MUMBAI— He’s set to be a corrupt cop, distinctive from the likes of the “Shahenshah,” “Ram Lakhan” or “Dabangg” protagonists. It is Ranveer Singh’s confirmed belief that if “Simmba” reminds us of any other cop, including “Singham” (the film sees Ajay Devgn in a cameo in that role), they will have failed. The onus, he says, is on him, just as it is the team’s responsibility to check that “Simmba” joins the ranks of such cult characters. In Singh’s words, “I would love to take the character forward with “Simmba” 2,3,4 5 and 6!”
On that note, we flag off the interview at the J.W. Marriott, which is delayed by a record seven and a half hours after call time, so much so that the waiting media gets lunch, evening snacks, an unending supply of tea and coffee and even dinner! The man’s been meeting the media since morning that day, but his energy seems unstoppable even at eleven p.m.!
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: You said this is your most important film. Why is that?
A: As a solo lead, it is my first “In and as” film. In today’s times, no one but Rohit Shetty gets a masala film right, and it is a big deal that I am now Rohit’s leading man. For that, one has to earn those stripes and equity, and Rohit signed me after “Bajirao Mastani.” We did a Ching’s ad together and I was dubbing for it at Yash Raj Studios when he walked in and said, “Bro, I have something that will be good for you.” And I just exulted, “I am on! I am ON!” Man, it is also produced by two of the biggest brands—Karan Johar and Rohit!
Q: Weren’t they to produce “Ram Lakhan’s” remake with you?
A: I was never offered “Ram Lakhan,” (Pauses) I was, actually! I don’t know what happened, it was too, too long ago. I was to play Lakhan.
Q: Whichever the film, the expectations are humongous from you three.
A: I know. We are well aware and never took it for granted, because all of wanted to exceed even those high expectations. Today, we do feel we have gone beyond everyone’s expectations, more than I had imagined!
I will tell you something. Rohit, unlike today’s professionals who change teams with every film, has had the same team since “Golmaal,” “Singham” and all the other films—for almost 12 years! And all of them are telling him that this is his best film. Karan has also said that this is Rohit’s most assured work.
We want to set a new benchmark in “Simmba” in the masala genre. The song- dance-action etc. and the paisa-vasool elements are all there, and at the core of it is this substantial narrative, the pivot that binds the entire story together. At the same time, the cinematic language is Rohit Shetty’s, so the audience will be celebrating, clapping, whistling and dancing in aisles. And I too plan to visit our single-screens like Chandan and Gaiety.
Q: You were filmed doing all that in Paris for “Sultan!”
A: Yes, I have been doing that all my life as a film buff! There’s no greater high, believe me. That’s how you must enjoy a film!
Q: 2018 has been a very lucky year for you.
A: You are right. It started with “Padmaavat,” then there was a gap after which I shot for my introverted role in Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy.” I was just ‘being’ and ‘reacting’ as that character, and never went and watched what I had done on the monitor later. After that film, I immediately took up “Simmba,” which was tricky because this character was DOING everything, and I was a part of a masala film, which I had yearned for since I started out! Then came my wedding, and Deepika curated the best possible and most perfect one for us, with a vision and a dream that I could not have even dreamt of dreaming!
Then sometime last fortnight there is Zoya calling me for a small teaser she wanted to do and my watching most of her film. And believe me, if there had been ANYONE else in my role, I would have been burnt to a crisp with jealousy. A Mumbai boy, music, hip-hop, what a subject! It’s like it was my wet dream!
Then the same evening, I attend an awards ceremony with my wife. It was magical, but I had dreamt of this moment when I am sitting next to her as her husband, the nominations are announced followed by my winning the award, and I turn around, give Deepika a kiss, and walk up to the stage. I don’t like to write speeches in advance, as I am a bit superstitious about awards, and so I mumble something as I have no time to think and filter what I say clearly. Later on, I come to know that I have spoken exactly what I felt! And a few days later comes the news that “Gully Boy” has been selected for the Berlinale Film Festival.
And more is in store: The “Simmba” trailer and then the song “Aankh Marey” hit the roof!
Q: What does Deepika now mean to you?
A: I have been in this industry for eight years, and for six of them, I have known and dated Deepika. She’s had a large part of my growth and evolution, she has been a large part of me being what I am as a person and has kept me grounded and centered. When I needed support, especially through the phase of playing Khilji in “Padmaavat” that was very difficult, she was there.
Q: Speaking of masala films, how do you look at very few other Hindi heroes, especially of your generation, favoring them, unlike the heroes down South?
A: From a performer’s point of view, I am doing all genres in one masala movie— romance, comedy, action and INTENSE drama. Not too many people understand how painstaking it is to make a masala film, and not enough credit given to the makers of this genre. Masala films will always have a place, for they are big-ticket, big-screen experiences with a very large audience. Some stars are good at other kinds of films, some at only the masala movie, and some at both.
As Karan puts it, now it will be either the big-ticket big-screen experience that will work, or the content-driven ones. There is no middle-ground. With this situation, all heroes will have to opt for good stories of either kind. In fact, I even foresee a trend—the good old days of two- and multi-hero films will be back. I see it happening NOW, as in 2019.
Q: That is another area in which others have problems: two heroes coming together.
A: But they will have to do such films. As for me, I have never minded collaborating on such films, be it “Gunday,” “Dil Dhadakne Do” and now “1983,” in which I play Kapil Dev and there is an ensemble cast, and then the multi-star Karan Johar historical “Takht.”
Q: So how do you see cinema going ahead?
A: Good content, as I said, will be accepted with open arms. The power has shifted to the audience. Stars are not important, stories are. Like someone asked me if I am open to good offers from the Web. I am, but my focus is on big-ticket, big-screen experiences. That is very important because, in my opinion, the past few years have seen screens getting smaller and smaller. From films and television we have now come to laptops and mobiles! Not enough people going to the halls. Fair enough, because films are expensive.
But there’s more. One has to get his family, bind them together, put them all in a car, drive through traffic, enter the basement parking, move up to the fourth floor, which means eight escalators, and then stand in long lines for popcorn and Pepsi. So you are already irritated, and by the time you watch that Smoking Kills short, you are brain fried! At the end of all that, if the film is not good, you are going to b