Interview Hindi

Ranbir Kapoor is portraying Sanjay Dutt, not aping him, says Sanket Bhosale

The mimicry artiste, known for impersonating Dutt the best, helped Kapoor with the challenging title role in the biopic Sanju.

Sanket Bhosale with Ranbir Kapoor

Mayur Lookhar

There are many mimicry artistes, but few are as good as Sanket Bhosale. Be it Sanjay Dutt, Farhan Akhtar, Javed Akhtar or Salman Khan, Bhosale can mimic them perfectly.

The dermatologist-turned-mimicry artiste is a popular name on television and the internet, and is particularly known for his ability to mimic actor Sanjay Dutt's voice and manner.

In 2010, Bhosale began his entertainment career by participating in reality shows. He was one of the finalists in the stand-up comedy reality show Laugh India Laugh in 2012.

Bhosale’s impersonation caught the eye of actor Ranbir Kapoor, who consulted him to prepare for the role of Sanjay Dutt in the biopic Sanju (2018). 

The man is hard to chase. It took a few weeks to get Bhosale to talk to us. His prior commitments did not allow for a rendezvous, so he spoke to on the phone instead.

On screen, Bhosale can bring the house down with his brand of humour. Off it, he is a man of few words. He did not want to reveal much about his sessions with Kapoor and his personal interaction with Dutt. The reticent artiste did not also want to delve much into his personal life or background. There are many artistes who would rather let their work speak for them. Bhosale seems to be one of them. 

Through the half-hour conversation, Bhosale spoke of his admiration for Dutt and his surprised reaction to a call from Ranbir Kapoor. Excerpts:

Dr Sanket Bhosale

Being a dermatologist, I guess you know how to get into the skin of the characters you portray on screen. 

Yeah. I like learning the body language of a person, I like observing a person. Observing and absorbing, that is what I have been doing for a long time. It is my hobby.

Actually, it is no more a hobby. It is into me now. If I talk to a person for 20 minutes, then from the 21st minute, I’ll be talking like him. That is, if I like the person, and after I observe him.

At the moment everyone is talking about how well Ranbir Kapoor has portrayed Sanjay Dutt in Sanju, but I wonder what does Dutt think of the man who impersonates him the best?

If you say that, then I really appreciate it. I love Sanju [Dutt] sir from the bottom of my heart. I have admired him from the time I was a child. Sanjay Dutt calls me his son. He has always encouraged me. There are people who are not comfortable with people mimicking or copying them. Sanju sir is a sport, a rock star. We have met several times, but I first met him a year or two ago at some event. Thereafter, I met him at a party at Shekhar Suman’s house. He is great person, one you can learn from.

From TV to internet, your impersonation, not mimicry, of Dutt has been a class apart. Can you talk about how you mastered this?

I have been impersonating him since I was in class IV. We only had fancy dress competition in our school. So I used to wait for this day. That was my one chance to show my talent. Khal Nayak (1993) had been released then and I wore his Khal Nayak costume. From that day onwards, I have been regularly impersonating him. You only get better at the craft by performing repeatedly. 

It wasn’t just Dutt, but I used to impersonate my friends, teachers, and especially girls. Once girls get amused by a guy, then he doesn’t stop. I wanted to set an example that education is not everything in life. I wanted to prove that a man can balance hard work and fun.

It's one thing learning the craft yourself, but how was it to help Kapoor in his endeavour to play Dutt?

Ranbir Kapoor, as a matter of fact, the Kapoor family, is large-hearted. One fine day I got a call from Ranbir. I thought a friend of mine was playing a prank. After all, you wouldn’t expect Ranbir Kapoor to call you.

Actually, a week before, I had got a call from his manager saying Ranbir Kapoor wants to talk to me. I thought it was a hoax. So, when Ranbir Kapoor called me, I asked is it really Ranbir Kapoor? He said, "Sanket, I’ve been watching your work for a long time. I have been a great fan of yours." He informed me about the biopic on Sanjay Dutt and requested me to meet him for a couple of sessions.

The first time we met was in a hotel in Bandra. We had a long conversation about Sanjay Dutt. It was unbelievable that Ranbir Kapoor was sitting in front of me. We became good friends from the first meeting. Ranbir can make anyone feel comfortable. He asked about the basic things — Sanju’s body language, how he walks, his expressions, attitude. We discussed the different looks that he will be sporting in the film. I told him, "Ranbir, you are very lucky to do this role." 

We then met again a couple of times at Baba Ki Chowki [Bhosale’s TV show on MTV Beats].

I am touched by the humility of the Kapoors. If it was any other actor, he may not have even contacted me. My videos are available on the internet. Some other actor would have merely gone through them and I would have never known about it. I would never forget this gesture from Ranbir Kapoor.

Is Ranbir Kapoor a quick learner?

He is superb, a gem of an artiste. I won’t be able to talk in detail about our meetings, but I can assure you Ranbir is a quick learner. He had seen my act at the Mirchi Awards, where I had also mimicked him. He told me his mother, Neetu Singh, had watched the video and sent it to him. 

I don't know whether you have seen the film. What do you make of Ranbir from the trailer and the promos of Sanju? 

No, I haven’t seen the film. But I am sure this will turn out to be a blockbuster. It is a Rajkumar Hirani film. He only knows one thing — create wonders. I would like to congratulate the entire team.

When mimicry artistes try to impersonate Dutt, they often resort to picking the Munna Bhai tone. But if one has to play Sanjay Dutt in a film, is there a danger that this could come across as mimicry?

You are right. That fear exists. It is important that your act doesn’t look like a caricature. Portraying is different from copying. Ranbir Kapoor is portraying Sanjay Dutt, not copying. He is telling the story of Dutt.

When you tell someone’s story, say for example, the story of Raaj Kumar [actor]. Now, I don’t need to be speaking like him to tell his story. I think Sanju will tell the story of Sanjay Dutt. As a child, your grandmother would tell you stories and you would imagine it while listening. I believe Sanju will come across like that, with the imagination playing out on screen. 

One must not forget how good you are at mimicking Salman Khan. Do the two most controversial men of Hindi cinema bring out the best in you?

Well, if the person you are mimicking is happy with your act, then you are satisfied. I am just lucky that both Sanju sir and Salman sir like what I do. Usually, people would differentiate between mimicry and acting. However, we are all mimicking. You are talking to me on the phone, but as a child you must have seen someone use the phone. So, without observing anyone, you wouldn’t learn.

Arijit Singh blamed Salman Khan for him being replaced by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the 'Jag Ghumeya' song in Sultan (2016). You made a fabulous gig on this issue at the Mirchi Music Awards. Was there ever a fear as to how Salman Khan would react?

No, I had no qualms. I did that one on a lighter note. My act was born out of a single thought — what if these artistes were to sing this song? I had nothing against any of the actors I impersonated. My intention was not to hurt anyone. I don’t know whether Salman Khan has seen it, but I got messages from plenty of people praising it.

While the Khans, Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar are popular with many mimicry artistes, not many impersonate the likes of Farhan Akhtar or Nawazuddin Siddiqui. How tough is that?

For many, Amitabh Bachchan and the Khans are stars, but that is not why I would impersonate someone. For me, if I like someone’s voice, then I find everything about that person special. It is important to tap into these rare/unique voices. Therein lies the challenge. Like I said, I observe and absorb.

Is mimicking a natural talent or is there a method to train the human voice for this skill? 

Well, I haven’t learnt from anyone. It is all about perfection, be it through learning or observing. You have to always improve yourself. Mimicry is considered mimicry only when it is 100% [right]. So, you have to improve yourself each time. 

I guess, the most difficult act would be when you are required to mimic not one but 2-3 artistes together. Like your gig at the Mirchi Music Awards. 

Yes, the difficulty level is more, but it offers you a different level of satisfaction. I had prepared this script the previous evening and next day I performed on stage. Before I step on to the stage every time, I tell myself that I need to put up something different.

Sugandha Mishra and Sanket Bhosale. What makes this pair click that they set the stage on fire?

Well, we have been working together for so many years. We have a similar style of mimicking. It is fun working together.

The man who speaks in various voices, has a good, melodious voice of his own. You are a singer too. Are there any singing aspirations? 

Well, I always wanted to learn singing. But I became a doctor first. One singer had complimented me saying I am good with my notes. I always try to incorporate music into my gigs. Going forward, I would like to explore that passion too.