Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ranveer Singh

"It's so evident to me how my life becomes after a poor friday versus a good friday."

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the December 19, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Who would have thought that the fun-loving, boy-next-door Bittoo Sharma would someday be the magestic Peshwa Bajirao? While this journey from Bittoo to Bajirao might seem effortless, it's had its share of blood, sweat and glitches. On-screen, he's proven his versatility with an array of characters, though, ironically, off-screen what remains constant is just one adjective - energetic. That's almost his middle name and well-deserved so. But behind the flamboyant, boisterous, energetic outside, is a sensitive, shy man who speaks with immense 'thairaav' when you're having an in-depth conversation with him. This was one such time. He settles down on the couch by the window enjoying the beach-view in a casual black tshirt-track pants avatar. From his latest Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, to why he is the way he is, here's Ranveer Singh in a heartwarming chat... 

Photo credit: Errikos Andreou
On one hand while Peshwa Bajirao was this agressive warrior, the next minute he was laughing, and at another instance we saw him crying. Was blending in so many emotions in one character without going over-the-top, a big challenge?
I think it's a trade mark of Mr. Bhansali's films. He makes films that are very emotional at their core, whether you see 'Khamoshi', 'Black', 'Devdas', 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', or even 'Ram-leela' - all his films have layered and complex emotions. It's beautiful that just in one film, he allows that you can display so much of your range in an emotive sense. He has got it done from me. The trick is that you don't even know how you're going to play the scene till the camera starts rolling. That's his style. He doesn't pre-decide or fix anything. There is an implicit understanding that he's going to allow the actor to bring in, his own interpretation to the scene. And sometimes he likes that it's done unexpectedly. When you can surprise Mr. Bhansali is when he loves it the most. So, I would give all the credit where its due, and only to him. He really empowers his actors, and I always say that he gives you wings to fly. He trusts us to make solid, creative choices and he lets you be. He allows all the acting choices to be born out of the actor's own instinct, and things that are born out of your own instinct are the most convincing ones. 

In a way, it must have been supremely gratifying?
For me as an actor, this is a role of a lifetime because the junctures at which he's chronicled Peshwa Bajirao's life, allows you so much scope as an actor. Like you mentioned, you find him laughing, crying, he has so many different shades, so many roles to play - son, father, lover, husband, and the widest array of emotions that no character has perhaps offered me thus far. That's why when I got the narration, I was like salvating (laughs). What an incredible part to be given to play.

You not only learnt Gujarati for 'Ram-leela', you mastered the colloquial accent. And then you had another pitch-perfect accent as Peshwa Bajirao. Your transformation from film to film is so drastic, that one doesn't see Ranveer in them. How? 
(smiles) These are are the compliments which really resonate me because that's one of my aims! To me the most alluring actors are the ones who have that versatility. Like Daniel Day Lewis, how much do I love him! You see him in one film and you can't say it's the same guy when you see another film of his. So, I've always tried to be like that. Of course, some work goes into it. Mr. Bhansali wasn't sure if I could do it during 'Ram-leela'. He asked me to go to Gujarat, present whatever I could and then he would tell me if it's working. I went for eight days, and then when we were doing the first reading, I just said two sentences and he liked it. Ultimately it's his choice if he wants me to do something, so for Bajirao I asked him if I should do it and he strongly felt I should. He's like, 'that's such a strong card that only you have as an actor.' For me immediately when the narration started and I was hearing the dialogues, I knew he would have a strong baritone. So I locked myself into a room. In the mornings, I would work out to get that toughness because I knew that Bajirao should have that air about him which hits you even before the guy walks into the room. And then the accent coach would come and we worked till one of us was fried (laughs). I came out after 21 days and was ready to be Bajirao! 

Everyone has been saying that it's a big thing for Sanjay Leela Bhansali to trust you with his dream project. But do you think any other actor would have probably given the kind of commitment or dedication that you gave to this film? 
I perhaps had an advantage over anyone else who was under consideration for casting because Mr. Bhansali knew I would go deep into that rabbit hole and do justice to the character in that sense. That's what the film required. So, I think I had that edge over anyone else who would be considered for the role. He trusted me to do that. Ultimately, he doesn't concern himself with what you do for the character. I did all the research for 'Ram-leela' and he realised that I probably have that level of commitment to play Bajirao. 

Incidentally, just as 'Bajirao Mastani' released, you've also completed five years in the industry. Lots of ups, a few downs, and some injuries later, what's been your learning?
The past one year of being Bajirao has been the biggest learning experience because there's been no other part that I've struggled with, this much. The number of times I failed to get the scene right, has taught me a lot. I know I have shortcomings, limitations, parts of myself that I need to work on. But what I've been happy about is the fact that in the last five years I've gotten to play a wide array of characters. To have, 'Lootera' and 'Ram-leela' in the same year, and then have 'Dil Dhadakne Do' and 'Bajirao Mastani' this year is incredible. I've been blessed with good opportunities that came at the right time. I'm happy that I've had the chances to put my versatility on display which I believe is my strongest point. Yes, the negative side is that I could have done without all the injury. It's always a setback for an actor to be forced out of action because of physical injury. But there have been so many highlights... 

Photo credit: Errikos Andreou
Please continue...
I had a dream start with 'Band Baaja Baaraat', which I believe has achieved cult status now. People don't get tired of watching it on television. That's the kind of film one hopes to be a part of, always. I was unhappy with the way 'Ladies vs Ricky Bahl' had gone and I had a point to prove to myself so I did 'Lootera', which was a risky part for me - inhibited, brooding and vulnerable. At that time it didn't do well commercially, but it proved that I had this range and versatility. It still keeps making me proud because so many people I meet tell me they love it. Then 'Ram-leela', was my biggest breakthrough. There's also 'Gunday' which a certain section of the audience loves. There's a segment of the fanbase which just loves me for 'Gunday'. 'Dil Dhadane Do' also had such a good reaction and now 'Bajirao Mastani' is the icing on the five-year cake journey. For this film, I had to summon everything I knew and learn a lot more. It's been an incredible journey. Of course, there's always scope to do better. There are people who are five years younger and have already won an oscar or what not, so there's scope to achieve more, but I'm not dissatisfied. I'm feel happy and blessed that I got good opportunities. 

And while stardom has also come along, how do you continue being this simple Mumbai boy?
My fundamentals and my foundation was very strong ever since I came in. From a very young age, the reason I wanted to be an actor, is not why most young kids want to get into acting. I wanted to be an actor because I love acting, because I love being a performer, I love saying lines, learning choreography and everything. I love the process. But most people are just lured by the frills - the fame and money. For me, I see through it. I see that it's very transient. It's so evident to me how my life becomes after a poor friday versus a good friday. The phone rings more often, more business comes in, more gigs happen, more people want to be in touch with you. I see through it all, so for me my foundation is really strong in the sense that I know what's really important. What's important is that you do good work and that you're enjoying it.  

So there isn't much that you need to be happy?
Touchwood, my father was a prospering businessman. But many a times, even if he and the family went through a lean phase, financially, he never let that come to me. He didn't let me feel that crunch. So, I've always had that comfort taken care of of. I never have been a really materialistic person. Of course, I like great clothes or cars, who doesn't? But I can do without it also. Now a days, the cell phone has made celebrity life very difficult, so it's actually become quite a pain. But now, I've grown into the kind of person who wants to just focus on my work, family and friends which is now a very small circle. It's gotten smaller and smaller every year. I just have a few relationships which I want to nurture and make them substantial. I can choose to have a very fancy life. But I like to keep it simple. I like to eat dal chawal, watch TV and go to sleep. I don't need much. In fact, if I am wearing something very expensive, I feel weird, it doesn't feel right. I like to think of myself as a fakeer who doesn't need too much to be happy. I have this ability to find happiness and joy through things that aren't materialistic. What's important is to be kind to people, be warm and share a good positive energy.

Your emotional, sensitive, calmer side usually gets eclipsed by this stereotype of being overtly energetic and flamboyant...
It's my fault. I hide that side of me purposely because I'm shy of it. If there's one thing I'm shy of, then it's my emotional intelligence, sensitivity, general intelligence and my eloquence. I don't like to alienate people or intimidate people with that side. I would want to make anyone feel comfortable around me. People or my co-actors don't feel that threat to come and speak to me. They know they can speak to me, or come and give me a hug. I love that relatability. I'm the kind of person who is hyper sensitive, emphathatic, a very deep thinker, all of those things but that side of me, isn't my every day side. I am not like that on a daily basis. I like that I have this ability to go through the catharsis and do it all on-screen. I'm not shy to tap into the intense side of me on-screen, but in real life I am. I'm very shy to let people know that I'm sensitive, emotional and easily attached. Infact, to the point that I not only hide it but I make fun of people who are emotional. So may be the high-energy or flamboyance and all those things are consciously or sub-consiously counters to the way I actually am. 

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