Ranbir Kapoor made his big Bollywood debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya just over 10 years and ever since, the heartthrob has continued to sweep us off our feet with his sometimes charming, hard-hitting and soulful performances.

Whether it is the ambitious Kabir in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the Casanova in Bachna Ae Haseeno or the love-torn Janardhan Jakhar in Rockstar, Ranbir has always expressed and impressed.

Despite hailing from an illustrious film lineage, the actor has paved his own path in the industry and has proved that names are just tags – it is talent that does the talking. Even though there has been a low-phase in his career, RK is seizing every opportunity to rise and shine.

For the first time ever in his career, the Bollywood actor plays the role of a real-life character in Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic Sanju. In an exclusive and candid interview with our entertainment correspondent Anuj Radia, Ranbir Kapoor opens-up on what it took to live life as Sanjay Dutt and much more.

From the Rocky to Munna Bhai guise, you bare an uncanny yet remarkable resemblance with Sanjay Dutt himself.  Can you describe the preparation process to get these looks right and how long it took?

To be honest I just followed Raju Sir’s vision. I had to sit for prosthetics for 5 hours to get the oldest look right. My favourite look was the one where Sanjay Dutt comes out of the jail. It’s a very iconic look, the one in the blue shirt and the beard.

Looks is one thing, but getting the famous Sanjay Dutt walk right is another. How did you manage that process?

Well, we had a good six months of prep and I was quite obsessed with the script and diving into the film. I was quite obsessed with finding the answer to his life on the script and I was very inspired in the parts. So you know I had loads of fun exploring Sanju to the fullest.

You bulked up to get the Sanjay Dutt body, training must have been intense?

Absolutely. My structure is of a very thin person and Sanjay Dutt is famous for his physique and all the years he has built his body. His physique is something that people relate to so it was something I had to get right.

I worked really hard with my trainer, and we used to have 10 meals a day, train for 2 hours, wake up at 3 in the morning, have protein shakes. I had a good 6 months trying to put on 20kg. And we shot the film in reverse.

So, I kept losing weight as the phases kept changing. We started at 60 and we ended the film at 20 when he was lean.

Portraying Sanjay Dutt over the years on the big screen is a mammoth task, but a challenge any actor would relish. Can you describe your feelings about getting into Sanjay’s soul and playing him?

I was always a Sanjay Dutt Fan. It’s a Fan trying to play his icon. The hard part was having the confidence to play this incredible man. Sanjay Sir is a good person but is considered flawed as well – to get to play this part was incredible. I have observed him all my life.

Sanjay Dutt has been your idol and it is believed that you had a picture of him on your cupboard when you were younger. What fan moments do you recall of the actor and what was your very first meeting like with him?

I remember when my father was shooting a film with him. They were shooting in Kashmir for a film called Saibaan, and I saw this man – a really tall man with long hair wearing an earring.

He had a swagger about himself. He had this presence that was quite mesmerising. And all of the years since, because he is a family friend, he has been quite close to me.

I used to work out in his gym, so he would always come and give me tips on bodybuilding. He used to take me driving in his Ferrari car; he used to also spoil me with a lot of gifts. I mean he had given me a Harley Davidson Bike some years back on my birthday.

So I have loads of memories attached to Sanjay Dutt. And finally, you’re portraying his life on screen! It was quite amusing for me, as a fan and as someone who admired him. I only have respect and admiration for him.

Which aspect of his life was the toughest for you to depict?

The most challenging phase was the ‘young Sanju’ because it included his mother’s death. So the first chapter of Sanjay Dutt’s life was very challenging to play.

From Saawariya to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, many of your projects revolve around the theme of self-discovery. How do you undergo a soul-searching process during the making of your movies?

I think it comes a lot from the script, from the director, from your experience.

It’s the culmination of many talents, a lot of minds coming together – so I have never really taken credit for what I have done because it’s quite a combination of a lot of people coming together and making something right.

Ranbir, if you had to live as one of your film characters for a day, which role would that be and why?

Well, I think Sanju. Because of the life he had and, what a man! He is someone who I would really like to be. I know I lived him in a film but I would really like to live his life for one day.

Previously, you expressed an interest to direct a film, if the ‘right story’ came up. What are you looking for in an ideal story and how close are you to finding it?

Well, I am really far from it as I am still searching. But a story just instinctively and organically has to come from you. And when you have it – you know it. But I still don’t have it yet.

If you met the younger version of yourself, what would you do and say?

I’ll say that – life has a great journey set for you ahead in the next 10 years of your life and just do everything to the best of your capabilities, take your job seriously and really be grateful for everything that you have in life.

Finally, you have a busy schedule with projects like Bhramastra and Shamshera lined up. What can we expect from these grand movies?

Wholesome entertaining films! They both have different genres, exciting directors, exciting roles and are a great opportunity to showcase my talent and for me to just be a part of good, commercial, successful films.

With a fantastic line-up of entertaining films, we look forward to seeing more excellent work by Ranbir Kapoor in the near future!