his lineage and concentrate much more on his stardom, which like an Aamir Khan, can be then harnessed for doing good, innovative and substantial work. Ranbir’s recent decision, for example, to stay off romantic comedies, is not something advisable as a general credo—every assignment should be assessed for its own merits or lack of them. We cannot rope in or exclude entire genres.
Ranbir’s background has, probably, a large part to contribute to his erroneous approach to movie selection. A fairly disturbed childhood and exposure to an American film school (though he found it “useless”) do not exactly help anyone seep deep into the Hindi cinema ethos that is all about entertainment and audience gratification with or without deeper dimensions.
Destiny had a role too: when he assisted uncle Rajiv Kapoor on Prem Granth and dad Rishi Kapoor on Aa Ab Laut Chalen, these films were to emerge as mainstream washouts that spelt the exit of the RK banner.
Ranbir also assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the successful Black, and thus might have acquired the impression that offbeat films were a better option. And then, the same Bhansali gave him his acting break in a widely-publicized wannabe mainstream romantic musical that also collapsed!
At an early point in his career, therefore, when the young actor was doing offbeat films like Wake Up Sid! and Rocket Singh—Salesman Of The Year, his father Rishi Kapoor had once expressed the fear that while the Kapoors traditionally never interfered in the choice of their children’s films, the way Ranbir was selecting his assignments, he was afraid he would become “today’s Amol Palekar!”
Amol had a parade of entertaining mid-stream successes until he went completely off-track. And it is a matter of conjecture which phase Rishi was referring to, unless he was referring to the overall pattern and Amol’s non-star status despite the hits! At the same time, like any proud parent of a brilliant offspring, Rishi was justifiably proud of his son’s acting expertise and dedication, however misguidedly channeled into wrong setups and projects.
Ranbir once admitted to this writer that he was also not very comfortable with lip-sync songs, which, let’s face it, is the USP of his clan down to cousins Karisma and Kareena Kapoor! “I was watching one of my songs on television at home and thought I was alone, till dad bellowed from behind, ‘Ranbir, feel and live the song!’. Ranbir has worked on that since, and Barfi! and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani onwards, we saw a colossal improvement in that department.
Look up Ranbir’s filmography and we see two cardinal points: one, his associations with filmmakers he should have steered clear of, like Anurag Kashyap and Abhinav Kashyap. Two, his only genuine hits have been only four in this long phase: Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Raajneeti, Barfi! and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Now, that says a lot!
We will discount PK for obvious reasons, and his cameos in Chillar Party and Bhoothnath Returns are of no consequence. Apart from these, Bachna Ae Haseeno did average business. It is therefore very clear, if you include Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and (for GenY only) Rockstar in the musical aspects only, that his success too has been quite dependent on popular soundtracks, like with so many stars and all the Kapoors!
In these ten years, despite his unfortunate choices, and to give the devil his due, partly because of them, Ranbir has grown tall as an actor. Barfi! could have been a film that constricted his acting skills, the way Koi…Mil Gaya has done for Hrithik Roshan, but the handicapped hero of the 2012 hit never barged into his future performances.
Here is where his powerful heredity (from both asides, for mom Neetu Singh remains the most underrated actress of the ‘70s) asserted itself. Despite his natural (temperamental?) leanings towards wrong subjects and confused characters (always a no-no for audiences) as seen in Wake Up Sid!, Rockstar, Tamasha and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Ranbir continued to grow fast as an actor.
His maiden attempt at production (with Anurag Barfi! Basu), Jagga Jasoos, has a towering performance from him. Again playing with a handicap— as a stammer-afflicted youngster who is told to sing out even spoken words, Ranbir outclassed his past acting turns by leagues in this role of a young detective searching for his foster father.
But this magnificent essay underscores the tragedy of this wonderful actor—each and every expression, gesture, intonation, and the overall body language depict a phenomenal talent. All that remains for Ranbir to do now is to exercise his genes to show those international-calibre acting sparks his father Rishi Kapoor so effortlessly showed even in his earliest or worst conveyor-belt potboilers.
And that’s the crucial aspect that Ranbir would do well to hone and harness—his parents’ natural effortlessness—and blend it with his GenY approach and natural star charisma. With such a lethal approach, the next 10 years will be a starry cakewalk for a man who is rightly termed the finest actor of this generation.