‘Sanju is an incredible story’

Ranbir Kapoor, fresh from the release of Sanju, a film based on the life of actor Sanjay Dutt, says he is fascinated with biopics and that he would want to portray Raj Kapoor one day. He speaks to Aarti Kapur Singh

What does Sanju mean to you, personally and as an actor?

Sanjay Dutt has been my idol for as long as I can remember. He is one of the most misunderstood people I know – or at least claimed to know before I did the film. It’s an honest portrayal of a very flawed man who has fallen down many times, but has also picked himself up. It is also about the complex relationship between him and his father; his relationship with women; his best friend; and his tryst with the law.

But didn’t you turn down the  film initially?

Not the film! I didn’t have the confidence to portray the lead character. When Raju sir (director Raju Hirani) told me about this film, I told him ‘Aur kuch bhi de do sir, bas Dutt nahin (ask me to do anything sir, but not Dutt)’.

What convinced you to accept it?

When I read the film’s script, I realised that the character it depicted was very different from the Sanjay Dutt I was familiar with. It was an unbelievable story! There was so much drama and such a multitude of emotions in this film that it seemed daunting, but these complexities also challenged me as an actor. Sanjay Dutt has been my neighbour (at Pali Hill, Mumbai) and was like a doting elder brother. But the script revealed the real person, and I started respecting him all the more, not just for the life he has lived but also for the fact that he was not scared about it being portrayed so honestly on screen.

Sanjay Dutt has the legacy of Sunil Dutt and Nargis behind him. Your family is regarded as the first family of Bollywood. What else is similar?

For me, the father-son story in Sanju struck a chord. My own relationship with my father was a frame of reference, if not exactly a common thread. Sanju sir’s (Sanjay Dutt) relationship with his father was one of immense love and, even more, respect. There was a considerable amount of formality and, therefore, a lot of complexities. I share a similar relationship with my father. When I was reading the script, I could relate to those emotions. My dad, even if he likes my performance in a film, will say, ‘Kasar reh gayi (it could have been better)’. But when he saw the trailer of Sanju, he said: ‘I am proud of you!’ That was my reward!

How hard was it as an actor to step into Sanjay Dutt’s shoes?

The first year of preparing for the role was spent in training the body, experimenting with prosthetics and makeup. But the tough part was understanding his soul. I even borrowed his perfume so I could smell like him!

In fact, I always use one perfume while shooting a movie. Very often, when I shoot intermittently for a film over a long period of time, a particular fragrance helps me stay connected to my character through its making. Sanju sir uses a strong perfume called Tom Ford Oud. I borrowed his boots too, but he wears two sizes smaller than me. So I asked the costume designer of Sanju to make similar boots in my size. Even the jeans he wears are boot-cut and his kurta-pyjama too has a ‘Sanjay Dutt’ style. It may sound silly, but these things help me get into the skin and mind of the character – otherwise the portrayal becomes a caricature and performance is reduced to mimicry.

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