“There is no end to what I hope to achieve. What I want to do is, break barriers”
By Ankita R Kanabar
(This interview has been published in the July 6, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)
(First two pictures, photo credit : Rohan Shreshtha)
It was a Friday. The afternoon was making way for the evening. I was hoping it would turn out to be a good evening as I waited for Ranveer Singh at Yash Raj Films. He didn’t see a release for quite some time, after ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, but I don’t think that the adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’, is true in his case. Or perhaps, he hasn’t been out of sight, because he’s always in news for the films he’s working on, and his link-ups. But, I wanted to know the man behind the tags like brash, flamboyant, and casanova; which I did, eventually. He enters the room, sporting a simple jeans and a dark blue ‘ganji’. More than his chiseled body, what’s more appealing is the charm that he exudes, and that’s probably what comes naturally to him. He’s emotional, warm, affectionate, and that reflects in his behaviour. Despite the severe back injury that he’s been through, he is fitter than ever. Moving away from his so-called loud and high-energy characters, he’s now back with ‘Lootera’. In a freewheeling chat, Ranveer talks about the film, his learning experiences, his craft and several other things concerning him. He also sheds his image, to give me a sneak peek into the person that he is:
With ‘Lootera’ you’re moving away from what seems to be your forte. Is it a complete departure?
It is clutter-breaking, for sure. I was very curious to see what it all comes together as. Like you said, it’s a departure from what I’ve done also, and it’s a departure from what I’d expect myself to do also. For some reason, I have a public image which I’ve not consciously gone and built. There are these tags, put on me like boisterous, high-energy and loud. I’m not always high-energy. I can be dark and deep also. When I picked up ‘Lootera’, I thought, I have the opportunity to display a different facet of my acting ability, but I just don’t know how it would plan up. I was doing workshops, and I just wasn’t getting it. One day, two day, three day, then on the fourth day, I got frustrated and asked Vikramaditya that why did you cast me for this? I was not in that zone at all. He did everything that he could, to make me feel confident about performing that character. I’ve been quite worried whether it will be accepted, because it’s not like I have any thunderous power-packed dialogues, or dance or anything. It’s just a very felt performance. I don’t even have hand gestures. It’s a very different type of performance for me also, and generally too, you don’t see these kind of performances, or films like these being made. I hope it works. I’ve taken a big risk with ‘Lootera’, I’ve put myself out there. I’m not playing to my strengths.
You’ve always come across as someone who’s very confident, right from your first film…
Confident I’ve always been, even when physically I was not so attractive, I was an overweight person yet I’ve always been confident and I don’t know where it comes from. I’ve been like that ever since I was a kid. But, I guess, confidence comes from validation, and validation may be in the form of success or anything. Success is the biggest validation. So, success gives you a little bit more confidence, failure on the other hand, does the exact opposite, but I try my best to adopt the middle path. You shouldn’t get carried away with praise, or not get too bogged down with criticism and you’ll be fine, you’ll sail through.
You could have got typecast post ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, but then you do something like ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, and now ‘Lootera’. I see what you’re doing!
(Laughs) When ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’ was conceived, I was told that I have this boy next door image going on, I’m not necessarily desirable to women, but that film was sort of designed to change that image. Acting wise, there was not much to do in ‘Ladies…’, there were like two scenes where I had to actually act. But yes, it was designed to position me as a sex symbol, and make me desirable to women, and it worked big time in that sense. I know that it’s not considered as big as ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, but it did what it had to. Every film can’t be like that. I only see the positive outcome of it. You know, the turning point came at Star Screen Awards which was the first award of the season, post ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, I was hosting it with Anushka, and I was speaking in English, and people were shocked! I had to do something different. That’s what’s exciting even for the audience, to see an actor do different things. For me, that’s what excites me as well. If I see an actor, doing the same kind of acting in every film, it doesn’t excite me. For me, the zenith and the paragon of acting is somebody like Daniel Day Lewis, he lives his character for a year, year and a half, he gets so deep into it. You know, you try and do something like that in your own way. You don’t go to those extremes but in your own way, you try that.
My learning curve came when I was in the university, then when I started work, I began learning a lot, about relationships, about professional dealings, inter-personal dealings, about the big bad world out there. If you ask me as an actor, then I’ve changed a lot since ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, like now I don’t know how I managed to do ‘Band Baaja..’. For me that’s wrong as an actor. I was very much within myself. I think, fortunately for us, it was a very well-written film, so the chemistry between the two characters, was there on paper. I was too within myself. I wasn’t giving myself to the actor, and Anushka would keep telling me that you don’t give yourself to your co-star. I used to not connect. So, if I’m doing my dialogues right now, I’m talking at you, I’m not talking to you. There’s a difference. I never used to look into the other person’s eyes and connect but now I fully connect. Now I’m almost the complete opposite. My directors used to keep telling me that you prepare too much, so I picked up on that note, and now I don’t prepare at all. I know my dialogues and that’s all I know. I just feel that moment. The spontaneity factor in me has gone up and how! I feel like a complete different actor than I was in ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’.
As humans, all of us have our tough phases. Tell me about your tough phases.
I’ve had a lot of lean phases for a long period of time. I think the struggle before I got my break was tough. The three and a half years, where I was trying to get something that really for all practical purposes, should not be within my reach, given the fact that I don’t hail from a family with filmy lineage so, it was for all practical purposes a far-fetched thing for me to think that I would be launched by Yash Raj Films, a banner who had never launched a solo hero before. The break that I got was actually unthinkable. So, that period of 3-3 1/2 , where things seemed bleak, and I was just trying to knock on a door, that was not opening, that was a bit tough, and then, the period that I got injured, that was a very tough period. It was a very serious injury. As a mainstream Hindi film actor, you’re required to do so many things with your body, you’ve to dance, fight, but it was very traumatic, when you’re laid up in bed and you can’t move. It would take me fifteen minutes to go to the bathroom, and I was just lying in bed with nothing to do. I was like, ‘I’ve just started my career, what have I landed myself into?’ My doctor told me there’s hope, if you’re serious about your rehab, you can get fitter than before, it’s not the end of the road. After three and a half months of doing six hours rehab a day, I came back from that injury stronger than ever before. They said ‘you’ve made 120% percent recovery’. There were no two ways about it, I had to get back on my feet. That was a tough phase and even after that. I’ve been living with no release, no installment in my body of work for 19 months, at a very nascent stage when I should be having two releases a year. Here am I with such a long a gap.
But now hopefully, good times are here for you with back-to-back films!
After a dark phase, here comes some light. It’s going to be a mad year. It’s the long break, which brings me to the line-up. So, there’s ‘Lootera’ now, ‘Ramleela’ in November, ‘Gunday’ in February 2014, and sometime in the next year, there’ll be ‘Kill Dill’. I hope now it’s only up and up for me, I’m done with the downs. It’s a very exciting line-up, and there’s so much variation in all these films. There’s ‘Ram Leela’ right after ‘Lootera’ where the energy of the character, the soul, pace of the film, the demographics, look of the character is completely different, and then there’s ‘Gunday’, it is mainstream masala, high-speed ‘herogiri’ type of a film. Shaad Ali, who’s like a brother to me, is going to start ‘Kill Dill’ somewhere by the end of this year. For me ‘Kill Dill’ is more than a film to me, it’s extra special, because Shaad is directing it, after seven and a half years, and I’ve known Shaad since I was 16 years old, and he is actually like my big brother/friend/mentor. When I dreamt of being an actor, I always dreamt that someday I’ll be in a film directed by Shaad, and then I was his assistant director for a year and a half, he gave me my first break, in the media business after I graduated.
Being a star brings along other things which you may not necessarily like, for instance, rumours. It may also deter you from being grounded. How do you deal with all of that?
I’ve realised and I’ve realised very recently, the company you keep is very important, which includes, the people who surround you, the people you work with, your friends, your family, the people you look up to. I keep telling them that if you see me stepping out of line, you just come and give me a whack, and tell me to get back on track, and they do that very organically. My dad does it all the time, my friends do it, I’m the butt of all their jokes, and people like Aditya Chopra, Shaad Ali, also keep me grounded. You should always surround yourself with people who’ll remind you that all this is fleeting. Coming to the negative side of it, whenever stories come out which are fabricated, or blown out of proportion, your words are spun around or portrayed in a negative light, whenever it happens, because it concerns you, and someone is consuming it, it affects you, and that’s when you have people like your co-actors, your well-wishers, your directors, who tell me that it doesn’t matter, just look at the larger picture, and all that matters is the work you do. It still affects, because it’s coming from somewhere or the other. It used to affect me a lot, now it’s progressively less. First, for days I used to be upset about it, then for a day, then for an hour, now I don’t even read. I’ve reached my limit of patience, I’m done with that. I’m worried about my films, my health, my life. I hope the tabloids will relent; they’re really mean to me.
And what lies beneath all these images?
And what lies beneath all these images?
You name something and I’m that, because even I don’t know who I am or what I am like. I’m confident, and at the same time, over-sensitive. I think it’s a cancerian trait, we’re very emotional, sensitive, we get affected. We’re die-hard romantics. We love with all our heart, we don’t know any other way, we don’t know these grey areas. I don’t understand grey. For me, it’s always black or white. I find it very difficult to wrap myself around a grey relationship. When I’m in love, it’s complete, it’s just all out. I’m like the cancerian crab, hard on the outside, and complete mush on the inside.
Despite where you are today, what is it that remains unachieved?There is no end to what I hope to achieve. What I want to do is, break barriers. I don’t want to be restricted. I want to do a wide variety of films. If you talk about critical acclaim, I don’t want to be loved by the Indian critics, or be my film to be one of those critically acclaimed films of the year. I want my films to make it on a global map, or win an Oscar, why shouldn’t it? Why should we be bound by only what we know? Because, there’s so much more one can do. These numbers, like 200-300 crores, why are we only doing that much? Rajkumar Hirani’s films, they’re full-on entertainment packages, yet they’re saying something and not even being preachy. Those are the type of films that one hopes to be a part of. There are so many things that I wish to achieve. I want to somewhere write an original film. When I didn’t think there was any chance of me becoming an actor, that time I thought what else am I good at, and it was creative writing. Other than acting and performing, one thing I think I can do, is creative writing. I still have a lot to explore as a writer but I’m so caught up with performing right now, I’m very happy with it. Also, I get very scared of my writing, I feel very conscious. I’m not so uninhibited about my works of writing, as I’m with acting. It takes a lot to write, put your thoughts down, because that’s a part of you!