Ranbir Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor on tapping into the action genre with 'Shamshera', out Friday in UAE

The actors and director Karan Malhotra interacted with City Times in a virtual press conference to promote the film.


Husain Rizvi

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 8:53 AM

Last updated: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 8:58 AM

Ranbir Kapoor says he has never slapped anybody in a movie. And we believe him, thanks to all the charming characters he has played so far in his career. Okay, maybe he has thrown a few punches here and there and how can we forget the forced, delicate, and playful slap to Katrina Kaif’s Jenny in 2009’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani.

The point is, Ranbir’s films mostly show him as the sweet and charming heartthrob, sometimes heartbroken, who rarely tends to be a hard-hitting action figure. But that’s about to change with Karan Malhotra’s Shamshera which shows him in a never-seen-before avatar. The film also features Sanjay Dutt, Vaani Kapoor, and Ronit Roy.

City Times was part of a virtual press conference with Ranbir, Vaani, and Karan to discuss the movie ahead of its July 22 release.

Shamshera is a period drama taking place in the late 1800s and follows the story of Balli, played by Ranbir, who is up against a ruthless general, played by Sanjay Dutt, for his gang’s freedom. Interestingly, Ranbir plays a dual role in the film; he also stars as Shamshera, Balli’s father and a legendary dacoit in his time whose story is shown through flashbacks. In the present, it is Balli’s destiny to live up to Shamshera’s legacy.

But Ranbir doesn’t relate to his two characters in the film and that was his challenge as an actor.

“I am nothing like them,” he told City Times during the virtual press conference. “The two characters are a far departure from who I am.”

Hearing that doesn’t come as a surprise given Ranbir’s repertoire since his debut with Saawariya in 2007. Yes, he has ventured away from the romcom genre and given classy performances in the rather intense Rockstar, Barfi!, or even Rajneeti. But when we think of Ranbir, a free-spirited, adventurous character like Bunny from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, comes to mind, rather than anything too ‘heavy’.

For an actor, however, to do any film, “he must reflect something of his personality,” Ranbir continued. “It could be vulnerability, angst, or anything. That’s when you make the character relatable.” But with Balli and Shamshera, there was a lot of “creation” that Karan (director) and other crew and cast members put together to present both these characters, he added.

Director Karan Malhotra with Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Vaani Kapoor
Director Karan Malhotra with Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Vaani Kapoor

Vaani, on the other hand, plays the role of Sona, a travelling performer. In a behind-the-scenes video released by Yash Raj Films earlier this month, the Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui actor had described how her character has an arc in the film. “It’s a beautiful character very substantially written. The girl is very empowered and she does have an arc. It’s a world I as an actor have never explored before. For me, it’s a very new territory. He (Karan) had envisioned Sona in a particular way and I just had to adapt to his vision which was beautiful. So now when I look at myself, I love how refreshing Sona looks.”

Character inspirations

Growing up in a film household, Ranbir was always a cinema buff and the 70s and 80s era is famous for producing films around dacoits. While Ranbir loved watching his favourite heroes on the big screen, Shamshera has no reference to the old dacoit-films. “I often asked Karan before starting this film if there is any reference for the two characters in the film just so that I could get a tone of the characters,” Ranbir said. “But we really could not think of a reference because it is a very new film. Yes it is a film about dacoits, and the genre of dacoits may have been overused in the 70s and 80s as people say, but Shamshera has nothing to do with those films.”

Vaani, to the contrary, just had to channelise her inner “desi” which she believes everyone has in their DNA. “I was doing contemporary parts and this came as a happy surprise,” she said. “I just followed whatever Karan had to say, his instructions were more than sufficient to gather what was required out of Sona. And I have slapped people in the past, so…”

A natural progression

Ranbir believes every actor has a certain lane and they are usually persuaded to stay in that lane, either by the audience or by themselves. The 39-year-old has played various characters in many coming of age films, so Shamshera was a “natural progression”. “I guess in the first 15 years of my career, I didn’t have the confidence, or maybe the directors didn’t have the confidence to show me in a film or offer characters like those in Shamshera,” Ranbir said. “So, when it was offered to me, it was natural excitement.” Since it is Ranbir’s first-ever role of this kind, he found it extremely challenging. “I was not prepared for the extremely grueling and physically and mentally tiring challenges that were lying ahead,” the Tamasha actor said. “There were days when I used to sit in my trailer between shots and I had to talk to myself, ‘listen, you gotta do it.’” Ranbir believes that’s the prerequisite. “You’re required to face the challenges,” he said.

Director Karan Malhotra commented, “Shamshera taught me to embrace technology rather than being scared of it. And once all of us did that, it really helped us create the spectacle that we have been able to create.”

Ranbir on working with Sanjay Dutt

“Sanjay Dutt has been working for 40 odd years, and for someone to be on top of the game for 40 years, he definitely has something extremely special. We all love Sanju Baba for the person he is, but when you get an opportunity to work with him, it is a different experience altogether. I have never seen a man who can attract so many people when he comes on set. Everybody is just drawn towards him, not just because of his stardom, but because of the person he is. He knows everybody in the crew by their name and they all love him. He’s so mischievous, you never know when he’s going to pull a fast one on you. I love him, I am so grateful that I have his support and his hand on my head. He reprimands me, inspires me, and encourages me. I am very grateful to have that father figure in my life.”

What is ‘Shamshera’ about

Shamshera is set in the 1800s in the heartland of India. The story is set in the fictitious city of Kaza, where a warrior tribe is imprisoned, enslaved and tortured by a ruthless authoritarian general ‘Shuddh Singh’, played by Sanjay Dutt. Ranbir Kapoor is pitted against him as the main protagonist, Shamshera. Directed by Karan Malhotra, this action extravaganza produced by Aditya Chopra and is set to release in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu on July 22. Advance bookings are open for UAE theatres.

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