With a prolific acting legacy to live up to and a burning ambition all of his own, Ranbir Kapoor tells Digital Spy what life is like when you come from a family of acting legends, why he wants to be as big as the Khans and he tells us what he'd really like to say to everyone who gossips about his love life.
How would you describe the character of Barfi?
"Barfi is this carefree, happy-go-lucky, joyful character who the cops really hate, who's constantly running away from them. He's good for nothing. It's his chance encounter with this beautiful girl called Shruti played by Ileana [D'Cruz] that changes his life.
"It's about their love story, and once their love story unfolds in unusual circumstances he comes across Priyanka [Chopra's] character Jhilmil. The film is about their love story and how they make a life together."
Barfi is a deaf mute with an insatiable love of life. What was the most challenging aspect of playing this character?
"This film really wasn't challenging in the way people think. Because I'm playing deaf and mute, they think that it must have been one of those method acting films and it must be really depressing, but actually it's a joyful entertainer. So it wasn't challenging in the way that people expect, but it was challenging because there was a lot of physical comedy.
"Since I don't speak, I had to express a lot through physical antics, but that was really fun to do because our director Anurag Basu is like a child himself... we just had a marriage of thoughts, and a marriage of what he thought should be done and what I thought should be done."
The film is set in the 1960s and has an air of old world innocence about it. What were the influences you drew on in developing this simple, yet joyful character and the world he inhabits?
"We took inspiration from Chaplin, from Buster Keaton, from Mr Bean, from my grandfather Mr Raj Kapoor, and we just had our own interpretation of it. It's about happiness. It's a life-affirming film, like the earlier works of Frank Capra. It's been a fun experience and a fun film to make."
Growing up amidst a family of actors, was it inevitable that you would become a movie star?
"To be honest, the core reason why I became an actor was that I didn't want to go to school. That's where it started. I hated opening my history books and my English books, but then of course you grow older.
"I went to film school in New York, and that's when you really realise that you have to grow up now. It's not child's play anymore. You need to grow up. You're not just someone's son any more. You need to make your own life, you need to be a little responsible. But the core reason was that I didn't like school. That's why I became an actor."
There were certainly huge expectations from the public when you made your debut as an actor because of the legendary acting dynasty you hail from, but what were the expectations of your family when you decided to become an actor - and how did you contend with the pressure to live up to the Kapoor name?
"The expectations and the pressure were only outside in the media and with a few people who are aware of my family's contribution, but for me I'm just another person working in this film industry. Yes, I'm very proud to be part of my family. They've been contributing to Indian cinema for more than 80 years, but I don't take it as a burden or a pressure.
"It's a responsibility that I have, but I'm also here for myself. I want to make a name for myself. I think my father would be more proud of me if people were to say to him, 'He's Ranbir Kapoor's father' [rather] than calling me 'Rishi Kapoor's son'. That's the endeavour."
You've been surrounded by acting legends your whole life. What do you think are the traits you need to become a great actor aside from being a Kapoor?
"To be a great actor you really don't need to go to acting school, or learn dance classes or work on your body. You have to be intelligent. You have to draw on a lot of emotions that you go through in life that you can tap into once you work on a set. It's all about being organic and making the audience believe that what the character's going through in that moment is coming from a very true place.
"It's not just a case of turning up on set, doing a bit of acting and then going home. An actor should have a deep connection with the character. That always results in the audience connecting with the film."
How do your mum and dad react when you have a hit film, or a perhaps if a film doesn't work?
"I think my parents are more affected than I am. I'm really close to my mother. She sacrificed a lot for me and my sister. She gave up her career. Whatever I am today is due to the values my mother instilled in me.
"As for myself, I'm a very detached person, so if it's a big hit film or not it doesn't affect me. My first film Saawariya was a disaster, but nothing really affects me because I'm here for the work I do everyday, it's not for the result. It's a very result-driven industry. Every Friday it changes, but I know that I have enough faith in my talent, I have enough hope for myself that I am here to be the best, that I am here to be the biggest star, the best actor that there is.
"It takes time to build your audience. It takes time to create a great filmography, to work with great directors, beautiful co-actors, and that's how finally you get to achieve what you want to achieve."
With your celebrity status comes endless interest in your personal life. How have you learned to cope with the constant speculation regarding your relationships?
"There was a point where I just wanted to raise my middle finger to everything, but now its all okay. It's a part of showbiz. People want to read about you. They want to know everything about you. What your read is 50% true, and 50% is a great lie. I'm very grateful for the position I have today - for the work that I'm getting - so it's fine. I have accepted it comes with the territory."
Your parents were both actors when they met and later married. Do you think it would be easier to marry someone within the profession?
"Relationships are hard. If as an actor you marry an engineer or a doctor, it's really hard for them because they don't understand what your life is like. We live two lives. We have a 'reel' life and a real life.
"Marrying an actor only makes it easier because you are aware of each other and understand what comes with this life. It also comes with a lot of disadvantages... you can't really predict this. You can't really tell how it will all work out. You'll just have to go with the flow.
"You don't know what will happen tomorrow. I might just meet somebody in the lift of this hotel and have an instant connection with that person, so you can't close yourself, or look for it [either]. The time... comes, it just comes. You can't plan that. 'I'll get married to an actor or a doctor.' I could get married to a guy also. Who knows?"
If you could remake any Kapoor film, which one would it be and who do you think is the best actor of all the Kapoors?
"I don't believe in remakes. I feel that if somebody has made a film, they have done it to a certain level of fulfillment. I just don't believe in remakes. If I had to pick a film, it would be my grandfather's Shree 420. I'm a big fan of that film, and if I had to choose the best actor it would be my father. He's the best actor in the family.
Can you confirm reports that you have been cast in a film with your cousin Kareena?
"Zoya Akhtar - a very fine filmmaker - was toying with an idea to make a film about a brother and sister and she wanted Kareena and me for it, but she hasn't written the script yet. We're still waiting for it. But it would be great to work with Kareena if that happens."
Your father was known as a romantic hero. As a hero of modern Indian cinema, how do you feel the concept of the Indian hero has changed since then to now?
"Times have changed. Back then every star or actor was confined to a certain genre and they have continued doing it, They had success in four or five films, then they repeated that genre because audiences liked them in that role. In today's day and age, cinema is opening up and new genres are emerging, especially in Indian cinema, and actors are getting new opportunities to play different kinds of roles.
"I really don't want to typecast myself. I'm four-and-a-half years old in the industry, and I want to do everything. I'd like to believe I'm good at everything I do. I don't want to be just an action hero, or a romantic hero, or a comedy star. I want to be an actor. I want to be a respected actor. I want to do the kind of stuff that people can connect with."
How would you define the contribution of the Kapoors in over 100 years of cinema, and what part do you hope to play in the future of Indian cinema?
"My family are not really even aware of their contribution. They are just really happy to be where they are. They just love movies. They are really passionate about cinema, even at home. It's not as if it's work, or they are bringing work home. That is all they talk about. They eat, sleep movies.
"It's movies and movies and movies and nothing else [for them], which is great growing up in that background with that enthusiasm for Indian films. It could be the music or the costumes or a director, or a certain performance, or a place that they visited when shooting a movie, so hearing these anecdotes while growing up really infuses that passion in you .They don't really take themselves too seriously. It's just a part of showbiz.
"As for me, I hope that with the kind of work I'm doing and the kind of directors I'm getting the opportunity to work with, that I can carve my own niche, have my own following and have a little place for myself in Indian cinema."
There are reports that you plan to revive the RK banner. Do you see yourself working behind the camera?
"It's not really about reviving it. Reviving it is like itemising the notion of making movies. You want to have a great story, [a] great script, a reason for making a film, a burning ambition to direct a movie, to produce a film. Once I'm a bit more settled as an actor I'd like to start branching out and making movies too."
After the success of Rockstar you were heralded as the next big star of Indian cinema. How do you feel about such epithets?
"I don't believe in 'the next big thing'. You're either 'the big thing' or you're not. I think it creates more of a challenge to me. It makes me think 'Why am I not already the big thing?' I want to be as big as the Khans. I want to be the big star. I want to have the body of work, I want to have a fan following. I want to have it all."
Barfi! is released on Friday, September 14.