Exclusive | Imtiaz Ali writes about 15 years of Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor: Pure actors, who learnt from each other regardless of their past, present or status

Fifteen years after Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone made their debut, both have evolved as artistes. Ranbir was always supposed to be a good actor. The industry people expected him to be good and he consistently lived up to his promise. Deepika was the reverse.

As an actress, people didn’t think she was good. I remember very well that my choice of her, even as late as Love Aaj Kal, was doubted. She was supposed to be beautiful, pretty but not a good actor. She has changed that over the years. Ranbir had a more difficult journey, because when somebody thinks you are awesome, it is easy to get disappointed at some point of one’s career, but Ranbir has lived up to expectations. And further surprised everyone who thought he was going to be a good actor.

Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in Tamasha. (Photo: Tamasha Official/Twitter)

I saw Ranbir when he was a kid and I was a young man. I was at a restaurant in South Mumbai, where he came with his parents, he had floppily straight hair and was looking very nervous and embarrassed. He later fell down from his chair in the restaurant, further embarrassing himself. He was looking like a typical star kid, wearing formal clothes.

Years later, we met and did Rockstar, followed by Tamasha. Deepika and I were messaging each other and had decided to meet at a coffee shop. I had not seen her before or seen her films. Incidentally, her car was in front of me and when she got off at the Mariott hotel. When she turned around, I thought, ‘This must be the girl’ because she had that look in her eyes.

Before Rockstar, Ranbir and I had spent a lot of time together. We deliberately broke the ice between us, shared our dirty secrets, our vulnerabilities, we confessed to each other all the sh*t we were doing at that point of time. That way, we gained each other’s confidence. I had to watch his back, as he had my back too. If I was the most informed person on set, then he was second most informed person about the film. He is like an assistant director. We united over the fact that we were the flagbearers of the film, tiny details like costume of other characters to the entire spirit of the film.

When Deepika was doing Love Aaj Kal with me, she was very young. But she looked older than she was at that point of time. She also tried to behave as though she is older. And then one day, something happened. I suddenly saw her for the youngster she is and the ice broke. She started to joke around, we chilled out, before that it was a slightly formal relationship. After that, we started sharing secrets, talking about vulnerabilities and I realised she had become so much more open.

Tamasha marked Deepika Padukone’s third collaboration with Imtiaz Ali after Love Aaj Kal and Cocktail, which he had written. (Photo: Tamasha Official/Twitter)

Both of them have one thing in common: They enjoy acting itself. Acting has a lot of side dishes — glamour, relationships, fame but it also has, at the soul of it, just the enjoyment of being in the moment, losing yourself and really feeling it. Deepika and Ranbir–more Ranbir than Deepika perhaps–truly enjoy that. They really enjoy working together.

I think Deepika has over the years learnt it off Ranbir a little bit and there are things Ranbir must have learnt from Deepika. They are very, very pure artistes. What makes them unique is that they love acting so much that they don’t have to put an effort into it. I love them a lot. We might be–or might not be–like each other, but they really are pure actors, which is perhaps the overall connection between them and me.

Imtiaz Ali directing Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in Tamasha. (Photo: Tamasha Official/Twitter)
Imtiaz Ali directing Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone on the sets of Tamasha. (Photo: Tamasha Official/Twitter)

Before Tamasha, all three of us were really keen to work with each other. They were not even bothered about explaining it to the world, they just wanted to work with each other because they love working with each other- regardless of their status, regardless of what the past has been, regardless of what the present is or so on and so forth. They are very committed and pure.

They will do a scene like a scene, not like an extension of their personal life. There were a lot of things which people could have felt, that ‘Oh they have a past’, but on set–or even when the camera was switched off–there was no such thing. For me, it was the easiest that both of them were there in Tamasha.

Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika in a still from Tamasha’s Agar Tum Saath Ho song sequence.

There were many scenes in the film, where I got pushed to a level of articulation of a feeling beyond what I might have done in their absence. The song Agar Tum Saath Ho and the scene preceding that, people love that. I was loving it when I was filming it. I was zoned out, and so was the entire crew. The scene gets into a certain vulnerability that I can’t explain to people if they can’t really know it, empathise with it.

It was only possible because of Ranbir and Deepika. They pushed themselves beyond, deeper and deeper like true artistes. In the film industry, we tend to look at actors as beautiful things, sex symbols, but actually they are artistes– and when that flow happens, certain memorable moments get created. I owe it to them, for many, many scenes in my life.

(As told to Justin Rao)

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