Mumbai: A lot has been said about the uncanny resemblance between Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt as the former steps into the shoes of the latter for Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘Sanju.’
But call it co-incidence or not, the equation between the two actors goes much beyond their physical similarities.
Ranbir opened up on it in an interview to DNA, “I saw Sanjay sir for the first time in Kashmir. He was shooting for Sahibaan(1993) with Papa (Rishi Kapoor). I recall seeing this tall man with long hair, wearing a earring, dressed in a Pathani; I was quite mesmerised by his aura. I was fascinated with him from the word go. During our growing up years, my sister, Riddhima, had Salman Khan’s poster in her cupboard while I had that of Sanjay sir’s. So, I have always idolised him.”
He continued, “Of course, he’s very close to the family. He treats me like a younger brother and spoils me with many gifts as well as a lot of love. He gave me a Harley Davidson motorcycle for my birthday. He used to pick me up for a drive in his Ferrari late in the night. It seems life has come a full circle with him when I got an opportunity to portray him on screen. Initially, I didn’t have the confidence to play the part. However, when Raju sir shared the script with me, I discovered a human side to Sanjay sir. It’s not the Sanjay Dutt we know. I’ve a lot more admiration and respect for him now.”
What about the Harley Davidson then? “It’s at home. I remember I had to hide it from Papa for a long time as he doesn’t like bikes. When he found out that Sanjay sir had gifted me one, he called him and fired him. He told him, ‘Stop spoiling my son, isko tere jaisa mat bana.’ But now, he’s aware that I have the bike. It is one of my most prized possessions,” he told the daily.
He added, “Actually, Sanjay sir gave it to me after his new building, Imperial Heights, was ready around seven years ago. It was a surprise, I came out of the gym and saw this shiny red Harley Davidson. I was very happy. My parents haven’t gifted me a bike. So, I was really thrilled to have it. I can’t thank Sanjay sir enough.”
The other common factor between the two is the lineage they come from. Raj Kapoor and Nargis Dutt are considered among the most loved couples in Bollywood history.
Did he feel a sense of déjà vu that Raj Kapoor’s grandson would play Nargis Dutt’s son? “Subconsciously, the families have been close, professionally and personally. There has always been a lot of love and warmth between them. Sanjay sir’s sisters always treat me as part of the family. I was too young to make any connections of Nargisji’s and Raj Kapoor’s pairing on screen.”
Be it gaining weight, building muscles, growing locks and beard, Ranbir did it all for ‘Sanju’ and not to mention portraying and feeling drug addiction, emotional breakdown over mother’s death, ordeal in jail and much more.
And it was obviously no mean feat. The actor shared, “It was a daunting task for me. I knew the expectations, I knew I was portraying someone who is still so relevant and a much-loved superstar. I knew the challenges and I also knew that there is a fine line between mimicry and representing someone who is loved by so many people. That’s why I had to represent him with a lot of respect, dignity and heart. It took us six to eight months to get ready. It took us a lot of time to prep, do the prosthetic tests, acting and character rehearsals. The bottom line is that it’s inspired by his life and we had a one-track mind to achieve it.
“The reactions have been heartwarming. I’ve never got such a response for any film of mine. I know that’s because it’s a Rajkumar Hirani film and a Sanjay Dutt biopic. There’s a responsibility that I have as an actor. Raju sir shot my dad’s reaction on candid camera and sent me the clip when I was shooting for 'Brahmastra' in Bulgaria. It was in the middle of the night. When I saw Papa’s response, I was very happy that I got a stamp of approval from him. He hasn’t seen the film yet, but of course, I look forward to his reaction.”
Ranbir is one of the rare actors to have been appreciated for his acting in most of his films, even in his some flops like ‘Saawariya’ and ‘Bombay Velvet.’
But when asked about a performance of his he considered superficial, he replied, “I don’t take my job for granted. I understand that I’m one of the few privileged people who had it easy in life, and that there are many out there who are way more talented than me. I think if I take my job lightly or don’t surrender to every role, I won’t deserve the position that I’m in today. However, when I see 'Raajneeti' (2010), I sometimes feel I should have worked harder in that film. Back then, I didn’t understand the movie’s beats and nuances. I’m grateful to Prakash Jha for giving me that film. If I had a chance to do it again, I will give it much more.”
Didn’t he stand out in the film? “The role stood out. It was only when I was dubbing for it that I realised this film has so much potential for me as an actor. I think it did a lot of justice to me, but I didn’t do justice to the character. I regret not being able to give more to that film, though I’m very happy with what it did for my career,” he signed off in the interview.
‘Sanju’, also featuring Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal and Dia Mirza, releases on 29 June.