‘I had to eat 10 meals in a day…’ –
‘Ranbir Kapoor’ in conversation with ‘Divya Solgama’
Divya Solgama – First things first, Rajkumar Hirani shared that when he approached you for the movie ‘Sanju’, you replied him back by saying ‘I hope it is not the Dutt biopic’. So, why were you reluctant to do this movie?
Ranbir Kapoor – I am sure when you guys heard about me doing Sanjay Dutt’s biopic, you must have wondered how is it possible, how will Ranbir play Sanjay Dutt? He is larger-than-life with a macho image, and my personality is very different. I am way younger. Also, this is the first time in the history of cinema that you are making a biopic on an actor who is still acting in films. He is still relevant and loved by so many people. I thought these were big challenges. How would I be able to do it? But once Raju sir gave me the script, all my doubts and fears went away. There is so much of content in his life. It is an honest true take to his life. And it is a dream-come-true for any actor to do a Rajkumar Hirani film or a Sanjay Dutt biopic. We did the superficial things like looking like him, getting the phases right, then actually feeling like him and believing in the material because even when I would read a scene, I would ask Raju sir if it really happened. You can’t believe that so many things can happen in one person’s life. It has been a blessing in disguise for me and my career at this point to have played this part.
Divya Solgama -Ranbir, how tough was the entire physical transformation into the various looks of Sanjay Dutt for the movie ‘Sanju’?
Ranbir Kapoor – When I started this film, I was 70 kilos. I was doing ’Jagga Jasoos’ then. I had to put on 20 kilos because we shot this film in reverse. I started playing a 60-year-old Sanjay Dutt. Then we kept losing weight between the phases.
I have always been thin guy, main sukda insaan hoon. So putting on muscle is very hard for me, I can lose weight fast. I had to eat 10 meals in a day, wake up in the middle of the night to have protein shakes and work out for two hours. Also, we would take a month-and-a-half break between each phase of Sanjay Dutt’s life, so I would lose the weight and then we would start the next phase.
Divya Solgama -Ranbir, director Rajkumar Hirani is like an institution when it comes to good cinema. So, how was the entire working experience with him during the making of ‘PK’ and ‘Sanju’?
Ranbir Kapoor – He is one of the few film-makers I have interacted with who doesn’t make movies for himself. His basic quality is his deep desire to entertain the audience. He wants to give you a message. He wants entertainment, laughter, drama. He wants to make you cry and in a simple way. So there is no show off. He doesn’t say, ‘Look how I have taken this shot.’ It’s simple story telling, a story you will relate to. Also, he’s connected to his country and his people. He comes from a small town, so his emotions are very simple and basic. It’s amazing for a director to have those qualities.
Divya Solgama -Ranbir, kindly share with us the most comfortable, complicated as well as disturbing scenes during the making of ‘Sanju’?
Ranbir Kapoor – I had a lot of fun doing the ’Munnabhai’ section; the making of the film was a lot of fun. The complicated bit was the drug part because he was heavily into drugs. There is a story, which is not in the film, that once, when he was doing drugs at home and the servant told him that Dutt saab was calling him. Sanju Sir was already high, but he had to meet his father. So, he was standing in front of his father and he was seeing his father is melting. A candle had come out of his head and that was burning his entire face. So Sanju Sir ran and started hitting Dutt saab to blow off the candle! He was that deep into drugs. It’s sad to see someone go to that point. Also, the scene related to the death of Nargis Ji. At that time, Dutt saab had told Sanju Sir to stay in hospital to look after her, as she was in a coma and he had some work to do. Sanju Sir was in hospital for four to five days. He was alone, so he started doing heroin in the hospital. Suddenly, one day, his mother woke up and called him. She looked at him and said something. Then, she died in front of his eyes. Three days later was the premiere of ’Rocky’. They had to keep the premiere because his mother had said whatever happens to me, keep the premiere. During the premiere, Sanju Sir ran outside the theatre. He was hallucinating and shivering. Dutt saab came out and asked him what happened. Sanju Sir narrated the incident when his mother died, that she had woken up and said something. Till today, he doesn’t know if she actually woke up or if he was imagining that. If you just think about that, you don’t know whether your mother actually woke up or if she died like that, it’s very disturbing just to think of that.
Divya Solgama -Ranbir, you managed to get right mannerisms of Sanjay Dutt. How tough and challenging was that part?
Ranbir Kapoor – I tried my hardest not to mimic him. I tried to be him because there is a very fine line between mimicry and trying to be somebody. As we all know, people still copy Sanjay Dutt. So it was harder for me because I didn’t want to look like a caricature. I wanted people to see the vulnerable side of Sanjay Dutt. This is not the Sanjay Dutt we know on screen. This is Sanjay Dutt off screen, what he was going through, his dynamics with his family and friends, and at every juncture of his life. So I have tried my hardest to remind the audience this is me playing Sanjay Dutt.
Divya Solgama -Rajkumar Hirani also shared that you did lot of research on Sanjay Dutt and had loads of pictures of him in your mobile phone?
Ranbir Kapoor – I play Sanjay Dutt from ages 20 to 60. So, I am not playing one character, there are six characters. I had to do my homework. It was my basic job as an actor to understand how this guy walks, his faces and stuffs. So I would look at him, how he scratches his beard, how he wears his clothes, etc. I used to collect his pictures. In the 1980s, Sanjay Dutt’s style had not developed yet. He was very awkward and raw. His style came in the 1990s, when his body grew, his hair. Then, his image changed. We had to incorporate these nuances in the different phases of his life. How his shoulders kept drooping lower and lower as he got older, his hairstyles kept changing, the way he spoke.
Divya Solgama -Paresh Rawal plays the role of Sunil Dutt in ‘Sanju’. So, how was the entire process of getting the father-son dynamics in right place?
Ranbir Kapoor – The father-son dynamic is very important in our country because it is very complicated. It is not like the father-daughter or mother-son relationship. I have worked with Farooque Sheikhsaab, Anupam Kher, Saswata Chatterjee and really enjoyed it. Film-makers like Ayan Mukerji understand that dynamic better. With ‘Sanju’, the father-son dynamic between Paresh Rawal and me, which is Sunil Dutt saab and Sanju is the backbone of the film. It was a very complicated relationship. Sanju feared Dutt saab and would hide from him. I remember when Raju Sir was interviewing the police officer who was interrogating Sanju Sir, he said that Sanju Sir’s only request was, ‘Please don’t tell daddy’. He was so vulnerable. It was really stupid in a way because the world was going to get to know the trouble he was in, and all he said was, ‘Don’t tell daddy.’ I can relate to that dynamic. My relationship with my dad is a little complex. There is a lot of fear. We aren’t the best of friends, but still, there is a lot of love, respect and admiration. Paresh sir is actually Sir Paresh Rawal. He has been acting for so long, and has done such amazing work that he’s a true actor. Apart from movies, he also does Gujarati and Hindi theatre. He is culturally so involved in entertainment. That’s the mark of a true actor. I am happy I got to work with him.
Divya Solgama – What about the working experience with Manisha Koira who plays the role of Nargis Dutt in the movie?
Ranbir Kapoor – As a child, I saw her with my father. They did so many films. I have admired her in ’Khamoshi’, ‘Bombay’ and so many other amazing films. She brought in so much dignity to Nargisji’s character. Also, who has suffered from cancer herself could identify with it. It is a short part in the film, but because Manishaji has done it, it has an impact.
Divya Solgama – What was Sanjay Dutt’s reaction when he saw your look
Ranbir Kapoor – He first saw my look when Raju sir sent him my photograph. He replied, ‘Tu meri picture kyun bhej raha hai mujko?’ That was his reaction. I look forward to his reaction to the film because he will see his own life from the age of 20 to the present and relive the emotional, controversial and conflicted moments. I want him to have a nice nostalgic feel — the drugs phase he went through, how his father helped him come out of it, what he went through when his mother died, when he was in jail, when the AK-56 controversy broke out, terrorism. There is so much in his life, which I had to represent in an honest way. I remember I would call him up in the middle of the night before the shoot and ask him what he went through. I would probably give my own interpretation to the script, but to actually get it from the man himself is different. When I was doing the verdict scene, I called him up and asked him what was going through his mind during that time. He said, ‘When I sat there and they announced the verdict, everything became slow motion and all I could think of was my father. My father died with a question mark in his head: Was I a terrorist or not? And he was not alive for that hearing.’ That’s such a strong emotion. As an actor, when you have that, it becomes your artillery because you can play the emotion from a different perspective. Even today, Sanju sir is very open about his feelings.
Divya Solgama – Ranbir, what are your memories of the first meeting with Sanjay Dutt?
Ranbir Kapoor – I have known Sanjay Dutt from the time I was born. My grandfather and his mother had a lovely creative collaboration on screen. My father and he have been colleagues, so he has been very close to my family. The first time I saw him was in Kashmir. My father was shooting a film known as ’Sahibaan’ with Madhuri Dixit and him. I was on set that day. I saw this tall man with long hair and ear-rings, wearing a pathani. I was mesmerised by his personality. Anybody who has seen Sanjay Dutt in the different phases of his life is attracted to his energy. I think from then on, I have been fascinated by him. I had his poster on my cupboard. He gifted me a Harley Davidson seven years ago. My dad fired him because he did not want me to ride a motorbike. He felt it was too dangerous. Sanju Sir likes to be fired. He called and asked, ‘Why did you tell Chintu saab?’ He called and abused me.’ Just two days ago, he asked me which colour cycle I like; he was sending it to me. I get free gifts! I hope he doesn’t stop after he watches the film.
Divya Solgama – Ranbir, how do you think ’Sanju’ will influence the younger generation?
Ranbir Kapoor – A lot. Like, where drugs takes you, how it ruins your life, how hard it is to come out of it, how much family support you need. The film will teach your mistakes through the mistakes that Sanjay Dutt made because of his stardom, his immaturity, bad influence and bad company. It will also teach you the value of family and friends, how they stood by him. That’s why he could rise when he was falling. So it is a story of a fallen hero, who kept rising and kept coming back.
Divya Solgama – Lastly, this seems to be a good phase in your life with a film directed by Rajkumar Hirani followed by working with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Bhramastra’, Sanjay Dutt in ‘Shamshera’ and a film with Ajay Devgn.
Ranbir Kapoor – I have been lucky and privileged enough. Even in a bad phase, I have worked with good people. Big film-makers and studios have given me opportunities. I don’t take success to my head and failure to my heart, so I don’t take these things seriously. Also I am born in a film family, so I know how this industry is. ‘Yahan chadtey suraj ko salaam kartey hai.’ If tomorrow your films don’t do well, people will forget you. That’s why I don’t take failure and success seriously. I am really happy to just be able to do my job.