Aditya Chopra wants him. Mani Ratnam wants him. Katrina Kaif wants him (okay, I made that up). The point is, everybody in the film industry wants a piece of Ranbir Kapoor. Almost every director of repute wants to sign up the young talent, who started his career two years and one month ago. The list is so impressive that film-makers who don’t want to work with Kapoor are likely to feel left out. Has the latest superstar been born? Or has the movie business created one by casting him even before he proved his box-office worth?
Right pitch: Kapoor in a still from Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year.
Industry insiders must have been hugely relieved when Kapoor’s latest release, Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, earned all the money it did. The Raj Kumar Santoshi movie sailed home on the strength of some zany comedy and fabulous chemistry between Kapoor and Kaif. The movie provided a return on investment for punters who had bet on Kapoor when he first showed up in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya. The failure of Bhansali’s soporific romance did nothing to harm Kapoor’s chances. His next outing, the rom-com Bachna Ae Haseeno, did average business, but it helped him build on his Noughties’ conflicted lover-boy image.
Next in the queue is Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, which until a few months ago was a “Shimit Amin movie” and a “From the Director of Ab Tak Chhappan and Chak De! India” project. The 11 December release is now, quite simply, a “Starring Ranbir Kapoor” film.
Kapoor has everything going for him. He has a face that can suit a variety of roles. He has physical grace. He is 27, several years younger than the Khans, all of whom are above 40, and Hrithik Roshan, who is 35. He represents not just a famous family but a decades-old tradition of performance. Most importantly, unlike his contemporary and rival-for-a-month Imran Khan, Kapoor has talent. Last year, it briefly seemed that Khan, who is Aamir Khan’s nephew, was the next big thing after his first movie, Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na became a hit. Khan is a year younger than Kapoor and has equally heavyweight family connections to flaunt. He also has an attractive face, but unfortunately this face doesn’t change expression too often. The chatter about the two friends as friendly competitors fizzled out soon after Kapoor’s Bachna Ae Haseeno and Khan’s Kidnap were released.
The only other actor who can give Kapoor a run for his money is another Kapur. Shahid Kapur is 28, talented and popular. However, he is regarded as somewhat mercurial and independent-minded. He has been around longer than Kapoor, and has had to struggle hard to convince both film-makers and audiences of his talent. Plus, his lineage isn’t as illustrious as Kapoor’s.
Kapoor’s rise seemed guaranteed even before he underwent the box-office test. The offspring of star actors and film-makers are assumed to be smarter at handling the industry’s ways than the children of army officers and bank managers. Yet the box office has a cruel way of reminding the Esha Deols and Zayed Khans of the world that whosoever your father or mother may be, you are nobody unless you make money for other people. Even Hrithik Roshan, who started off with a huge bang with Kaho Na…Pyaar Hai in 2000, was dumped back on earth by a series of flops before his father scripted his comeback.
Kapoor has incrementally paid back the trust reposed in him. His career has gone from flop to average grosser to big hit, all in three easy steps. He is the perfect star for a decade that has no patience for long drawn-out success stories and that values instant gratification above everything else.
Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year releases in theatres on 11 December.
Nandini Ramnath is the film editor of Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net).
Write to Nandini at firstname.lastname@example.org