scorecardIn an industry where action sells, Ranbir Kapoor continues to chase romance on-screen
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In an industry where action sells, Ranbir Kapoor continues to chase romance on-screen

In an industry where action sells, Ranbir Kapoor continues to chase romance on-screen
EntertainmentEntertainment5 min read
  • In 2016, Sanjay Dutt advised Ranbir Kapoor to “act in macho films” and not do “softie” rom-com roles as he did in Barfi.
  • Ranbir Kapoor’s last film, Brahmastra, raked in the collections — but failed to impress the critics or alter his rom-com hero image.
  • Kapoor currently has two upcoming releases, the romantic comedy Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar and the action drama Animal.
Ranbir Kapoor-starrer romantic comedy Barfi! released in 2012 but it was only in 2016 that actor Sanjay Dutt, who Kapoor would go on to play in the 2018 biopic Sanju, saw the film. Kapoor played a kind-hearted but crafty deaf-mute hero in Barfi!, leaving both critics and the audience impressed. But not Dutt, who advised the young actor at a party not to do ‘softie’ roles, and instead, be ‘a macho man’.

“Act in macho films. You can’t be doing films like Barfi! You should be holding guns and doing action films. Do you think actors like me, Salman and Ajay would have been around for so many years if we had not played macho characters on screen? You have no connect with the masses and that is very important,” said Dutt, as per a report by DNA.

If we take Box Office reports as the yardstick of success, Dutt’s advice is on point. At present, more than rom-com (which Bollywood has exploited to the point of saturation), socially-relevant topics, biopics, patriotism and action resonate with the masses.

From the macho cops of Dabangg, Singham, etc. to the elaborate fight sequences of RRR to one-man-army fights in KGF or Pushpa – originally popularised in the 80s by the ‘angry young man’ Amitabh Bachchan – action clearly sells.

Even the original king of romance, Shah Rukh Khan has taken to action movies now! Case in point – his latest film Pathaan, which broke multiple Box Office records. In fact, as revealed in the Netflix documentary series The Romantics, Khan was reluctant to play a romantic hero in the first place.

But Kapoor appears to still be chasing rom-coms. If that’s his attempt at challenging the Bollywood stereotype, he could have perhaps taken a more novel approach than sticking to the formulaic character tropes as showcased in the trailer of his upcoming film, Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar.

The star kid who once took the road less taken

Since Kapoor’s flimsy-towel debut in Saawariya in 2007, he’s starred in a leading role in 20 films — many of them were critically acclaimed, but only half of them could be declared as Box Office (BO) hits.

In the beginning, Kapoor delivered a range that was rare for most newcomers, especially star kids — as the romantic hero of Ayan Mukerji’s Wake Up Sid (2009) where he lent gravitas to the role; and as a lovable goofball in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009) he showed a natural aptitude for comedy, a genre oft described as the most difficult to excel.

In the same year, he also appeared as the millennial with a moral code in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year — a critically-acclaimed film whose BO failure left the star ‘heartbroken’.

The year 2009 proved Kapoor had the kind of range that his parents, uncles, sisters, and majority of the Kapoor clan was famous for. Here was a star kid who benefited from nepotism but certainly deserved to be in front of the camera — a claim that was proven absolutely true with a career-defining performance in Raajneeti (2010).

In a film starring industry veterans like Nana Patekar, Kapoor held his own — letting his eyes speak volumes, searing himself in your memory.

“The key performance comes from Ranbir Kapoor (the son of Bollywood star Rishi Kapoor) as Samar Pratap…The slim, bespectacled Kapoor displays ruthless intensity in his role, and his performance is a highlight of the film,” stated The Hollywood Reporter in its review.

While his career started with novel experiments, it swayed into a genre once dominated by his father Rishi Kapoor — romance. Kapoor enjoyed a slew of critical and commercial hits in the genre — Rockstar in 2011, Barfi! in 2012, and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD) in 2013 that placed him well ahead of the curve from his contemporaries like Imran Khan.

But most, if not all his romantic avatars appeared to be drawn from the same template — the lost, young man. And the genre that once launched him into stardom started failing him.

A string of failures across action, comedy, and romance

Often hailed for his acting chops, Kapoor was never an out-an-out action hero, wielding guns and breaking bones. But he wasn’t securing hits elsewhere either — Jagga Jasoos didn’t find an audience and Tamasha was a slow burner. It acquired a cult status long after its Box Office run was over.

And Ae Dil Hai Mushkil would have benefitted more from releasing as a music album, than a film. During this time, Kapoor’s real-life romances–actual and rumoured—caught more attention from the media than his movies.

As he quipped during an appearance on the chat show Koffee With Karan, Ibiza should pay him for promoting tourism. He was referring to being secretly photographed by the paparazzi with his then-girlfriend, actor Katrina Kaif, on a beach.

Success ultimately came with Sanju in 2018. Kapoor played the titular character in the biopic on the life of actor Sanjay Dutt, directed by Rajkumar Hirani. Even though the whitewashed storyline let down the film, Kapoor’s performance and transformation were the talk of the town.

While Indian film critic Saibal Chatterjee remarked that Kapoor “dazzled as Sanjay Dutt”, The Guardian stated, “Kapoor proves (to be) a lightweight film’s strongest suit”.

Unfortunately, the hype created by Sanju well and truly died by the time Kapoor returned to the silver screen — four years later in 2022, with Brahamastra and Shamshera. Though the former raked in the collections, Kapoor’s innate magic seemed to be missing. The latter was better performed, but the muddled, slow-paced storytelling didn’t sit well with the audience. None could alter his image of a romantic hero.

Perhaps Kapoor wasn’t meant for action, as advised by Dutt. Certainly, the few earlier glimpses that he provided with Besharam (2013) and Bombay Velvet (2015) left the audiences and critics unimpressed.

For his upcoming films now, the actor has joined hands with directors known for delivering commercial hits —Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar by Luv Ranjan and Animal by Sandeep Reddy Vanga. The former belongs to the genre that has failed Kapoor in the recent past, and the latter is an action drama, where Kapoor is yet to deliver a hit.

Only time will tell if this approach will give a much-needed boost to the 40-year-old star kid’s career, or drag him into the list of ‘has-beens’.

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