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Born to Bollywood royalty, Ranbir Kapoor makes new film a family affair

Patricia Reaney
30 September 2013

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor is one of Indian cinema's most bankable young stars, and his latest film, "Besharam," which also stars his parents, is set to become one of the most widely released Bollywood films worldwide.

Kapoor, a member of India's "first family of film" and the grandson of veteran Bollywood director Raj Kapoor, plays a charming but vulgar car thief in the Hindi-language action comedy that opens on Wednesday in 4,700 cinemas internationally, including 210 in the United States.

His parents, leading Bollywood stars Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, play police agents in the film, marking the first time the three have been in the same movie in what distributor Reliance Entertainment chief Sanjeev Lamba called a "casting coup."

Bollywood refers to the Hindi-language film industry centered in Bombay, or Mumbai, which is known for mass-appeal productions featuring lavish song and dance numbers.

"Besharam" is a slang term in Hindi for someone who is shameless. Kapoor, whose 2013 coming-of-age film "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani" was among the five highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time, said the role was a departure from his previous films as he plays a "vulgar and repulsive" character.

He said he was attracted to "Besharam" by its simplicity.

"It wasn't trying to be too intellectual. It was entertaining. It engaged me and if it engaged me, I thought it would engage an audience," Kapoor said in an interview during a visit to New York.

Kapoor, 31, is the winner of several awards, including two Filmfare Best Actor Awards, the Indian film industry equivalent to the Oscars, for his role as a troubled musician in 2011's "Rockstar" and as a blind, deaf man in 2012's "Barfi!"

Acting with his famous parents for the first time in "Besharam" came easy for Kapoor, who said he never felt any pressure growing up to carry on in the family business.

"It was lovely ... to see how they are on set because I had never seen them on set before. That was the good part. I got inspired by my father working with him," he said.

ACTING ROYALTY

Kapoor's family has been a part of Bollywood, which is celebrating its centenary, for more than 80 years beginning when his great-grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor started in silent films.

After studying filmmaking in New York, acting offers in India started coming in for Kapoor. Despite his huge success, the heartthrob is not completely comfortable with his superstar status in India and said he is trying to protect his private life from becoming a reality show.

"The paparazzi have just entered the Indian film industry. I am not married yet so there is a lot of the spotlight on me because the other actors are married," he explained. "So I am the scapegoat now for the media. I take it with a pinch of salt. It comes with the territory."

Although directing is a long-term ambition, Kapoor said for now he is content to stick to acting. He has two films set to open in 2014: "Bombay Velvet," a crime drama set in the 1950s and 1960s, and "Jagga Jasoos," a children's detective film that he is producing.

He also has no plans yet to make an English-language film.

"I think I would rather make a film about my people, my land, my language because I connect with it more. But never say never," he said.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey, Piya Sinha-Roy and Cynthia Osterman)

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