The Natural

RanbirNo chinks, no kinks. Well, except for an inch-long cut on his right cheek, sustained when he was rushing to the loo as a child and fell face-first on the pot. A deviated septum which has him breathing from his mouth, making him talk and eat too fast.

A childhood which often saw him sit on the steps of his Pali Hill home in Mumbai till 4 in the morning, listening to his parents having raging arguments. And yes, a habit of occasionally talking to dead people-he still remembers a childhood conversation with an imaginary Hitler who sat on his sofa as he quizzed him about his evil deeds.

But Bollywood can see no wrong in Ranbir Kapoor, whose Raajneeti has just had the second biggest opening weekend ever, making Rs 51 crore with a 1,900 print run. In a short career of just six films so far, of which one, Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, was the second biggest grosser of last year, Ranbir is the fresh prince of Bollywood, an actor with Range Rover-loads of charisma.

At 27, the fourth generation actor, who grew up in a home of music sittings, costume fittings, story narrations and filmi parties, is busy collecting ace directors and scoring unusual movies in an industry that has started to nudge, if not push, the envelope. Even as he waits for the release of Siddharth Raj Anand’s love story Anjaana Anjaani, about two people who meet as each is on the verge of suicide, he is starting work with Imtiaz Ali on Rock Star where he plays a Jat from Delhi who wants to be a musician, followed by Anurag Basu’s Silence where he is a hearing and speech impaired man, a second film with Ayan Mukerji, and an as yet untitled film with Mani Ratnam.

The range he’s shown, from the winsome puppy dog of Saawariya to the anti-hero of Raajneeti, looks all set to be stretched further. Not surprising then, that there’s a spring in the step of producers searching for the next big thing, a gleam of hope for writers looking for a star to peg their difficult-to-sell scripts on and excitement among directors suffering from terminal exhaustion that afflicts everyone waiting for the industry’s biggest stars, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, to choose the one film a year they will do.

In an industry where fates are written off every Friday, he is seen as the boy who will stay. But if filmmakers are prisoners of actors’ whims, stars are equally vulnerable, literally at the receiving end of the one phone call that will change the course of their monochromatic careers.

Sometimes it makes them sign a raft of stale as day-oldsamosa movies which are then consigned to the rubbish heap at the box office as happened to Hrithik Roshan after Kaho Na Pyaar Hai and sometimes it forces them to sit out a year like Shahid Kapoor before Ali gave him Jab We Met. Ranbir himself wants to be India’s biggest star and greatest actor, but that’s in another 10 years.

For now, he’s content to just be, submerge himself in his latest film, give himself over to the joy of filmmaking, even blurring the line between real and reel. He has, as his closest friend and director of the fine coming-of-age film, Wake Up Sid, Mukerji, says, “arrived. But it would be a mistake for him to think that it’s more than that.” Yes, he is making more money-Rs 7-10 crore per film, and Rs 7.5 crore for each of the six endorsements he has signed.

He has just bought himself an Audi R 8 which he intends to drive late at night, listening to music he is discovering for Ali’s new film, U2, Elton John, Bob Dylan and Green Day. And he does like the good things of life, from shopping at Prada for house slippers to picking up shirts at James Perse.


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