DUBAI // Fans of Ranbir Kapoor who flocked to Madinat Jumeirah last night to catch a glimpse of the Bollywood star on the red carpet were undeterred that he plays an unglamorous starring role in his latest film, Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year. "I got goose bumps when I saw him," said Sanah Bali, 16, who lives in Dubai.
"He looks just the same in real life as he does on the screen," said Anuradha Desai, 16. "With just so few films he has become so famous. People are dying to meet him." This is Kapoor's fifth movie. While some fans hovered around the entrance to the second-night gala at the Dubai International Film Festival, others tried to catch a glimpse of him near Al Qasr castle, from where they believed he would take a ferry to arrive at the film's arena.
"I am just going to scream my lungs out when I see him," said Reema Arif, 16. "I've only seen him on TV and the screen before. I hear he is a really sweet, down-to-earth guy." She was one of the first in line for standby tickets. The movie was sold out. Kapoor arrived wearing an Avinash Punjabi black suit with a slim, black tie and a dark blue silk kerchief. He said it would be the first time he had been to see the film with an audience, at a red-carpet premiere.
"I can't describe the feeling," he said. "My hands are shaking but it is a good feeling." At a press conference earlier in the day Kapoor talked about the film, in which a young Indian graduate tries to make it in life despite having less than stellar grades in college. The character Harpreet Singh Bedi, nicknamed Rocket Singh and played by Kapoor, is determined to succeed as a salesman in Mumbai.
"This is about a youth who is consumed by his desire for a better future," Kapoor said. "This is a story about his workplace, family and friends." Kapoor, 27, is the son of the veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. He comes from what is popularly known as the "first film family in India". His great grandfather, Prithviraj Kapoor, started his career as an actor in silent Indian films in the 1930s. His grandfather Raj Kapoor was a noted actor and filmmaker, and Ranbir Kapoor's uncles and cousins continue to perform in Bollywood movies.
Kapoor started in the industry as the assistant director to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who directed Black. But his debut in Bollywood with Sawariya (Beloved) in 2007 was a commercial and critical failure. Since then, his last two films, Wake Up Sid, and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (The Wonderful Story of Amazing Love), both released earlier this year, have been commercial hits. Asked if he felt the pressure to deliver another blockbuster in time for the forthcoming holiday season, Kapoor said: "I don't believe in attempting a genre one at a time. In this, I am not an actor playing a character, but I want you to see this as a character that you are following."
The writer and director, Jaideep Sahni and Shimit Amin, are known in Bollywood for working on projects that break new ground in storytelling. After successfully working on Chak De India! - a film that took an honest and controversial look at the state of women's hockey in the country - they were under pressure to deliver something similar. Instead, Sahni said, he liked writing about things that affect ordinary Indians, or "things that happen around me".
So he wrote the script built on research he conducted on the streets of Mumbai, by hanging around places where young professionals would gather to eat and talk shop. He picked up some of the film's dialogue through eavesdropping by the dosa carts, push trolleys that sell savoury Indian pancakes stuffed with curried potatoes. "This generation, they are hungrier and sharper," he said. "They are raring to break free and float to the top and these new professions that have opened, such as sales, as their backdoor entry to a shining India."
For the sake of authenticity, Kapoor took five weeks to grow his beard, and spent an additional four months working on the film. In that time, he did not work on any other projects. Although Indian actors usually juggle multiple projects at the same time, he devoted himself to Rocket Singh. "It was not a big deal," he said. "I attended group reading sessions and it was an organic process. Growing out that beard, it gave me time to hang out with friends and family."
Rocket Singh opens nationwide today. @Email:email@example.com