Here’s a check-list of his earlier lead movies: Ranbir started with Saawariya (2007)—a flop, Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008)—a tepid success, three releases in 2009—the break-even (in some centers) Wake Up Sid!, the hit Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and the critically acclaimed flop Rocket Singh—Salesman Of The Year. In 2010, it was the ensemble hit Raajneeti and the flop Anjaana Anjaani for him, followed by the expensive 2011 Rockstar, a flop that, despite hype, stopped at Rs 62 cr..
One can safely assess therefore that it is only Ranbir’s star pedigree and acting brilliance that saw him through the pre-Barfi times, when he had only two hits of eight—one of which also had Ajay Devgn and Nana Patekar as draws—with two more tepid successes. Of course, he was intensely professional and well-behaved, explaining his high repeat value for filmmakers as varied as Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar and even Imtiaz Ali.
But we do not really fathom where this hugely talented and immensely personable actor acquired such weird preferences in films and scripts. Was it his confused (in effect) education in cinema, of Raj Kapoor, Indian movies and his formal training in two schools in USA?
At one stage, his father Rishi Kapoor, who emulated the Kapoor family tradition of never interfering in their children’s work, is said to have told a scribe, “I personally do not agree with the kind of films Ranbir is doing. At this rate, I hope that he does not become today’s Amol Palekar!” This despite the fierce and just fatherly pride in his son’s performance in Wake Up Sid!. Yes, Rishi assessed his son’s voluminous talent perfectly, while lamenting on his choices!
Ranbir’s frequent claim was that his approach to work and scripts was all his own, and that he never carried the Kapoor baggage. At the time of YJHD, he had told me, “We are media-made stars put on a pedestal, whereas they are super-stars on whose films we grew up. This is why my generation has to tread a different path.”
At the same time, he also said, “Having said that, I want at some time to be the biggest star in this industry and make my talent noticed as an actor too!”
This is where Ranbir’s approach, perhaps, has been a bit wonky. His goals are antithetic to his beliefs and to what he does—and this is what he needs to correct—pronto, before it is too late. He’s like a man travelling towards Kerala from Mumbai when his goal is to reach Kashmir!
Ranbir’s talent has been more than noticed throughout, and as a star, Roy was thus sold on his name (despite his special appearance) and got a good initial only from his presence. So Ranbir is mistaken on another point: he is a star, not some ephemeral rockstar but a born star, waiting for superstardom to happen to him. He may not be yet in the Khan league, but 15 years later, we would rather see him there than anyone else who is around now!
And I sincerely feel that someone should sit him down and calmly inform him that his generation of stars do not have to tread a different path—Hindi cinema will always remain essentially the same, though the details may change with eras. And so will Hindi film stars—especially with strong genetics like his.
We do not like watching you in kitsch, Ranbir, my boy! You are a man now, so please start moving towards your deserved (and desired) position. Please go where you rightly belong—to the hierarchy of super-stars who can win a Phalke down the line.
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar
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