Ranbir Kapoor is one of the most interesting actors in Bollywood, if not the most bankable. With a famous last name that comes with a rich Bollywood legacy and a penchant to defy expectations that came with said famous last name, the actor has found a unique voice for himself. Since his debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya in 2007, a pretty middling start in the film industry, he went on to curate a filmography full of inspired choices. Between playing a romantic hero, a man-child and a politician, he has had a fair share of memorable onscreen moments. Over the past few years, he has made consistent strides in exploring the potential that was promised since his first film.
On his birthday, we take a look at some of Ranbir Kapoor’s best performances till date:
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri
Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar arguably features Ranbir Kapoor’s best work. It can be said that the actor’s performance and the film’s music lent by AR Rahman made the film. The tale of heartbreak and artistic pursuit is elevated by Ranbir’s unhinged act. He plays Janardhan Jhakar or Jordan – an ambitious musician from Delhi who suffers a heartbreak that ultimately fuels his art. As Jordan, he channels grief, inspiration and genius simultaneously. And the result is a crackling onscreen presence that is impossible to look away from. When the film was released in 2011, it pretty much cemented Ranbir as a force to be reckoned with, a star who can make or break a movie.
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone
Tamasha sparked a flurry of discussion and at the centre of most of it was Ranbir Kapoor’s Ved. The film unfolds a boy meets girl story – Ved (Kapoor) and Tara (Deepika Padukone) cross paths in Corsica. The two decide to hang out without disclosing their identities to each other. Ved is a well-written character that cannot be put into a box – he is a man trying to escape from the monotony of daily life while also staying practical about his reality. Ranbir Kapoor fleshes out the identity crisis beautifully and makes an endlessly watchable spectacle of it. It’s an unmissable RK performance from a successful phase in his career.
Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’Cruz
Anurag Basu’s Barfi! saw Ranbir Kapoor play an endearing character that’s instantly likeable. Murphy Johnson or Barfi is a young deaf and mute man who is popular in his small town as a mischief-maker. When he meets Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz) he falls in love but his disability prevents them from marrying. Meanwhile, he develops a bond with his childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra). It’s a challenging role as is but the film also sees Ranbir Kapoor play a friend, a lover and a goofball all at once. The role allowed him to flex his comedic muscles while playing a romantic hero – a fine blend of his best abilities as an actor. And the reception of the film was proof of his success.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009)
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is one of the Ranbir Kapoor comedies that skyrocketed to success. The Rajkumar Santoshi directorial saw the actor co-star with Katrina Kaif in a small-town comedy about a stammering man and a woman. Kapoor plays Prem, a carefree young man who falls in love with a woman and as a selfless act decides to help her get together with the man she loves. The film worked at the box office and much of its success can be tied to the actor’s easy charm as an amusing man playing with classic hero tropes – a winning combination.
Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009)
Director: Shimit Amin
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Gauahar Khan, Shazahn Padamsee
Ranbir Kapoor seemingly played the same type of character in the first few years of his career but if one were to notice the nuances of each role in which he played a young man grappling with work-life balance, Rocket Singh emerges as a rare film. It sees him play Harpreet Singh Bedi, a character that a star kid would probably not pick at the start of their acting career. Bedi is a relatable fresh graduate entering the workforce in the corporate sector. He isn’t the best salesman owing to his subpar performance and he’s largely alienated by his peers. However, he goes up against the system by launching a company of his own. Through his highs and lows, Ranbir plays Bedi as the everyman, fully commits to it and it shows.
Wake Up Sid (2009)
Director: Ayan Mukerji
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Konkana Sen Sharma, Anupam Kher
Sid, Ranbir Kapoor’s character in Ayan Mukerji’s 2009 film Waked Up Sid is a fictional character but his journey is familiar when one considers Ranbir Kapoor’s own life. Sid branches off from his privileged bubble to do some self-exploration. The film tells the story of a college student who is clueless about where his life and career are headed. Ranbir Kapoor effortlessly plays out the coming-of-age arc, giving a great performance. It helps that he stars opposite a wonderful Konkona Sen Sharma with whom he shared easy chemistry. Watching Wake Up Sid in retrospect after Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra is interesting as it’s just as memorable as an RK film in a post-Brahmastra world.
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala, Sonam K Ahuja
In Sanju, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, Ranbir Kapoor attempted a striking on-screen transformation. While the film wasn’t the strongest biographical drama, it was an earnest ode to Sanjay Dutt. Revolving around the Bollywood star’s life, the film pulls back the curtain on his stardom and controversies. For the role, Ranbir put on prosthetics to inhabit the physicality of another real-life actor and yet he never seemed consumed by it. He retained a realistic performance that steered clear of mimicry and that’s no easy feat when you’re playing a man whose image is ingrained in pop culture. Ranbir has no qualms about leaving his comfort zone in favour of experimentation in films and this is one of those films.
Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013)
Director: Ayan Mukerji
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapur
Nothing gives wanderlust like this film featuring a travelling Ranbir Kapoor. The film didn’t have the strongest storyline but it’s easy to see how Kabir “Bunny” Thapar, Kapoor’s character, quickly became the dreamy man one hopes to meet by chance on a trip. Except he dislikes the idea of settling down. Bunny is out exploring the world which brings him on a Himalayan trip with his friends. This is where he bumps into Naina (Deepika Padukone) on a trek. The two develop a connection before going their separate ways to explore their careers till they are united again. Ranbir is convincing as Bunny and lends the character a growing-up arc that feels real. The film resonated with millennials and remains re-watchable to date and a lot of the credit goes to the actor.
It can be said that his latest film Brahmastra made an attempt to capitalise on his strengths – the film came as a passion project that saw him play a fun character who is thrown into extraordinary circumstances. The film also paired him with his actress-wife Alia Bhatt and while it drew divided reactions from audiences, it came as yet another experiment from the actor who is unafraid of exploring his ambition as an actor.
Here’s wishing Ranbir Kapoor a very happy birthday.