Ranbir Kapoor vies for mainstream validation with Luv Ranjan's next, Shamshera and Sanju
With his recent choices in films, Ranbir Kapoor has his task cut out for him. Entertaining roles and intense, script driven performances must keep flowing from this brooding, reluctant star in equal measure.
Speaking at the launch of the Sanju teaser, Ranbir Kapoor said, “I am trying to learn from my mistakes… I keep reminding myself that it’s a bend, not an end. Life is tough and requires a lot of hard work….You have to keep working.”
For a star who refuses to fade from public memory and the imagination of filmmakers, Ranbir Kapoor seems focused on changing his cinematic career for good. Always the one who was meant to be a roaring success, his acting talent and intense screen persona has been overshadowed by films that simply failed to live up to expectations and ended up failures (Besharam, Jagga Jasoos, Bombay Velvet).
Ranbir will now star in Luv Ranjan’s next with Ajay Devgn. Ranjan is best known for the roaring male centric comedies Pyar Ka Punchnama parts 1 and 2, and Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety. The filmmaker has spun magic at the box office without bankable stars. Meanwhile, Ranbir has Shamshera lined up: a high octane dacoit adventure, with Vaani Kapoor as seductress and leading lad, and Sanjay Dutt as villain.
Kapoor also plays Dutt in Sanju, his biggest upcoming film, Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic of the controversial movie star. And finally there’s Brahmastra- a fantasy superhero film with Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan and director friend Ayan Mukherjee. Produced by Dharma Productions, Brahmastra aims to be a franchise film. With as many as four big ticket movies to his name, Ranbir has signaled that the time has come when he aspires to be a big Bollywood star, who can also deliver powerful performances.
Such big budget, highly visible films are definitely good news for the actor. But this is also the point when this reticent star must take pause and assess — striking a balance between an entertainer and a performance driven film is essential to maintain his core. For before all else, as he professed at the same event, he is an actor. That is his biggest USP: Kapoor can blow your mind with a performance; the window dressing follows.
Producer and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra described Ranbir at the teaser launch for Sanju: “He is probably the best (actor) we have..I think his choice of scripts has been stupid.” Kapoor’s goodwill within the film industry has held him in good stead during his unsuccessful stint. An influential member of the Bombay Velvet crew remembers Ranbir’s niceness fondly, while stating that he is perhaps the only actor for whom people say a prayer when a release comes up. This goes on to reiterate that he must be a thorough professional and endearing person on a film set, a rare quality among the current crop of mercurial, demanding young stars.
Chopra’s statement encapsulates Ranbir’s mistakes accurately. When Zoya Akhtar had offered him Dil Dhadhakne Do, he refused. Crestfallen, Zoya asked Ranveer Singh, who was till that point noticed for his flamboyant performances. Playing the sweet, poor little rich lad Kabeer was a challenge for Singh, on which he delivered fair and square. Working on DDD also cemented Ranveer’s relationship with Zoya, a filmmaker with a standalone voice. Now they are making the intriguing Gully Boy. The multi starrer, not much of a box office success, played a significant role in upping Ranveer Singh’s ante as a versatile actor who can also swing a suave urbane and easygoing part. Had Kapoor taken it up, what could have happened is well within our imagination.
Instead, he chose films that his father, Rishi Kapoor, never approved of. While Rishi was skeptical of Barfi!, his simple but solid questions about films like Bombay Velvet and Tamasha or Jagga Jasoos, stand validated. In an interview with the author, Ranbir had admitted that after watching Rockstar, his father asked him straight up why is it not clear whether the character of Heer, the heroine, lives or dies. Esoteric concept cinema didn’t work for Kapoor Junior, which is why he seems to be letting go of anything that isn’t in the pure mainstream cinema space.
More recently, Ranbir reportedly let go of Sui Dhaaga. Sharat Katariya and Maneesh Sharma, the director-producer duo at Yash Raj Films, have an individualistic touch, and their first outing together in Dum Laga Ke Haisha brought back the charm of an ordinary hero. Varun Dhawan signed up for Sui Dhaga eventually, and Anushka Sharma co stars in the film. Sui Dhaaga holds promise of a likeable and convincing homegrown Indian story.
Had Ranbir taken up the role of a tailor, his repertoire would have included the role of a common Indian man, laboring away to make a living — one that is sorely missing from his filmography.
While Shoojit Sircar has denied having approached his football buddy Ranbir for Udham Singh, that they have been talking over a film for a while now is evident from a continuous flow of reports and speculation. Again, Sircar does not make films about larger than life people. His people are common and normal everyday folk. That is not a space that Ranbir seems to be keen to explore presently.
So there is Brahmastra, a project to that Ranbir has committed years of his acting career to, as a franchise requires. Before a first look or poster, one has been regaled with various holiday like destinations, cozy, welcoming coffee shops and myriad comfort moments designed for social media from it’s shoot. The hype is sky high and steady. Produced by Dharma Productions, this film is as big ticket as they come.
In contrast, Hirani’s Sanju holds its cards close; right from it’s teaser onwards the film has impressed and holds out promise as the one film that will end Ranbir’s unsuccessful phase. While Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hain Mushkil did well at the box office, the film is definitely not one of Kapoor’s strongest performances. In fact, it’s a forgettable role. Sanju comes across a typical entertainer held up by a solid performance.
While Ranbir’s career slid downwards, Ranveer Singh has firmed up his position as the star of this generation- with versatility, natural theatricality and an astute choice of films. He owns the space of being a huge star and a brilliant actor. Varun Dhawan has grown to be very bankable and popular - with sheer energy and raw performances. And the mantle of the performing star, the best actor we have, has passed on to Rajkummar Rao; undoubtedly a master of his craft.
Ranbir Kapoor, therefore, has his task cut out for him. Choosing films intelligently will be key to his turn around. Sanju might well be his lifeline, but entertaining roles and intense, script driven performances must keep flowing from this brooding, reluctant star. Being the best isn’t always enough; for in the long run, making the best of opportunities and striking the right balance also helps in building a movie star.
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