Ranveer Singh (RS): Before we start this interview, allow me to introduce you to the various talents of Arjun Kapoor. Among them is the ability to talk non-stop bakwas. Full day!
Arjun Kapoor (AK): (Cuts in) Aur mujhe yeh sab sikhaya kisne? (Laughs)
Sagorika Dasgupta (SD): Ranveer Singh ne?
RS: (Laughs) Haan! Samajhdar ko ishara hi kaafi hai.
SD: OK, now that we are acquainted with all these talents, shall we start the interview?
AK: We have already started. You have to stop us now.
RS: I will stand on the table and give the interview.
AK: And I will lean on the table and give the interview.
Rohini Nag (RN): Did you act like this during the shoot too?
AK: Full day
RS: Don’t you just pity Ali (Ali Abbas Zafar)? How he managed to control us?
AK: And how he managed to work amidst all this. But work happened organically. Since we both love acting, it doesn’t get in the way. We used to do all this between shots. Jab kaam ki baat aati hai, toh we use to come around and have fun doing that also.
RS: Yes, and Ali had a takia kalam for us.
RN: Which was?
AK: ‘Take it easy guys… just take it easy. Relax’
RS: (Joins in) ‘Just take it easy.’
AK: (Laughs) We really made his life miserable because once we start, we rarely stop. But during the dramatic and emotional scenes, we obviously knew we had to earn our bread and butter and do it right. So it wasn’t difficult to get into that mode and this was more to keep up the spirits of everybody in the unit. We used to make it a part of our agenda to make everybody not realise how difficult this film was because on paper we knew ke boss phatne wali hai. So we might as well enjoy ourselves…
RS: (Cuts in) It was the first time I enjoyed myself so much. So much I have enjoyed his company.
AK: We are planning to open our own production house.
SD: Really, you are planning to do that?
AK: (Nods and Laughs)
RS: He is going to be the CEO and I will be the COO.
AK: He will be the Managing Director, the karta dharta.
RS: And apni pocket bharta (Laughs). I will be the Creative Head and he will be Business Head.
RS: Yeah, what to do?
AK: I think woh log picture ke baad baat karenge Priyanka aur hamari chemistry ki. Because when you see the film, you will realise that the romance is equally important to the ‘bro-mance’. When you see something you haven’t seen for a while, it seems fresh; it feels new; it attracts attention; and I think in our case two boys of the same age have never done a dramatic action film together. We are in the same frame but not trying to outdo each other. Instead, we are performing with each other to create a fantastic film.
The idea was to make an entertaining film; never about out doing each other. That’s where the camaraderie comes from. The audience is smart enough to see what we have tried to achieve together rather than the animosity the media tried to project.
RS: I think Koffee With Karan was a big ice-breaker.
AK: Acting is one thing, and being on a chat show with Karan Johar, who can turn you into your most honest self and to sustain the same bond of that brotherhood. I think it answered a lot of questions about us being friends.
RS: The core of the film is that pair… Bikram and Bala. They are not even friends, not even brothers but beyond that. They are soulmates for life, they are blood brothers.
SD: But in the trailer, there is a scene where we see Ranveer waving his hand to a cheering crowd while Arjun stands silently beside him. Was there a competitive streak between the characters?
RS: I would put it this way. He is the front-foot player, like Sehwag. That is Bala (Arjun Kapoor) and the Dravid is Bikram (Ranveer Singh).
AK: If we both raise our hands, it is a similar action. What you can’t see in that shot is that I am taking off my glasses and smiling while I am doing that. It is in the front shot, which you will see in the movie. It’s just a gesture, basically from both of us. It doesn’t matter whether Bikram or Bala does it. It’s just the same. What I mean is, the lack of insecurity that ke agar woh haath upar karega toh main bhi karunga.
RS: Arjun, can I tell these guys the only reason we used to argue?
SD: What did you argue about?
RS: Sunglasses. We had a box full of these awesome sunglasses. Costume designer Subarna (Ray Chaudhuri) is so talented, I don’t know where she got them from. They were the coolest retro glasses. I mean, even if you go back to the ’70s, you won’t find such cool glasses. She bought a whole box of those and that was the only thing we used to argue about.
AK: That was the only time we used to fight.`
AK: We sat exactly like this in a conference room.
RS: (Cuts in) I got a call from Aditya (Chopra), asking me what I was doing and that I should go to his office. When you get a call from Mr Aditya Chopra, you drop everything and go to his office. When I arrived, I saw Baba (Arjun Kapoor) sitting with Ali and Adi. So the four of us sat together, and Adi said, ‘Look, Ali has this script called Gunday and its got characters for both of you. I would like you to hear it together. So I said ‘very good’. So we heard it together and, first of all, Ali is an outstanding narrator. He is a true storyteller. He started the narration with background music.
AK: We heard the entire background music Jashn-E-Ishq a theme at the narration itself.
RS: Poori picture dikhadi ke do ladke slow motion mein bhaag rahe hain…
AK: Bachon ke pair padte hai… and with all the background sounds, he went on. So we were, like, shooting kab shuru karni hai. If you look at the script closely, I am just like Bikram and he is like Bala. Ranveer has an infectious personality; he is larger than life; front-footed; he likes the attention; he wants to be among people; and he is boisterous and extreme. When he is happy, everyone knows he is happy; and when he is upset, he cannot hide it. He has all the qualities of Bala.
I am a brooder by nature; I am quieter; I am less dramatic; more sorted; I am able to control my emotions. And I am the kind of person who tells Ranveer to calm down. So, I was more Bikram and he was more Bala. But where’s the fun in playing yourself on screen? The idea is to challenge an actor and Ali Abbas Zafar knew that from the moment he offered us the film. He wanted to challenge us. He thought he would play Bala but the challenge was to play Bikram and we accepted it every easily.
RS: But when we read it and finished the narration, I was like, ‘Haan, shuru karte hai and I will play Bala like this and that. And Ali said, ‘Yaar, I want you to play Bikram, not Bala.’ I was, like, ‘What do you mean? It is obvious whom you are asking to play what character.’ And he said, ‘It’s too hand-in-glove and there is nothing left to explore. Where is the excitement?’ He proceeded to explain how it would be better if we played opposites.
AK: He explained another very important thing, saying that by the time the film releases, our work would get exposure and it was thus important for us to do different stuff. Ranveer was already doing Ram-Leela and he had just finished Lootera. So Ali logically explained it to him that he needed to explore the less-boisterous kind of characters also. He explained to me that he needed to see energy in me. The audience had not seen this in my first two films – I played an aggressive character in Ishaqzaade but there was no real energy to my character. He is not a very energetic, fast-moving, flamboyant or front-footed sort of person. He was right and it made the choice much easier.
AK: I helped by being the best Bala I could be for him to be Bikram. The biggest help I gave him was by being as professional as possible, so he could play his part well.
RS: I believe that when every person working on a film works from an honest place, you make an honest film and you cannot put a price on that.
AK: There was a scene where he is looking at me and I was really far away. The scene required for him to look at me in a certain way with emotion. It was a scene that required him to feel the emotion in a certain way while giving that shot. It seems irrelevant when I talk about it now but that scene is very important to the film.
I felt I owed it to the film and to Bikram to be standing there and giving him a certain look for him to be able to do it in one shot. So I stood there and said, ‘Look at me.’ And he got it in that shot.
RS: I’ve had the smoothest working experience...
AK: (Cuts in) I know he would do the same for me as we owe it to our film.
SD: Did this camaraderie develop on the sets or did you know each other before that?
AK: We had a very good bond. It was not like we kept in touch but whenever we met, we were like a house on fire. People would notice a certain comfort level that most friends don’t have.
RS: We have very deep rooted commonality. We are born 10 days apart so we are from the same era. We were born in the suburbs of Bombay; we both went to ICSE schools; and we live 15-20 minutes away from each other. So we have plenty in common.
AK: Also, our deep-rooted passion for cinema has been in our conversations and interactions throughout.
RS: Our obsession with the Hindi film industry is common. Our obsession with films is common; being young actors working in mainstream Hindi films is what we both do for a living. Having to work hard on our physicality to match the demands of this medium is also common.
AK: (Cuts in) Both of us also have faith and trust in a studio like Yash Raj and a producer like Aditya Chopra.
RS: I can talk to him endlessly and never ever run out of conversation. We can talk about anything under the sun.
AK: She was dynamite!
RS: 440-volt ka jhatka!
SD: She has much more experience than you have in films. Did she seem intimidating at all?
AK: She made it much easier for us to improve our game. We have to be at the top of our game to work with an experienced actor. But she has never made it apparent or threw her weight around. Also, we knew each other from before the film. From working as an assistant with her in Salaam-e-Ishq to an actor in Gunday, she didn’t have any baggage and was very comfortable on the sets. I don’t remember a single day when I thought, ‘THE PRIYANKA CHOPRA is on the sets!’
RS: Yes, what I love most about her is that she is still hungry, so hungry, hungrier than anyone else. She does not come from a place where one says, ‘I know better and I am the more creative and experienced individual, so everyone should listen to me.’ She is like a one-take artiste.
RN: What was it like working with Irrfan Khan?
RS: Actually, I only wanted to observe him.
AK: I think we never crossed any line with him by fooling around.
RS: I wanted to know how he does it effortlessly. How it all happens. So I noticed his eyes, his body language. We knew all his lines as we had read the script. So how he sets the tone of the character in his own parametres, we were observing him.
AK: It is really interesting to work with good actors, not only because they make you want to work much harder but obviously they are also in the moment with you. The fact that he breaks his dialogue and uses his eyes so well is something I will always try and see if I can use in any character I play. So he has worked on Life Of Pi.
RS: Ang Lee.
AK: Slumdog Millionaire
RS: Danny Boyle.
AK: And yet he is cool enough to do a film like Gunday.
AK: That just goes to show he is still experimenting and that is very good, a lesson people of our age need to learn. He did The Lunchbox and then a Gunday. He knows the weight he brings to the table.
RS: Lootera – Gunday. Always different.
AK: Finding Fanny – Gunday. So different.
RN: Ranveer, you are also a part of Finding Fanny in a special appearance, right?
AK: Yes, he finds Fanny. Alone!
SD: Your pairing seems like the new jodi in B-Town.
RS: Hell, yeah! (Laughs)
AK: It was I who suggested that he should work in Finding Fanny. He was very keen and Homi (Adajania) was very keen and I didn’t come with the stamp of approval but more like a volcanic eruption. It’s one thing to do a film with Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, Dimple Kapadia and Deepika Padukone but the moment they said ‘Ranveer Singh’, my level of excitement rose.
SD: Can you comment on the role YRF has played in your lives?
RS: Motherland, Janambhoomi! Our birthplace! We were born in Yash Raj.
AK: Jo bhi Mumbai actor banne aata hai chahe, woh Bhopal se ho ya Bhubaneshwar se ya Bikaner se, kisi bhi India ke kone se ya even chahe abroad se aaya hai, unka ek ambition zarur hota hai ke life mein Yash Raj ki picture karni hai. We have been lucky to have achieved that right from our first films. Yash Raj is my family, and I don’t consider it any less than my father’s home production. I do everything there, from my meetings to hanging out, and if there is a party here, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Aditya Chopra believed in me when nobody else did. And by nobody, I mean nobody. I know what I went through to become an actor. I saw myself as a regular kind of an actor ki jo role ayega woh karlunga. He believed I was capable enough to pull off a challenge of playing a small-time hooligan in Ishaqzaade. But when I work with someone like
Dharma Productions, it is reminiscent of a Yash Raj. I did Two States with them and then another film with Illuminati, Finding Fanny. It was a fantastic experience. The work ethics of every production house are amazing because everybody eventually wants to make good films. There’s obviously a certain attachment I have with YRF because I started with them. I’m sure Ranveer feels the same way.
RS: But I feel about YRF the way Arjun does. YRF was where I was born and, thanks to them, I am where I am today. They had conviction in me when everyone was against me, really. There was no one launching new talent at that time. Adi had the foresight and vision to do so. It is a big deal to have that kind of infrastructure backing you. Like Arjun said, everyone wants to eventually do a film with YRF and we have the privilege to be so closely associated with the company.
AK: Gunday is a good example of that.
RS: Yeah, to have us in Gunday… the scale of that film, when Lootera hadn’t yet happened.
AK: It’s the courage of the production house to back two boys who are setting out to prove themselves. They could have offered the film to anybody.
RS: They could have cast any two big, successful actors. Any top A-list actors they could have given the film to, yet they showed faith in us.
SD: Ranveer, was it a strategic decision to work with Phantom and SLB, to try new things beyond the YRF banner? Or did these producers come to you?
RS: It was more a question of what was coming to you at that time and what are the best films you were offered. In terms of films, I was not bound to do a YRF film. I had the freedom to do any film. It’s just that Mr Vikramaditya and Mr Bhansali came to me. They happened to have films that released back-to-back. For instance, my next film after Gunday is another YRF film, Kill Dil, and after that, something else. So there will always be that mix. I hope to keep putting quality work out there. It feels really good that a man of Aditya Chopra’s stature has faith in our talent. That is just great!