by ASJAD NAZIR RANBIR KAPOOR ON PLAYING ACTOR SANJAY DUTT IN BOLLYWOOD BIOPIC THE life of Sanjay Dutt has had more highs, lows, unexpected twists and moments of high drama than most commercial films that have been made. This extraordinary story has been brought to life in high-profile movie Sanju. Ranbir Kapoor takes on the challenging title role in what is already being hailed as the finest biopic ever made in Bollywood. The popular star goes through a range of looks and captures different chapters of San­jay’s life in the big budget Rajkumar Hirani-directed film. Eastern Eye caught up with Ranbir to talk about Sanju, performing the naked scene, working with Bollywood’s best filmmaker Hirani, the high expectations and more… Was it an easy decision to take on the title role in Sanju? I am a long-standing fan of Sanjay sir. So for me, it was a fan trying to re-enact his icon. Thus get­ting the confidence to play his role was the most challenging part for me. When Raju sir told me about the script, I just could not picture myself playing him. I did not have the confidence to do so. I felt I would not be able do it! This role was not an acting gig, it was just an opportunity for me to be a part of someone’s sto­ry. The story of someone whom I admire and consider my icon. How much research did you have to do? I was following Raju sir’s vision and just stuck to that. I watched over 250 hours of video material on Sanjay Dutt so I could get into the role and understand the small nuances of the character. I did not treat this role as a chance to project my acting talent, but instead like a lifetime opportunity to play the role of an icon, Sanjay Dutt. How much did you interact with Sanjay Dutt during the whole process? Sanjay sir spent 25 days with Raju sir and (writer) Abhijat (Joshi) sir and poured his heart out about his life. Sanjay sir trusts Raju sir’s vision so much that he never interfered in the filmmaking process. He gave so much of his life in such a gratuitous way, but sometimes we were worried thinking should we shoot this onscreen as it could portray him in a particular way – flawed or someone who is great. I used to always call Sanju sir one night before the shoot to ask him how he felt, what he was thinking, during say his drug phase, and how he felt when his mother and father passed away. There are certain key moments in the film I wanted to portray in a very honest way, so when Sanju sir sees those scenes he feels good that the actor playing the part was very close to how he was feeling when he was experiencing that moment in real life. What was the most challenging aspect of working in the film? I am a long-standing fan of Sanjay sir, so gaining the con­fidence to play his role was the most challenging part. You cover various chap­ters of his life, which did you enjoy portraying most? I enjoyed portraying the romantic side of Sanjay sir’s character because I believe when someone is in love, they do incredi­ble things in life. Which was the most difficult? The most challenging role was the ‘young Sanju’ because it in­cluded the loss of his mother. How was it do­ing the naked scene in prison, it looks very emotionally demanding? Absolutely! When you are actually diving into any part of a film, you have to be completely naked, not just physically but also emotionally. Being physically naked is far easier than being emotionally naked. When you have to emotionally do the things that Sanju sir went through, that was way harder and tiring both emotionally and physically for me. What is Rajkumar Hirani like as a director and how much did he help you on this journey? He is just amazing. He is such a simple man. He is someone who is so talented and so successful, but is just extremely passionate and dedicated towards his work. And he has a simple philosophy of entertaining the audience. That’s some­thing I really learned from him – the value of the audience, the value of their hopes to watch a movie and what they should take away from the screen. He makes you laugh, he makes you cry, and you also end up walking away having learnt something. I really think Raju sir is phenomenal in this department. Did you learn anything new about Sanjay? The whole script shocked me because I had only known him as a family friend; he al­ways treated me as a younger brother and I have always been a fan. But I didn’t see that Sanjay Dutt in the script. Instead I saw his life journey, which included every phase, how he addressed so many scenarios, and how he fought that stage at such an early age. Whether it was the passing of his mother three days before the premiere of his film, his relationship with his father and best friend, or even the women in his life, it was shocking how a man could have so many lives in one life. What surprised you most about him? Everything. I think the entire film, the entire life story of Sanjay Dutt – whether it’s the drug phase, if it’s him in jail, if it’s the death of his mother, his trust in the un­derworld, every­thing with his life was really mind-numbing. I could not believe that a man could have lived such a life. You must be pleased with the incred­ible response to the amazing trailer? It’s very hard to de­scribe the emotion I felt after watching the trailer. I have worked on this movie for two years. I have always had faith in the script and Raju sir’s direc­tion. So the trailer is just a small part of what is to come. Do the sky-high expectations around the film scare you? Absolutely. Like I said, it is a huge responsibility for me and I really am happy for all the love we have received for the trailer, posters and whatever footage has come out on the film so far. We feel really humbled and grateful for that encour­agement, but now it’s the big task of actually presenting the film to the audience and giving them an experience of a lifetime, which is quite magnificent. So I’m feel­ing extremely nervous, anxious and excited at the same time. Most believe this will be your career-best per­formance; do you agree? It’s hard for me to say that; you know the audi­ence is king and that everything comes from them. But yes, Sanju has definitely been very special for me. To work with Raju sir, to work on a biopic, and that to of Sanjay Dutt, especially at this phase of my career, is very important. What is the masterplan going forward? There is no masterplan. It’s just simply to contin­ue to work and work with good people, marry, have children and just lead a whole­some life. You must be excited about the huge movies you have on the way? I am! Brahmastra and Shamshera are wholesome entertaining films with different genres, exciting directors and roles. The next few years are very important for me to build a formida­ble fan base. I am really happy that I have these films to showcase myself, my talent and be a part of good commercial successful films. Today, what is your biggest driving force? I think the love and adulation that I receive from my fans. What I can do is to reciprocate it in the form of good entertainment and good cine­ma. I think that really drives and prepares my ambition. If you could star in another biopic, who would you love to play? Yes, definitely I would like to play a character in another biopic movie. Ac­tually, whether it’s fiction or true, as long as there is a story to be told, I would love to be part of it. Have you got used to being in the public eye? Yes, I think so as I was born in the public eye. So it’s something I have been preparing for since the time I was a child. My personality is a little bit of an introvert but I am really happy that I get to do what I love. There are many disadvantages that come with being a celebrity, but showbusiness is amazing. Just to be a part of it, to be accepted in this industry, is quite a big thing for me. Why should we watch Sanju? If you want to a watch a story of an icon and the human side of him, the story of a fallen hero, his relationship with his father, the story of friend­ships, a story of mistakes and how we can learn from those, then these are just some of the rea­sons why the audience should watch Sanju. Sanju is in cinemas now