Rishi Kapoor says Ranbir is a better actor than him: 'He has proved everyone wrong with Sanju'
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Rishi Kapoor opens up on his upcoming film Mulk, Ranbir Kapoor's acting prowess and why he won't chase after international projects.
Rishi Kapoor is showing no signs of slowing down.
He's fresh off the success of 102 Not Out, where he starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Up next is Anubhav Sinha's Mulk, Leena Yadav's Rajma Chawal and possibly a Khushwant Singh biopic. At age 65, Rishi has seen the film industry grow leaps and bounds. Excerpts from an interview:
Will it be okay to say that Mulk is the most politically charged film you have done in your career?
I don’t think you can call Mulk a political film. The shadow is political but it’s mainly a family-drama saga. It's more to do with the trauma faced by one family and the voice that the world wants to listen to. There is a belief that all terrorists are Muslims but all Muslims are not terrorists, so the film basically deals with how things are tilted against a community for no fault of theirs. One rotten apple does not make the whole basket rotten.
Anubhav Sinha tells me that he and Mushtaq Sheikh had come to your house to narrate the film and it was the first time in his career that he was actually nervous. Do you intimidate people, sir?
No no. Why should I yaar? Maybe my aura does, maybe my work behind me does. Aap aakar mujhse mile kya maine aapko daraya (you came to meet me, did I scare you)?
Does this stem from the fact that it is common knowledge that Rishi Kapoor is a great actor?
No, I don’t see it that way. Why should anybody be intimidated just because I am good at something? It must be because, and I am only assuming, they must have badly wanted me for this role and if for any reason I said no, their plans would have gotten jeopardised.
Anubhav Sinha is being trolled because of the subject he has opted for in Mulk. He recently wrote a very scathing open letter pronouncing that haters have no future.
I don’t take these trolls very seriously and I have had my share in the past. I have done enough maara maari and gaali-galauz with trolls. I don’t care. It’s a film that you must see. If you want to, see it and if you don’t want to, then bugger off. It’s a very important film and it addresses a good cause.
Going by your film choices, can one assume you're evolving as an actor?
If you're a great actor, it does not guarantee a film is made with you. There is also a thing called economics. What I see over the years is the evolution of cinema with the advent of multiplexes. They now want us to make films like 102 Not Out. 102 Not Out had no chance to survive in another era. The film had no youngster, no song, no item number, no romance and it worked because the audience has changed. People like me have a job today because of these audiences.
When I started my career in the '70s, at any given point of time, all heroes had four films based only on the lost-and-found formula. I've worked on so many films with this formula too. Audiences today would want their protagonist to be of certain age and this is what I noticed when I was offered Do Dooni Chaar. Habib Faisal had come to narrate the film to me and when I heard the story I told Habib, what role do you want me to play? He said, sir, I want you to play the main role. I said to him: are you crazy, I am not a sale-able actor, how do you sell the picture, how would you bring audiences to the theatres? But he said the star of my film is my story. You can't expect me to take a Khan or a young hero to play your age. You look 55-60 and I need a person who is 55-60. This actually opened my eyes. That is why we are making these kind of films. You see the number of films that have done well this year, which are mostly off the curve. They are not the routine films jo Ranbir normally karta hai. He did that and he fell on his face.
But Barfi was a super success.
Yes, again, it was an unusual film. When that film was being made, my brothers and friends would say, he should do acchi khaasi romantic films. I used to feel very insecure but I don’t interfere in my son’s career. I did have concerns because he is my son. I was of the view that he should not be working is these kind of films. But he proved everybody wrong and now he has proven everybody wrong again with Sanju. No actor in this world has a 100 per cent success record.
You are often heard saying that you are in no mood to shoulder a film’s responsibly.
I will tell you the reason. I am insecure. I feel that audiences may not want to see me and that’s why I was not interested in doing the character of Rauf Lala in Agneepath. Both the Karans (Malhotra and Johar) were after me for one month relentlessly to sign the film. I told them: Meri wajah se film flop ho jayegi. Do I look like a pimp or a bad man to you? I have been a romantic hero over the years, how do you expect me to do this film? But they were adamant. I do not live in an ivory tower thinking I can pull a film through. If I play the main part in a film and if it does not run, then isme meri beizzati waali baat hai.
I came across this line in your book – "I know that my arrogance is a big problem but I have never been able to conquer it."
It was about my work. I love my work. I am very passionate and I feel what I am doing is the correct thing. Arrogance would be a wrong word, but I would rather say, I have confidence about my work. My confidence normally gets interpreted as arrogance.
In your book you also mention that Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan will always be remembered by those three or four films. How about those three-four films in your case?
I don’t know. When I am gone, audiences will decide. I don’t know if I have any great films but I have worked in few that are remembered even today. I would think that Bobby or Laila Majnu or Amar Akbar Anthony would still be enjoyed by today’s generation.
I personally think Doosra Aadmi and Ek Chadar Maili Si were great films.
Un dino mein yeh filme appreciate nahi hoti thi naa (films like these didn't get appreciation back then). Had they released today, they would have all been super hits. Every film of Shashi Kapoor, be it Junoon or 36 Chowranghee Lane, would have been a super hit. They were wrong films at the wrong time. Mera Naam Joker was a flop, but had it released today, sab kuch ukhaad ke phek deti (it would destroy everything).
Did you watch Sanju?
Yes, I did.
If you were to change one thing in Sanju what would that be?
I don’t see the need to change anything. It released in a non-holiday week. There was no crutch for this film. I am proud to say that I have never praised Ranbir but I am also proud to say that this boy has really carried the film on his shoulders very ably, with Vicky Kaushal and Paresh Rawal. The director is in full command of the film. I just had a talk with another journalist, and he was saying that the film did not show the wrong side of Sanjay Dutt. I told him that we make films that have their own graph. You are no one to tell the director to show a particular part or skip it. If we were to start doing this, the film will keep running for 24 hours. That’s his [Hirani's] cinematic liberty and he has proved himself right, otherwise the audience would have never endorsed it.
Anupam Kher has been acting in foreign TV series in succession. He was recently nominated for a BAFTA too. Will you be following suit anytime soon?
Milta nahi yaar. No one has approached me till today. But I am king of my jungle, why should I go out and become a jackal? I don’t even have an agent till today, while most actors have one.
But hiring an agent to get outside work is important.
But I don’t need an agent. I am very happy in my space.
Never given it a thought?
Once long back BBC World had approached me for…
How did you know that? Have I mentioned this in the book?
Faroukh Dhondy was writing it and they approached me. But I said no. They were asking for too many dates and money was pittance. I am a big star in my own country, why should I be a minion in another country?
Tough question: Is Ranbir a better actor or his father?
See, I have seen his body of work and the kind of adulation he has. This obviously means he is far superior than me. Yeh apne maa ke pet se acting seekh kar aate hai (They learn acting from their mother's womb itself). Ranbir is very mobile-faced, he is not just stylised and there is lot of warmth and innocence in his face.
Final question, when will Mr. Rishi Kapoor stop being so critical of himself?
I don’t do it to show off or give an effect to people. I do it in a very healthy manner. I am being honest to God, mujhe apne rozi ki kasam. I don’t like to see myself on screen, whenever my film comes on TV I get very embarrassed. I have stopped seeing Ranbir’s films under production, because when I am watching it I am not seeing the film. I am only being critical in my mind and I am not following the story. So, I am a very bad judge of my work and my son’s work.
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