Ranbir Kapoor B'day: An Ode to the Actor Who is Bigger Than His Scripts
Ranbir Kapoor turns 40 today (28 September).
From the iconic towel scene in Saawariya to the nation’s go-to heartbreak song ‘Channa Mereya’ from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, birthday boy Ranbir Kapoor has been a part of pop culture ever since the start of his career. Over the years, Ranbir might have had a repertoire full of absolute hits and dreadful misses but despite it all, he has only proved his mettle as an actor.
When Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya hit the big screens, a young Ranbir Kapoor with his boyish charm had a big task ahead of himself, as does any actor with their debut – to prove that he’s a bankable star.
However, the actor was confined by the magnificence of Bhansali’s art, leaving little scope for him to perform beyond what was written. This didn’t stop him from giving a decent performance, though, like when he falls in love with Sakina and then struggles with the reality of his relationship with her.
Thereon, Ranbir Kapoor started doing films that put him in a certain mold, of a young man struggling with ambition (or the lack of it) in his coming-of-age era while simultaneously falling in love.
For a while, Ranbir was on a career-high – Bachna Ae Haseeno, Wake up Sid, and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani were all successful films.
In fact, Ayan Mukerji’s Wake up Sid has become a cult classic. In every film, Ranbir Kapoor played his characters to perfection, especially with Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. The plot in itself isn’t groundbreaking but the film was Ranbir’s chance to prove that he could be a comic actor – mixing moments of deep emotion with excellent comedic timing.
Maybe it was the confidence that came with broadening his horizons that made him sign on to more ambitious scripts, even when the execution didn’t always match up.
In Rocket Singh, Ranbir played a character much more traditionally mature and somber than his previous outings and surprisingly, it worked.
The film might not have gained the traction that it perhaps aimed to but Ranbir had started to prove that he can mold itself into a character a script demands – even as the gray character of Samar Pratap in Rajneeti.
The actor continued on this track, giving memorable performances in Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar and Anurag Basu's Barfi!
Both these films were strengthened by fabulous and sensitive scripts, and in the latter his performance as Murphy “Barfi” Johnson filled the film with heart and emotion, in a meticulously layered character.
What followed was perhaps Ranbir’s least-loved film yet, Besharam. While the idea of seeing Ranbir perform with his parents Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh (both inimitable actors) was extremely appealing, the film in itself is a middling mess.
Even Ranbir’s best efforts to save the film didn’t work and once again, his art was overshadowed by the film’s confines. While his part in his next outing Roy was…intriguing…it wasn’t the redemption the actor needed for his career.
Then came the ambitious Bombay Velvet, directed by Anurag Kashyap, drawing inspiration from Hollywood gangster flicks of the late 30s and neo-noir cinema. The film was too convoluted for its own good but still not the worst Bollywood has ever produced. And yet, it received a largely negative reaction.
Even so, Ranbir as the jazz-loving Johnny Balraj, who fell directly into several popular vintage tropes, stood out.
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