UAE: 'Kabir Singh' started the conversation on toxic masculinity, says 'Animal' star Ranbir Kapoor

The 'Brahmastra' actor and Bobby Deol, who were recently in Dubai, talk about the intricacies of playing dark, 'toxic' characters for their latest action thriller directed by filmmaker Sandeep Reddy Vanga

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Somya Mehta

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Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 2:18 PM

Albeit the teaser, trailer, or the pulsating background scores, everything we’ve seen so far coming from Bollywood’s latest action thriller Animal, has caused a stir and how. Underneath the bloodshed and explicit violence, Animal, out in the UAE cinemas today, is a complex drama centring around a turbulent relationship between a father and son. Being touted as one of the most violent films to come from Bollywood, it sees Anil Kapoor take on the role of the emotionally-unavailable, toxic father while Ranbir Kapoor portrays the character of Arjun Singh, living his childhood trauma through his adult life. And what makes the cast complete is Bobby Deol, in an all new avatar, playing all shades of evil as the antagonist.

In a recent conversation with Khaleej Times, Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor and Bobby Deol, who were in Dubai to promote the movie, talk about their experience working with filmmaker Sandeep Reddy Vanga of Kabir Singh fame, how they tapped into the dark and disturbing world of these characters and the fine line they have to tread as artistes, when showcasing sensitive topics on screen.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Animal is being touted as one of the most violent films, in recent times, to come out of Bollywood. How true is this?

Ranbir Kapoor (RK): By far! It’s definitely the most violent film. I don't even have a reference to this film, I’ve never seen something of this nature before. Every time on set, I’d ask Sandeep for a reference to the film, and even he could not find one, neither in Hollywood, nor in Indian cinema. It's such an original film and we all are very excited and grateful to be part of it.

Did your daughter Raha get terrified seeing you in this avatar?

RK: She’s only one so we haven’t even shown her the mobile phone yet but I’m definitely going to keep this film away from her for as long as I can (laughs).

In a previous interview, an acting coach mentioned that acting is all about finding the character within. But if the character you’re playing is all shades of evil, which is what the trailer hints at, how do you find that within yourself?

RK: It’s a whole process, which went on for about a year and a half. From the time Sandeep narrated this film to me, we started speaking about it and discussing ideas. I often enjoy working with directors who have a very strong perspective about life and storytelling because as actors, we kind of steal their personalities or their life experiences. My life experience is very limited, I have grown up in a very privileged, sheltered background, and I haven't really seen anything of this magnitude or these facets of emotions, especially the dark side. So, Sandeep has been of great help in making me understand the character. There is a lot of him in every character of this film.

For instance, Bobby sir is the total opposite of his character in real life. He’s like the most loving teddy bear, you just want to hug him. But that's the challenge as actors, to create something completely different from who we are. You have to be fearless enough to let the whole world see that vulnerable side of you.

Very interestingly, my character and Bobby sir’s character in this film are completely opposite shades of good and evil but by the end of it, you will question, who’s good and who’s evil? Everybody has a backstory, everybody has a purpose Are his actions justified or are mine? The film is a very interesting commentary on what is good and what is evil.

BD: I strongly believe that human beings are inherently imperfect creatures. They can be selfish, manipulative, and jealous. All these qualities exist within us. What makes us better humans is our ability to control these traits, instilled in us through our upbringing and learning. But as actors, we must let go of these behaviours when the character demands it. Our life experiences also become valuable tools in this process. Everyone experiences jealousy and other negative emotions. When portraying dark characters, we need to draw from these emotions.

Filmmaker Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who’s also stirred many debates about toxic masculinity, through his last feature film Kabir Singh is particularly interested in exploring the darker shades of humanity...

RK: What's interesting about him is that he showcases the truth but in a very cinematic way, and the truth often bothers people. It triggers them. I'm not saying what's right and what's wrong but as an artiste or as a filmmaker and storyteller, you need that freedom, to showcase something on screen, through which you can start a dialogue in society. If Kabir Singh didn't release it and it didn't start the dialogue around toxic masculinity. Today, we may not have known much around the term ‘toxic masculinity’. Cinema is such an influential medium and we should allow the filmmaker some freedom to make his creative choices and do justice to his vision. If, before the film has even come out, you label it as ‘toxic’, then you're killing creativity.

This film touches upon the topics of childhood trauma and an abusive father-son relationship, which are quite sensitive topics, especially because there is mainstream awareness around these concepts now. Are you conscious about the messaging of the film?

RK: It's important to recognise that cinema, by its nature, is created for entertainment and is a work of fiction. Having said that, while there is room for creative expression, there is a responsibility to be mindful of certain aspects. It's crucial not to trigger individuals who may have experienced specific situations in the past and could be affected by it. We are definitely conscious about that and don’t want to trigger people off the wrong way.

**EDS: TO GO WITH STORY** Mumbai: First look of Ranbir Kapoor in the upcoming film 'Animal'. (PTI Photo) (PTI01_01_2023_000036B)
**EDS: TO GO WITH STORY** Mumbai: First look of Ranbir Kapoor in the upcoming film 'Animal'. (PTI Photo) (PTI01_01_2023_000036B)

BD: Storytelling is influenced by the society we live in. One can't just imagine characters that don’t exist around us. That's how a good writer operates. When he writes, he brings those kinds of characters, from the society, into a script. Certain topics will always be taboo and people will say we shouldn't talk about it but as actors, that’s the best part of the job. We have that opportunity to play characters, which are so different from us yet so much fun to play. That makes us what we are.

Lastly, we have to address the 2.0 version of Bobby Deol in the film. Your glimpse from the teaser has gone viral on social media...

RK: Bobby sir had actually not even seen the shot on the monitor and didn’t know it would be part of the teaser. Sandeep called him and said ‘There’s a surprise for you in the teaser’.

BD: (laughs) It’s definitely because of how it’s showcased in the trailer. It was the director's intelligence. He knows how to get the audience's attention!

somya@khaleejtimes.com


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