Ranbir Kapoor
Ranbir Kapoor Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

Bollywood actor/soon-to-be-father Ranbir Kapoor is mighty bored of playing those coming-of-age lad roles on the cusp of self-discovery and is itching to ‘change lanes’.

Enter his career’s first mammoth fantasy adventure and bandit warrior tale ‘Shamshera’, which sees Ranbir play a dual role — that of a valiant father and the fierce son/savage leader of his tribe — out in UAE cinemas on July 22.

Explosive battles fought with gigantic axes, rugged warriors on horses, valiant heroes taking on evil rulers and more dot this 19th-century-set movie epic.

“I have been playing roles in too many coming-of-age films in the last 15 years now. I have come of age now, my soul has been searched, and nothing is now left to search,” said Ranbir with a wry laugh at a recent virtual press conference.

True to his word, his plum filmography is strewn with endearing slice-of-life films like ‘Wake Up Sid’ and ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ in which he plays a rakish but aimless 20-something dude in search of purpose in love and life. And to be fair, his kind face and un-threatening personality were a perfect fit for playing that perennial man-child role. But Ranbir unwittingly found himself pigeonholed into that guy-next-door zone because neither his directors nor he had the confidence to take on complex characters that expected him to be intimidating, brooding or menacing.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' Image Credit: Supplied

“I have never been offered this genre of the film before … It was extremely challenging, gruelling, physically and mentally tiring. There were days when I used to sit in my trailer van and talk to myself in between shots saying that I can do this and how I needed to harness all my mental strength for this one … This was one crazy ride,” said Ranbir.

While he’s mentally geared for the release of ‘Shamshera’, he is not as confident when it comes to his impending parenthood.

In April 2022, he married his girlfriend and actress Alia Bhatt in an intimate ceremony in Mumbai and two months later they jointly made a pregnancy announcement. As far as cheeky questions go, this one was a keeper. When asked whether he enjoyed playing an on-screen father or relished the prospect of being a real-life dad soon, Ranbir ducked it beautifully.

“I am still preparing to be a father and I am not prepared yet. I will get qualified as the journey starts of fatherhood …. Right now, I have been collecting all the life experiences of being a father from everyone around me,” said Ranbir. Apparently, he has been asking all those willing to answer about being a parent and how it transformed their lives. While he’s on shaky ground when it comes to playing the father in real life, he’s on stronger footing when it comes to talking up ‘Shamshera’.

Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt on their wedding day in Mumbai Image Credit: Supplied

Directed by Karan Malhotra of ‘Agneepath’ fame and produced by Aditya Chopra’s Yash Raj Films, ‘Shamshera’ also features acting heavyweights like Sanjay Dutt who plays the menacing antagonist and Vaani Kapoor who plays the statuesque Sona.

“I am just going to quote Vidya Balan her and say ‘Shamshera’ is entertainment, entertainment, and entertainment! Don’t expect anything else,” said Ranbir, alluding to his peer’s iconic dialogue from ‘The Dirty Picture’ in which she played a sex siren.

Here are the gems that tumbled out of the fabulous quartet as we pinned them down for an one-on-interview …

Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor in 'Shamshera'
Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor in 'Shamshera' Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

Escapist fantasies like ‘Shamshera’ always work whether it’s in the pre or post pandemic era:

“This is the kind of entertainment that the audience wants. They want to forget all their troubles or stress in life and come to cinema halls with their friends and family and get lost in a good engaging story … ‘Shamshera’ is the embodiment of it all,” said Ranbir.

The women in ‘Shamshera’ aren’t used as props or fillers:

“‘Shamshera’ is a film about a father, his legacy, and his son who carries it forward. But there are other actors who also play pivotal roles and who have an impact on his journey and the film’s storyline … Though the film is called ‘Shamshera’, my character Sona and the way she’s presented is unique. It’s just about a song with a girl and a boy, there’s a whole storyline and mood board … A lot of thought has gone into creating and crafting each and every character in ‘Shamshera’,” said Vaani.

Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor
Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

Content is always king:

“I have never signed a film looking at just my character and I have always looked at its story. The story is King and that’s what appeals to an audience. We are also at a time in cinema and our lives where the story is the number one star. It doesn’t matter who’s in a movie anymore,” said Ranbir. But he lets us in on a secret.

“At first I was only offered the role of Balli, the son, and I myself offered to play Shamshera. The director and the producer weren’t convinced and I had to go through a series of auditions to prove that I will be able to pull it off,” said Ranbir. He claims he injected different shades and layers into the father-son role to make it distinct.”

Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera'
Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera' Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

Sanjay Dutt is the Thanos of Indian cinema:

This is how Ranbir, who is Dutt’s biggest groupie and cheerleader, describes his co-star and antagonist in ‘Shamshera’. During a joint interview with Gulf News, Dutt who plays the sadistic and villainous Daroga Shuddh Singh in this fantasy adventure claimed that working with Ranbir and Vaani was splendid.

“I learned a lot from them. And for the record, I want to say that Ranbir has done a brilliant job as Balli and Shamshera,” said Dutt. The admiration wasn’t one-sided. While Vaani calls him the most sensitive and soft-hearted colleague, Ranbir — who played Sanjay Dutt in his hit biopic — lets us in an anecdote.

Sanjay Dutt in 'Shamshera'
Sanjay Dutt in 'Shamshera' Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

“Since the day I was born, he has been close to me and my family … While my sister had a poster of Salman Khan from ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ in her cupboard, I had a poster of Sanjay from his Aatish shoot in Mauritius … And in the biopic I did, they replicated the same picture with my face on it and it was so surreal … Imagine doing a film with the idol whose poster was on your cupboard. It’s just so surreal,” said Ranbir.

There’s no formula to success in movies:

Every actor in ‘Shamshera’ has seen tremendous highs and terrible lows in their career, but Ranbir has a pragmatic take on it all.

“We believe in the power of storytelling and what the director is trying to say. Any form of entertainment done in an engaging way will always be profitable and successful. But there’s no formula to succeed here … We feel the pressure with everything. And here’s hoping that since we have worked so hard with this film, our audiences will give it a chance … Films from South India like ‘Pushpa’, ‘Baahubali’, and ‘RRR’ have made such an impact in the Hindi film circuit too and that proves the power of good storytelling … Good stories will always work,” said Ranbir.

‘Shamshera’ is like ‘Biryani on steroids’:

Ranbir, who has one of the kindest faces in Hindi cinema, is acutely aware that playing a bloodied and brutish bandit/tribe leader is outside his comfort zone.

“I didn’t see myself in such a film. It took me 15 years of working in this industry to garner the confidence and conviction to do a film of this nature. But having said that, I am not saying that this is some leave-your-brains-behind cinema … It has different genres blended into one film. Think action, thriller, comedy … all rolled into one … Even a song for this film was shot like an action entertainer. We were in harnesses and there was a sandstorm swirling around us.”

Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera'
Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera' Image Credit: YRF

Actors should stop taking themselves so seriously:

Ranbir, who was born into an acting dynasty, had an interesting theory when it came to surviving and thriving in show business. Apparently, his peer and colleague Dutt taught him a thing or two about being cool and famous.

“He’s a rock star and I have never seen a man who attracts so many people when he comes on set … Everybody is just so drawn towards him. And not just his stardom, he knows the light man’s name and the stunt person’s name … He’s like this soldier who has been working for 40 odd years and he’s still at the top of his game. I have been working since 15 years and I understand what it takes to survive as an actor,” said Ranbir. According to this fan boy, Dutt doesn’t take himself or his stardom seriously.

“Sometimes we take our lives too seriously and want to believe that we are this serious actor who will change the face of cinema and the world. But we are here for entertainment and Sanjay gets that … Am grateful to have that father figure in my life,” said Ranbir.

Ashutosh Rana is not in ‘Shamshera’, and don’t believe websites that claim otherwise:

“IMdB has been putting that out for our years now … Three actors that are not in this film are listed as its cast,” said Karan Malhotra. As soon as Ranbir heard that remark, he had a cheeky take on it.

“Should have just written Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are in it too,” quipped Ranbir. On a serious note, he said that director Karan Malhotra helped him become ‘angsty’.

“Being angsty doesn’t come naturally to me. I had to work very hard on that … I have never slapped anybody in a film before, but this is an out-and-out action bonanza.

Shamshera poster-1655727972330
A poster of Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera' Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

Does trigonometry come under mathematics or English? … You all have jumped the gun here. To teach my child trigonometry, I will have to study right now

- Ranbir Kapoor when asked what kind of a father he would make

Don’t miss it!

‘Shamshera’ is out in UAE cinemas on July 22.