Interview Hindi

Ranveer Singh says he would have been jealous if Gully Boy had gone to another actor


Ranveer Singh, who only recently saw the teaser of Gully Boy, is excited about the Zoya Akhtar film, praises wife Deepika Padukone for curating a dream wedding, and explains why he can't stop talking like Simmba.

Mayur Lookhar

Eight hours is a long, long time to wait to meet anyone, even Ranveer Singh. No fault of the actor though, who had been honouring his media commitments for Simmba through the second half of the day.

Most of the waiting journalists were tired and some were even about to drop off, but the lure of Ranveer Singh kept them going. As one commented, Ranveer Singh would come dancing to the 'Aankh Marey' track and everyone would be wide awake.

When the man eventually arrived, there was music indeed as one member of his entourage held a music player briefly playing a track from Simmba. Ranveer Singh was wearing a dark brown jacket and had the mandatory shades on though it was close to midnight.

The actor was in great spirits, but even for the bumble bee that he is, he looked tired. The hyperactive Ranveer Singh was missing, but over the next 30 minutes, we witnessed a more measured Ranveer Singh as he answered a few questions, giving long, explanatory answers.

So, here are excerpts from the interaction where Ranveer Singh spoke about Simmba, Gully Boy, bride Deepika Padukone, the Ram Lakhan (1989) remake, and more.

Is Simmba the most important film for you?

It is my biggest film so far. It is a film that is mounted on me as a solo hero. This time it is me as Rohit Shetty‘s leading man. That’s a big deal for me.

Simmba was offered to me after Bajirao Mastani (2015). I always wanted to do masala films, but I didn’t want to do a masala film if it wasn’t by Rohit Shetty.

To me there is nobody else who gets it right. I really wanted to do this genre with him. To me it seems one really has to earn one's stripes, you have to earn a certain amount of equity which qualifies you to be a leading man of a masala film.

You were offered the Ram Lakhan remake, but that project hasn't taken off.

No, I wasn’t offered Ram Lakhan. Actually I was. I was ready to play Lakhan, but I don’t know what happened. It was a long time ago. My memory is failing me. It was the film that Karan [Johar] sir and Rohit sir were supposed to make together. Here we are, cut to 2018, it is finally happening [but with Simmba]. It’s a film backed by two very big brands. Karan Johar and Rohit Shetty coming together makes it a massive project.

The expectations from Simmba are really high. Can the film live up to them?

I think our ambition for the film is higher than what the expectations are. We were well aware of them but never took anything for granted. We wanted to exceed the expectations which are already so high.

The entire team has done its best. We feel like we have got something which will go beyond everyone’s expectations. It is more than I had imagined. What we are hoping for is that when the audience sees the film, they will realize there is a new benchmark for masala films. While there are all the flavours that you associate with a masala film, at its core is a substantial narrative pivot which binds the entire story together.

I cannot decide whether my performance is award worthy, whether it is amongst my best work. If you see from a performer’s point of view, you have done all the genres in one film. You have done action, romance, comedy, the drama is intense. Not many will be able to understand how painstaking it is to make a masala film. Not even enough credit is given to the makers of the genre.

You won the Best Actor award at the Star Screen awards for Padmaavat. Deepika Padukone got emotional listening to your speech.

Yesterday was a magical moment for me. I think I have been nominated before but did not win. When I go for these award functions, I’m very superstitious.  I don’t prepare what I am going to say because that’s the form of my own expectation management. I don’t want to not win and be bumped. I don’t want to jinx it also. So, I just show up, the award is called out and you go up to the stage and find you are at a loss what to say.

Once you are there with the mic and it is your moment and everybody is watching, there is no time to think, filter and speak. So, whatever is coming is being spoken.

So, I have always had this dream that one day I’ll be sitting, with Deepika next to me, and I’ll be married to her, and they will call my name as Best Actor and I will turn around and give her a kiss. Then I will go on stage and receive the award.

So it was pretty magical when I was on stage and saying whatever was coming to me. It is only later that I realized what I had said, and how true it actually is.

I have been in show business for eight years now and for six of those years I have been dating Deepika. She is a large part of my growth. Whatever I have achieved is largely through her. She kept me grounded, centred, and she was, you know, my support through it all. Especially through [the Alauddin] Khilji [character in Padmaavat], for that was a very difficult year for me, a difficult character, one that I was struggling through. It was difficult for her, and for me, for us as individuals. So that year was particularly testing. So for her to witness that and this [getting the award] was pretty emotional.

Alauddin Khilji and then Simmba, they are two mean characters. How has it been shooting for them in a short space of time?

I shot for Gully Boy (2019) after Padmaavat. I really had to apply myself to make the transition from Gully Boy to Simmba. Here is this really quiet, introverted character who has all this happening around him and he is just reacting. Then there is Simmba who is doing everything. In Simmba, he is driving everything. In Gully Boy he is just ‘being’. After Padmaavat, I had enough time to do Gully Boy. The switch between Gully Boy and Simmba was quick. To switch these modes of performance was tricky.

Have you seen the original Telugu film Temper (2015) on which Simmba is based?

I have not seen Temper. I was given a Hindi draft. I knew that broad plot points are being borrowed from Temper. It was unlikely to be pitched as the original film. So, I didn’t see any merit in watching Temper.

Gully Boy has been chosen for the Berlin International Film Festival. How special is that for you?

Leaked images from the sets of Gully Boy

The thing with Gully Boy is I didn’t know what the film looked like. I had not seen too many frames. We finished shooting, then she [director Zoya Akhtar] went to New York, where she edited the film. It was only yesterday that she asked me to dub a line for the teaser, I went to the studio and for the first time I saw Gully Boy and I was like (stunned expression)! I swear to you, if there was any other actor in the teaser, and it wasn’t me, I would have been burnt to a crisp. I’d be so jealous. It [Gully Boy] is Mumbai, it’s hip-hop, it's me (punches fist to chest).

Professional success, personal glory, 2018 has been a special year, hasn't it?

It is a special time. This year has been amazing.

It started with Padmaavat, this creatively enriching experience. Then came Gully Boy, a first time with Alia Bhatt, who is such a special actor, a second [film] with Zoya Akhtar, and then there is this movie about hip-hop, about the hip-hop scene born out of Mumbai, it is my wet dream. I also had a sad phase when I lost my maternal grandmother, but my family bonded at that time. If there is any silver lining to that, then it is how my family bonded.

After that I was doing Simmba. The highlight of the year is my marriage. My wife curated such a beautiful wedding that I keep telling her I didn’t have the vision for it, even if I had to dream it, I couldn’t dream this up. All credit to her for the degree of meticulousness with which she curated each and every thing. It’s a fairy tale. They will remain beautiful memories that will remain in our hearts forever. 

I see Gully Boy going to Berlin, a teaser which excites me and then at night I win an award. It's magic. Creatively, I am excited as in January I go to play Kapil Dev [in Kabir Khan’s '83], then I have Takht with Karan Johar. The coming year is also something to really look forward to.

In the past, a cop drama featured a righteous, incorruptible cop coming from a humble background. But today the portrayal of a cop is someone like Simmba who says he is unabashedly corrupt, no Robin Hood. What do you make of this transition?

I think it has been around for a while. My first memory of a lovable role, archetype, in the mould of a police officer was Amitabh Bachchan’s Shahenshah (1988). When he is not Shahenshah, he is this lovable rogue cop. I remember Lakhan [Anil Kapoor’s character from Ram Lakhan (1989)], and then there is Chulbul Pandey [Salman Khan's character in the Dabangg franchise], even Singham (2011).

All of them had similarities and dissimilarities, but a fundamental tapping of playing a cop in mainstream Hindi cinema is that you have as predecessors some cult characters. So the onus comes on the actor playing the part, and the responsibility of course, partly on the filmmakers and writer, that you try your level best to create a distinctively different character. If it feels like something we have done before, then we fail, and the endeavour is to create so many distinctions that the character can have its own identity.

We worked extremely hard to ensure that Simmba will be Simmba. Hopefully, the audience will recognize that. The verdict will be out over the weekend, then we will get to know whether we have succeeded or failed, but the intent is to certainly make the character distinctively different from any other cop character you have seen before.

Coming to Ram Lakhan, it was rumoured that the film did not take off as two big stars could not work together. Is it really that difficult to get two big stars together?

I am not a producer, I can’t comment. I was keen to play Lakhan. I have also done a two-hero film in Gunday (2014). I have also done an ensemble film in Dil Dhadakne Do (2015). You have '83 and Takht, both ensemble films.

So, I’m not one to shy away from multi-starrers or two-hero films. My track record shows that. I have no insecurity that stops me from taking on these films and stories. I have no greed that prompts me to have everything. I’m only too happy to collaborate with other artistes for there to be a give and take that creates some sort of cinematic magic. To me the story is greater than any individual entity. 

I don’t want to judge, but if you asked me for my opinion, it would be foolish to pass on a great opportunity. If you have a great story and you are secure as an actor, there is no reason one shouldn’t do it. We are entering a phase where things are really going to change. If you have seen the recent track record, if your content is strong, then you are going to be welcomed with open arms. People will applaud you. If it is not, then it doesn’t matter how big the film is or who is in it, it is just going to be rejected.

What did you take away from Simmba? You seem to relate to the Marathi tone of the character.

I couldn’t stop talking like Simmba! It is a very distinctive way of speaking. Not very Marathi but definitely street Hindi with a very heavy Marathi tilt is how I would describe it.

In my downtime, I would be chilling with buddies, watching football, playing video games. My friends would complain. Who are you? Can you please stop talking like Simmba? Your shooting is over.

That manner of speaking is very addictive. Once you start speaking like that it becomes... (pauses) it is so hard to snap out of it.