Wednesday, September 28, 2011


And here’s Part 2 of the post on Ranbir Kapoor and his onscreen romances….


· Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year: In 2010, Ranbir won the Filmfare Critics’ Choice Best Actor award for his performances in his three releases from 2009: ‘Wake Up Sid’, ‘Ajab Prem...’ and ‘Rocket Singh’. Impressive as it was that Ranbir had three really good performances in one year, I really don’t think he should have won the award on the strength of all three. While he was good in ‘Ajab Prem...’ and very good in ‘Wake Up Sid’, I personally think his ‘Rocket Singh’ performance was the best of the three and definitely award-worthy. Ranbir disappeared into the character of Harpreet Singh Bedi beautifully, and rendered an understated but powerful performance in this film (directed by Shimit Amin and scripted by Jaideep Sahni).

I like ‘Rocket Singh’ a lot... it’s one of my favourites from Ranbir’s filmography so far. It’s really well-scripted and engaging, and it has wonderful performances from the supporting cast - Manish Chowdhary, D. Santosh, Gauhar Khan, Mukesh Bhatt, Naveen Kaushik and Prem Chopra, with Ranbir doing an excellent job of ‘anchoring’ the cast.


I also really like the film’s subject matter – it’s an engaging and thought-provoking look at many things – the modern-day workplace and the power politics and dynamics within it, the pursuit of self-fulfilment vis-à-vis more ‘practical’ interests, entrepreneurship, education, competition.... I also liked the shades of grey in the story... the fact that we really couldn’t root for the hero in good conscience because he was doing something wrong, and the fact that the villains turned out to be much more than cardboard cut-outs. I liked that we got to see Harpreet grow over time and learn more about himself and the world. Ranbir did a great job of expressing his character’s emotions throughout the film. And of course I loved Ranbir’s look....


But on to Ranbir and his ladylove in this film.... Shimit Amin’s 2007 hit, ‘Chak De! India’ appealed to me for many reasons, but one thing I really liked about Jaideep Sahni’s ‘Chak De!...’ script was that Shahrukh Khan’s character, Kabir Khan, didn’t have a love interest. There was so much to watch in the interaction between Kabir and his hockey team members (who were really nicely fleshed out characters), that a love interest for Kabir was totally unnecessary. I kinda wish Jaideep had similarly resisted the urge to create a love interest for Harpreet in ‘Rocket Singh’. Sherena, played by Shazahn Padamsee, was a cute character, but the film would have been just as good without her.


Sherena and Harpreet had just a couple of scenes (and a montage) together, and while they were an adorable couple, they left no lasting impact. Sherena was sweet, but her character was a bit wet noodle-y; I much preferred the sassier Koena (played by Gauhar Khan), the film’s other main female character (not saying that she and Harpreet should have hooked up, but I loved her).

Also, I didn’t think Shazahn Padamsee’s performance was any great shakes; true, she wasn’t given much to do in ‘Rocket Singh’, but I don’t think she’s a particularly good actress – not yet, at least (an opinion that was strengthened when I saw her again in ‘Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji’)... she’s very pretty but her acting leaves something to be desired.


· Raajneeti: This was the third Ranbir Kapoor movie that I saw on the big screen, and the character of Samar Pratap was Ranbir’s first truly ‘dark’ role, a nice departure from the cheery, carefree kid he played in most of his movies before this one. This was also Ranbir’s first chance to shine in the context of an ensemble cast with acclaimed and established actors, and I think he did an outstanding job and held his own. His character’s transformation from sheltered, geeky academic to Machiavellian, amoral politician was chilling but very seamlessly depicted. I thought this was a really accomplished performance by Ranbir.


While I loved Ranbir’s performance, I did not love his onscreen relationships with his female counterparts in this film. First we met Katrina Kaif, playing Samar’s childhood friend Indu, who despite being in love with Samar, is eventually married off to his brother, Prithviraj… I found the Samar/Indu scenes generally underwhelming and even a bit boring – the Prithviraj/Indu scenes were more interesting, if a little disturbing.


And then we met Sarah Thompson Kane, playing Samar’s American girlfriend, Sarah… I found her scenes opposite Ranbir almost painful. I didn’t think there was much chemistry there, and Sarah’s performance seemed so weak and stilted. That being said, there was so much more going on in ‘Raajneeti’, especially among the male characters in the film (the women in this film mostly got used and abused by the men, sadly), that there really wasn’t much scope for nuanced male/female relationships.


· Anjaana Anjaani: If this film had been shorter and better scripted, it could have been really good. As it is, I made about a hundred abortive attempts to watch it before I was finally able to finish it. It isn’t that it’s a bad film – it’s that it lacks heart and depth. It’s a shame because there was so much potential for more.

Ranbir 5

It’s really hard to feel a lot for the main characters, Kiara (Priyanka Chopra) and Akash (Ranbir), because they are self-absorbed and shallow… and because, with the exception of one very effective scene with Ranbir and the fabulous Tanvi Azmi, you don’t really get the feeling that Kiara and Akash really work through their individual drama in the course of the film. They sort of get to point A to point B without too much messy stuff in between. For a film that goes on for two and a half hours, that’s pretty poor. A good chunk of time was wasted on ineffective scenes that added nothing, and sometimes even hampered the narrative instead of moving thing along. The characters were potentially very interesting, but not explored to the extent that they could have been. Akash had a better arc than Kiara (or maybe Ranbir did a slightly better job with him), but that’s really not saying much. Basically, it could have been much better.


However, it’s not really Priyanka and Ranbir’s fault – I think they both did a very competent job with the material they were given… the material was just a bit two-dimensional. This is a cool-looking film, shot in cool locations with two exceedingly cool people wearing very cool clothes, but it could have been much more than that with a better script.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the Ranbir/Priyanka jodi. When I first heard that they would be working together, I actually grimaced – while they are actually the same age (both were born in 1982, Priyanka a couple of months before Ranbir), PC has something really mature about her face, and I just thought she would look so much older opposite Ranbir, who has more boyish features. Of course, that (the leading lady being/looking older than her male counterpart) is not a bad thing in itself, but I felt that the film would probably not suit that look, and… I just thought it would be a mismatch.

I was wrong… Piggy Chops and Ranbir actually looked really good together in this film. The way Priyanka was styled in the film might have a lot to do with this – whereas in a lot of her older work she’s been styled in ways that made her look older than she really is, in ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ she looked fresh-faced and youthful, wearing a really hip, cute array of outfits. The AA team kept her make-up minimal. With a fresh face, fun haircut and the aforementioned wardrobe, she looked beautiful.


And Ranbir, who bulked up a bit (but thankfully not too much) before this film, and who had an equally enviable wardrobe, looked mighty fine too. I thought they complemented each other very well, looks-wise.

Ranbir 3

On other levels, however, their jodi was a little less successful. There were a couple of sexy, smouldering scenes that sort of worked, and their madcap friendship was nicely portrayed overall, but they were just okay together, not great. It could have been worse, and I did like some of their scenes together a lot (especially the ones in which Akash is protective of Kiara), but I don’t think they had a chance to fully explore the potential of their jodi in this film. So I never thought that I would say this, but I would actually like to see Ranbir and Priyanka work together again in the future.

And that’s it… my assessment of Ranbir Kapoor’s onscreen romantic relationships… so far my fave has to be Sid/Aisha from ‘Wake Up Sid’, but I really think Ranbir has been a very good leading man and has worked very well (and played very well – sorry, couldn’t resist!) with his leading ladies so far… and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he fares in the years to come. And as I said at the beginning of Part 1, while I didn’t like the ‘Rockstar’ trailer (mostly ‘thanks’ to Nargis Fakhri’s screeching and Ranbir’s general emo-ness), I will be at my local cinema if and when the movie makes it here. I’m a fan of Ranbir’s acting and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.

So… Happy Birthday, Ranbir… and here’s hoping you continue to have a career as rich and varied as it’s been so far!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

RANBIR KAPOOR & HIS LADIES (no, I don’t mean it that way!)

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.

jtf1n6g0cmpumcu6rani saawariya

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.


bachna-ae haseeno-bipasha-ranbir-kapoor

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 6

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....