Of the younger, ‘post-Khan’ generation of actors, Ranbir Kapoor is undoubtedly one of my few firm favourites. I have keenly followed his career since his 2007 debut with ‘Saawariya’, and I have enjoyed his work so much that I have seen all the movies he’s starred in since then. And although the ‘Rockstar’ trailer looks pretty dire to me, I will keep seeing all his movies – because I just really like watching the dude.
Why do I like Ranbir? Many reasons, but here are the top… five:
- Like his parents before him (who are two of my all-time favourites), there is something very ‘natural’ and engaging about his onscreen demeanour. He has really nice onscreen energy and presence, and a confidence that always comes across without being overbearing.
- I also think he’s a talented actor with the capacity to keep getting better. He really gets beneath the skins of the characters he chooses to play, and he handles both comedy and drama very well.
- He’s also a capable dancer – I love a good dancer, and there are precious few in the new crop of Bollywood’s leading men. He gets a lot of goofy, loopy, silly dances, and he’s good at those, but I think he could do more ‘stylised’ stuff equally well.
- He’s very easy on the eye, of course – I love his looks. I could actually wax quite lyrical on this topic (the gorgeous hooded eyes, the distinctive nose, the athletic physique, etc etc), but I won’t, because I don’t want to nauseate anyone, including myself. Suffice it to say I think Ranbir is extremely good-looking.
- Also (and I think this is really key to my enjoyment of Ranbir’s work) I love his film choices – I think that unlike many other young actors, he’s been very smart about the roles he’s chosen to play and the people he’s chosen to work with. I’m sure there’s an element of luck in there as well, but I think he’s chosen the right roles with remarkable proficiency. In just 4 years, he already has a really enviable resumé.
While I love Ranbir onscreen, I’m really not a huge fan of his offscreen (public) persona. I don’t enjoy listening to his interviews, for example, because I personally don’t find him particularly witty, interesting or personable in them. I also have lots of thoughts on the way he’s conducted his personal affairs in the public eye, and especially on the whole ‘Koffee with Karan’ thing. No need to go into all that here, but yeah, not a fan of Ranbir’s apparent treatment of his ladyloves offscreen.
Incidentally though, I think his onscreen interaction with his leading ladies so far has been very good. I think that Ranbir does well with romance, not yet on the level of his dad Rishi of course, or on the level of one of the Khans, but I think he could definitely get there with more time and experience. He plays really well opposite the actresses he works with, and makes them look good, and I love that in an actor. His onscreen romantic relationships are nicely depicted for the most part, and this post is all about that…
Saawariya: Bhansali’s flop tale of unrequited love, which I talked about a little here, despite its failings, still managed to be a good launch-pad for the careers of Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor.
They both looked gorgeous (even if the characters they played were irritating and Ranbir’s styling sucked). Also, Ranbir had that towel scene, which I will absolutely ’fess up to loving. Their characters didn’t have that much real interaction, though, and what they did have seemed contrived and just not that engaging or memorable. I actually found Ranbir’s interactions with Gulabji, the prostitute played so beautifully by Rani Mukherji, and Lilian (‘Lollipop’), played by Zohra Sehgal, much more appealing.
Bachna Ae Haseeno: An imperfect film, and the first Ranbir Kapoor movie I saw on the big screen, BAH was Ranbir’s first taste of a slick Yash Raj Films production. And like many recent YRF movies, it got a little bogged down in references to YRF classics from the past, and was a little too glossy for my tastes. Plus Ranbir’s character, Raj, was quite frankly a bit of an ass. That being said, I think Ranbir (as Raj) did a pretty good job of romancing the ladies in this film, losing them due to his immaturity, cowardice and selfishness, and then later trying to make amends.
Raj had three ladyloves in this movie – with the first one, Mahi (Minissha Lamba), it was puppy love, all clean, fresh and fun… until he broke her heart. She went on to nurse her hurt for years, even after marrying and starting a family with the drop-dead gorgeous Joginder (Kunal Kapoor). Raj/Mahi was my least favourite jodi in BAH, because I just didn’t think there was enough depth to their brief relationship to make Mahi lose her joie de vivre and not commit herself fully to her dishy (he was SO fine) and adoring husband, even years later, when she would presumably have been older and wiser. So this one stretched credibility quite a bit for me, but hey, Raj and Mahi were a cute couple while it lasted.
The second leading lady in BAH was the stunning Bipasha Basu – and she was my favourite. Their relationship was much more contemporary and ‘grown-up’, but just when Bipasha’s character, Radhika, started to let her guard down and believe in their relationship, Raj dumped her in just the cruellest way possible. I liked the way their relationship progressed… from the initial attraction, to something deeper, to the betrayal, and then to a grudging (on Radhika’s side) mutual respect. I also loved the fact that when he returned, Radhika put him through the wringer for a bit. I think Bipasha’s performance has a lot to do with my enjoyment of the Raj/Radhika relationship – she brought such ‘realness’ and oomph to her role… she was just fab.
BAH’s third leading lady, and the lady with whom Raj had the defining relationship of the movie, was of course with the smart and independent Gayatri (played by Deepika Padukone, whom Ranbir famously started dating shortly before the film’s release). The Raj/Gayatri relationship definitely had the most complexity and honesty to it, but I actually don’t remember that much else about it – they looked good together and had a nice interaction, but for me the Raj/Radhika relationship left more of an impact.
Wake Up Sid: I absolutely love this movie, and the relationship between Ranbir’s titular Sid and Aisha (the wonderful Konkona Sen Sharma) was beautifully portrayed. The movement from friends to roommates to a couple felt so natural and organic, and the credit for that definitely goes to Ayan Mukherjee’s wonderful story and direction, and of course to Ranbir and Konkona for how subtly they conveyed their characters’ feelings and personal development.
Ranbir’s portrayal of Sid was excellent, you really felt the character’s lack of clarity and motivation – and you empathised with it and wanted to see him get past it and find some inspiration. It could have been just another shallow depiction of the young loafer that we see so often in Hindi films, but Ranbir took Sid to another level and reminded us that, corny as it sounds, there’s a ‘Sid’ in all of us. Konkona as Aisha was fantastic too – her character reminded me of myself and my friends. And seeing Sid and Aisha come together was such a treat.
There are so many great little moments between Sid and Aisha in the film, crowned perfectly by that gorgeous closing scene. Just writing this makes me want to watch this film again. They were just. so. good.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani: Rajkumar Santoshi’s 2009 screwball comedy was the second Ranbir Kapoor movie that I saw on the big screen, and there are many things I like about it. I love the songs from the film, I like the uniqueness and quirkiness of the story and the characters, and I like that in many ways it’s a bit of a throwback to the goofier Bollywood fare of past decades, which doesn’t get made very often these days.
I really enjoyed Ranbir’s performance in this – his character (Prem) was a really sweet and likeable cornball, and he portrayed him a boyish glee that was so much fun to watch. He also displayed comic timing throughout the film, and the development of his friendship and eventual romance with Jenny (Katrina Kaif) was also really sweet and a fun watch.
I’m not a big fan of Katrina as an actress (although I will give her full props for working hard and being a committed professional), but I think ‘Ajab Prem…’ boasts one of her stronger performances. Jenny was a little tough to buy into as a character (especially the way they dressed her – I think they were going for ‘young and innocent’ but I found it just a little silly), but Katrina managed to convey the naïveté of the character in a way that worked well and didn’t cloy. She displayed really good comic timing as well. All told, I really enjoyed watching Ranbir and Katrina together in this one.
Since this is getting a little long, Part II of this post will be up on Wednesday, which also happens to be Ranbir’s 29th birthday....