On and off-screen, Ranveer Singh is an entertainer extraordinaire. Like the old-time heroes, he is himself larger-than-life, stardom written in every cell, so to speak, of his body. The variety he has done in just eight years — Band Baaja Baaraat, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Lootera, Gunday, Kill/Dil, Dil Dhadakne Do, Befikre, his hilarious cameo in Finding Fanny and the trilogy of Sanjay Leela Bhansali epics Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat — show his complete and starry versatility.
An unabashed fan of classic mainstream masala Hindi films on which he also grew up, Ranveer is ecstatic that he is for the first time been cast in Simmba! A just-married Ranveer, already in hyper mode, tells you, “Yes, this is my most important film so far, because it is for the first time that I am starring solo, ‘In and As’. The film is mounted on me, and being Rohit Shetty’s leading man is a big deal. He’s the king of masala films, and besides him, no one gets this genre right today.”
He goes on, “I was signed by him just after Bajirao Mastani for a film which did not work out. But that shows that you have to earn your stripes and equity and that alone qualifies you to be his leading man. We did a Ching’s ad, and I remember I was dubbing for it at Yash Raj Studios when Rohit came and told me, ‘Bro, I have got something for you. I think you will be good for it,’ and I just replied, ‘I am on! I am ON!’
The film that did not work out was a remake of Ram Lakhan, right? He replies, “I was never offered Ram Lakhan.”
After a pause, he goes on, “Actually I was! I actually don’t know what happened. All I know was that two big brands, Rohit Shetty and Karan Johar, were to collaborate on it. And they are now collaborating on Simmba.” Ranveer makes it a point to stress that the entire team is well aware of the massive expectations from such a combination. “We never took things for granted, we wanted to exceed even those expectations,” he reveals.
“Quite objectively, we feel we have gone beyond, which is what Karan told Rohit. Rohit is a very unique man. Every filmmaker here is a professional who changes his team with every film, but his unique team has been with him for 10 to 12 years through the Golmaal and Singham series. And all of them feel it is his best work! We want to set a new benchmark in the masala genre, that too with a powerful core story told in the celebrated Rohit Shetty language. We want people to whistle, clap and dance in the aisles! Just like I have done in my time!”
A lucky year...
The year has been lucky, he agrees. It began with Padmaavat, he shot for what he says is one of his sweetest films, Gully Boy, moved to working on Simmba, got married to Deepika Padukone, watched Gully Boy’s substantial part for the first time, and finally, on the night previous to our meet, won an award for Best Actor in Padmaavat. He adds, “The trailer launch of Simmba and our song Aankh marey—they both went through the roof as well.”
“The only sore spot was that my maternal grandmother passed away mid-year, but the family bonded tightly and supported me,” he says. “That was the silver lining.”
Ranveer is all praise for his wife, who he has been dating “for six of the eight years I have been around in films.” Raving about her, he says, “A large part of my growth and evolution, a large part of what I am today is all thanks to Deepika, and she is responsible for my achievements as she kept me grounded and centred. Khilji was a very difficult character and she helped me cope with him throughout 2017.”
The devoted husband continues, “I can never forget how beautifully, how perfectly, she curated our wedding. I would never have had the vision to even dream of such a wedding!” he goes on, soberly, and that for someone like Ranveer’s temperament, is akin to being dead serious! “I had dreamt many times of exactly what happened yesterday,” he says. “My dream was that I am sitting with Deepika as my wife at an awards function at which I am nominated. It is announced that I have won, I turn and kiss my wife, and I move to the stage, and when the whole world is listening and I have to assemble and filter what to speak, I just say something! Later, I find it was exactly what I had felt! It was so magical!”
Was the transition from one package of evil in Khilji to the corrupt cop Simmba very difficult? “To be honest, after Padmaavat, and that too after a gap, I shot for Gully Boy, not this film. In that film, I am this quiet, introverted boy who is just being and reacting, unlike in Simmba I am the one doing everything. After I watched Gully Boy recently, I realised that I would have been burnt to a crisp if anyone else had been in my place — it is that good a film! But the tricky part was to shift almost instantly from that movie to Simmba!”
Versatility is key
He is upbeat as always when he enthuses, “Simmba, followed by Gully Boy, followed by 1983 in which I am Kapil Dev followed by Karan Johar’s ensemble-cast historical Takht — nothing could be better to show my versatility, and 2019, I hope, will be as good for me as this year!” But Ranveer would “definitely want to take my character in Simmba forward to Simmba parts two-three-four-five and six!”
“Masala films are not easy to make, and not easy for actors, which are wrong notions many people have,” he tells you. “And they will never be over. People will always want well-made films that are big-ticket, big screen experiences, which is what I am focusing on. The size of the screens are shrinking, and we must realise that for a family to come together and do everything it takes to watch a film, they must get their value for money, and know that such experiences can never happen on television, laptop or mobile phone.”
Where does he see Hindi cinema going in the next few years? “2018 has shown that good content will be accepted with open arms. Ultimately, only great stories work, whether they have stars or not. Many actors will go for the story, even if it means sharing space with other actors of their gender. The power has shifted to the audience, and I see two-hero and multi-star films, as in the past, come back now, that is, in 2019!”
Clearly, Ranveer seems keen to do multi-hero setups. “I think everyone will be willing, because today we have to choose good content, and I have no insecurities, as Gunday, Dil Dhadakne Do, 1983 and Takht show.”