Sharmaji Namkeen, Rishi Kapoor‘s final film, released on Amazon Prime Video and garnered acclaim over its endearing depiction of the coming-of-age of a retired man. Ranbir Kapoor, who participated in the promotions of his father’s swansong, recollected his memories with him, Neetu Kapoor’s comeback in the movies and finishing the schedule of Ayan Mukerji‘s epic Brahmastra.
Sneha Menon Desai (SMD): I’m certain your father couldn’t have asked for a better cheerleader to promote his swansong. As someone who knows him for so long, what according to you is his biggest USP as an actor?
Ranbir Kapoor (RK): ‘Passion’ is an overused word and it has so many different meanings, but my understanding of passion has always been my father. To see that kind of interest, excitement, nervousness, anxiety, and also insecurity at the time he was going through his treatment. I have never seen that level of insecurity that I saw from him at that stage in his career. He doesn’t really need to feel insecure about ‘Will I get work as an actor?’ At that age, to worry about this, to feel insecure about this – it really blew me away. It made me feel emotional, it put things into perspective. This field that we are in, the highs and lows, the success and failures – that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that your purpose in life is to do your work in the best way possible, to do it passionately and honestly. To not take your position for granted is something that I’ve really imbibed from him.
SMD: He was talking about work even during his treatment?
RK: Yes, he said, ‘Today, I have a label of somebody who is suffering from cancer. Will any producer or the corporate system that has entered the film industry want to cast me? Will I get work?’ He didn’t care about survival, what he was talking about was whether he would get work as an actor. He used to speak such highly about Ritesh (Sidhwani, producer of Sharmaji Namkeen). He was one of the producers who gave him hope that he could come back, the team was waiting for him and they were going to complete this film and make it amazing. That’s something he held very closely to. And he fought, he was cancer-free by September. Human beings need that hope. Just getting that from Ritesh really made him feel excited, he wanted to get better and come back. And as soon as he got back, the only thing he wanted to do was eat a good Chinese meal, drink four glasses of whiskey and get back to Sharmaji Namkeen. That was his purpose.
SMD: Ranbir, you have said that you did consider using prosthetics to finish up the film – you did a damn good job of that with Sanju. Did you do a look test for this? What were the challenges the team faced with pulling that off here?
RK: We did look tests and also sent my pictures over to CGI houses. The technology, first of all, is very expensive, especially to recreate a person without a full scan of their body. Secondly, for me, as an actor, to play a 65-year-old man was too daunting a task. I do understand that I am his son and maybe as a public sentiment, that could have worked. But I don’t think this film could have had a better actor than Paresh Rawal. The kind of authenticity he brings to the character and the part, I don’t think I would’ve been able to bring that. I would’ve done it but, like I said, it would’ve been a sentiment of a son completing a father’s work. But what Pareshji brought, and we all were very lucky that he did, was his caliber.
SMD: Sharmaji Namkeen is about retirement, but closer home, Neetuji is making a comeback – doing what she does best. As the other working actor at home, how did you help her handle the nerves?
RK: After what we went through as a family, my sister and myself, we understood that my mother had sacrificed a lot of her life for building this family. My mother got married at the age of 21, she was an extremely successful actress and she gave all of that up. On her own accord, because she felt like she needed to do this. But we felt like now, she should [go back] – and people really like her. Wherever I travel, as much as they speak to me about my father, they speak to me about my mother. So, we convinced her. She was low on confidence, but then Karan Johar offered her Jug Jugg Jeeyo and she really enjoyed the process. Slowly, she’s getting the acting bug back. She did acting classes, she did diction classes. She sat with me on her scenes saying, “This is a monologue that I’m doing, how should I do it?” Just to be busy is so important as a human being, and it also helps in healing. I don’t know what my mother went through. She was a rock to my father during this hard time. She was there through everything. The kind of selflessness I’ve seen in my mother, I haven’t ever seen anywhere else. I don’t know if she’s healed, I don’t know if she needs therapy or whether she needs to speak it out. But maybe through her work, through meeting people, she can. I’m really happy that she’s doing this.
SMD: Another film that was hugely challenging to complete because of different circumstances was Brahmastra. For that film, I’m glad we can say it’s a wrap on that.
RK: No, but for that film, never say never (laughs). Director kuch bhi kaam nikaal dega. Till the time this film doesn’t release, I’m not going to believe that it is over. Plus, it’s a trilogy, so we have a long journey. So I’m not quite excited that the film has ‘wrapped’ but I am really, really excited for the film to come out. It’s a film that we’ve worked really hard on. It’s something that’s going to blow people’s minds away, hopefully, so I’m very excited.