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Interview Hindi

I was sweating profusely, bleeding from my mouth, and crying: Ranveer Singh on shooting Padmaavat

During an interaction with the media, Singh spoke of his Padmaavat journey, how he nearly quit the film mid-way, and why the film cannot be called a Deepika-Ranveer film.

Mayur Lookhar

Ranveer Singh is one of the actors among the new generation treading on the path of stardom. It is rare for antagonist to walk away with most of the credit, but Singh's charisma and powerpacked performance in Sanjay Leela Bhasali's Padmaavat (2018) has resulted in it being hailed as a 'Ranveer Singh film'. The actor’s unhinged portrayal of Alauddin Khilji has won him wide praise from all and sundry. 

Padmaavat endured a torrid resistance from Shri Rajput Karni Sena before being released on 25 January. The threats and the fear meant the makers of Padmaavat could not hold promotional events usually done before a film is released. Despite the protests by fringe groups, people turned up at the theatres in huge numbers to make Padmaavat a success and came out in awe of Singh. 

To share his joy on the success, the actor stepped out late on 1 February to interact with the media.

During the interaction, Singh spoke of his Padmaavat journey; the tough times and how he nearly quit the film mid-way, and why Padmaavat cannot be called a Deepika-Ranveer film.

It’s late in the night, and you are still bustling with energy. Where do you get this energy from?

I don’t know. Guess, I’ve always had this since I was a child. The extra remark column in my report card would have the teacher write, ‘He is bubbly, vivacious, gregarious, a bit hyper and energetic’. Look, I have a great level of enthusiasm. I’m excited about acting in films. As a child, I dreamt of being a Hindi film hero. I think a combination of my natural hyper energy and the genuine enthusiasm, translate into a lot of energy.

This is your third film with (rumoured girlfriend) Deepika Padukone. But you have no scene with her. Did that make it easy or was it difficult?

I didn’t have single day of schedule with Deepika. So, it is almost like we never really met. I think we had one joint meeting before the shoot of the film started and then we met during the screening for the cast and the crew.

Although, I used to visit the set on odd occasions to see some of their scenes. There is lot to learn from sitting and observing.

Also, I had a long waiting period. The unexpected delays meant that I was sitting idle for months at home.

It is a unique experience where we both are starring in the same film, but we don’t have a single scene together. So, it’s like we have not done this film together. And it makes me look forward to our next collaboration.

You seem to be at ease while enacting your scenes. Can you talk about a scene that you found really taxing?

The unexpected delays didn’t give me much time to shoot. We shot continuously for 45 days. In a costume drama, especially a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, every scene is so intense that you need a break after 7-8 days.

You need a couple of days off to recuperate and be fresh for the next scene. We didn’t have that luxury. One day, Khilji is screaming, he’s banished Mehrunisa. Next day, I’m fighting with Shahid Kapoor's Rawal Ratan Singh and thereafter, I’m dancing. 

The climax scene was tough. We shot it in May in the scorching heat at Film City, wearing four-layered leather costume, I thought I was going to melt, I felt like a burning tyre.

The moment I heard 'cut', I’d feel dizzy and start vomiting. I’d pick my self, wash my face and then we would be ready for the next shot. 

It was really exhausting. My body was breaking. On day 37, I called my mother and said, 'I can’t do this any more.'  After giving it so much, it really did start taking toll on me.

Then there were instances where my mind and my spirit were intact, but my body would just not move. When I was shooting the 'Khali Bali' song, my legs were like jelly, I used to come to sets like this (walks like a zombie) . However, once the camera rolled, I didn’t know what happened to me. The beast in me came out.

There was a scene where I just couldn’t do it. I went to a corner and cried. My make-up artist, Mahadev dada, came to me and calmed me down. He wiped my tears. He’s much older, he is like a father figure to me. I was sweating profusely, bleeding from my mouth, and crying. I told him, ‘Dada, please remember this moment. This is blood, sweat and tears, all at once.'  I reminded him of that moment during the film's screening for the cast and crew and he gave me a big hug. 

I really enjoyed playing this character. I was free to make lot of bold choices as an antagonist. If you picked Bajirao, he has limitations. Bajirao was a noble, righteous man. There are things he won’t do or say. So, you are not free to make choices. But as an antagonist, the choices are different. In that sense, I enjoyed playing Alauddin Khilji a lot, but that is not to say that the shooting process didn’t take everything out of me.

It’s not easy for a mainstream hero to play such a character. Once it was done and dusted, did you worry about how people would react? 

I had zero expectations. It may sound clichéd but I firmly believe in doing actions, and not expect anything (in return). For me, the process is the prize.

I was relieved once I started receiving positive feedback. No leading man of Hindi cinema has really taken the plunge of being an antagonist to this degree of menace and evil.

It was a huge risk and I didn’t know how it would be received. I was excited to play this character. I wanted to play an antagonist at some point. I didn’t know how people would react. Had this gone wrong, it could have been my undoing. There was huge sense of relief.

The one big thing I learnt about myself from the Padmavaat experience is that I have these extra gears which I earlier I didn’t know about. At one point, I thought I couldn’t go on, but I somehow did.

When a man locks himself in his house for 21 days to prepare for a role, what goes through his mind? What kind of picture does the mind create for you?

Creating the character is my favourite part. It is important that I be isolated. Any interaction with known elements — friends, family — hampers that process.

I did it during Bajirao Mastani (2015) as well. It is a very rewarding process. You are there with just the material and you explore.

There are dozens of things that come up, I can’t explain all the details. I’d be furiously writing on the walls, then I’d be cutting things and pasting them, and sometimes I would paint or just walk around, talking to myself. 

You do a combination of so many things to arrive just at the starting point. The rest of it happens in collaboration with the director on the sets.

You build a base, a foundation for the character, take it to the set, and restyle it with the director. This one character that I have created is now doing all of these things, which tell you more about the character. Then there are layers added on to it. Mr Bhansali and I had most fun doing this character.

Every fine performance like this gives rise to more expectations. Do you feel the burden?

I think it would bog you down if you take the pressure. For me every film is different. Every character is different, every director is unique. 

I prefer not to compare works. What I do know is that I am more evolved with my craft than I was before.

I’m shooting for (Zoya Akhtar's) Gully Boy now. I don’t know how it will end up. I’m as honest in my work for Gully Boy as I was for Padmaavat. 

I’m excited about the work that I’m doing next. I couldn’t wait to start working on Gully Boy. I was excited to meet these rappers and am working with Zoya Akhtar and Alia Bhatt  for the first time.

Then I have Simmba, a Rohit Shetty film, full on masala extravaganza, comedy action and romance. It is something that I was born to do.

The kind of performance you need for a Zoya Akhar film is very internal.  You are drawing the gallery in towards what you are feeling as opposed to reaching out to the gallery. I didn’t know about this kind of performance. I learnt it on the job. I added that to my repertoire. 

But Rohit Shetty is home territory for me. Those are the kind of films that I grew up with. So, to reach out to the gallery is my natural way of being. I agree with people who say that the Ranveer Singh - Rohit Shetty combination will be a dynamite. I’ve worked with him in an ad film. I think it will be a great synergy. I’m just the type of nanga (naked), uninhibited actor that Rohit Shetty needs.

To play Kapil Dev in his biopic would be my greatest challenge. I find myself honoured and privileged to be chosen to tell this story on celluloid.