MUMBAI— It’s not every year that one man plays the tyrannical Allaudin Khilji in “Padmaavat,” returns as a determined cop by year-end in “Simmba” and then becomes a humble Hip-Hop artiste who dares to dream the impossible within two months of the latter. Ranveer Singh feels blessed that he has been accepted in all these roles – “Gully Boy” opens this week, and there is a huge rush in the metros for the tickets – as he always aimed for versatility.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: The variety of roles and your acceptance in them must be very gratifying.
A: Yes, it is! I always wanted to be known as an actor who is effective in all genres. In 2013, I was blessed to do both “Lootera” – though I was a little raw there! – and “Goliyon Ki RasLila - RamLila” within months, and in 2015, within a few weeks again, I did “Dil Dhadkane Do and Bajirao Mastani.” This is the time when we get a lot of reactions on social media, and I am consuming it happily because the versatility aspect has been spoken about more than ever before.
Q: This time, even your rapped song “Apne Time Aayega” is going through the roof.
A: I was hoping that it would do well, but I did not expect what is happening! But all the six songs I have sung and recited are being loved. What is heartening that this is not the typical popular music, like “Aankh Maare.” But my song has become the number one. Taaliyaan (Claps)! (Smiles). Actually, it is awesome as this is alsi (pure) pop. I guess my rapping must be decent, okay at least, not half-bad! (Smiles Again)
What is more heartening is that a song like “Meri Gully Mein” is legit Hip-Hop, and it is significant for the Hip-Hop scene that this has worked and got mainstream acceptance. For the sake of the Hindustani Hip-Hop scene and the rappers, I am truly happy.
Zoya had told me that this film was more than just about her and me. There are the hopes and dreams of a lot of people attached to the film. This is a shot-in-the-arm for them, a boost, a turning point. The lyrics and dialogues are authentic in flavor, and that takes them to another level. We would keep adding small things to them till the last. This has made the film very special.
Q: Have you watched the film?
A: Yes, I did, and if I have worked on something and still be moved by the cohesive film it means something special. I am happy, proud, excited!
Q: In terms of the music, what is your takeaway from a pre-“Gully Boy” era to post-“Gully Boy?”
A: Since two years back when I signed the film, the Underground Music movement has not just been growing and evolving, but has exploded. We are on the threshold of a musical revolution, as the expression in music is so socially-relevant. I am happy that Nitin Mishra, who calls himself Spitfire, is getting assignments every day after creating the track “Asli Hip-Hop.” The mainstream exposure they needed and wanted has happened.
Q: What’s your take then on re-creations?
A: If a song has given joy to another generation, then why should another generation not benefit from the re-created version of the same? I have enjoyed songs like “Aankh Maare” and “Kaala Chashma” and have partied hard and worked out to them, But at the same time, we need original music, young talent, and their expression.
Q: Did you take up the offer to rap immediately?
A: I am someone who rather enthusiastically jumps at opportunities. I wanted to rap, but Zoya was not sure. I thought that if a young boy wants to be a musician, in such a film, it calls for the actor playing the part to lend his own voice. She told me that just because I had sung a bit or rapped something on shows et al, I could not expect that I could do it here. She said I could sing if I could do a voice test.
Q: So you gave the ‘test?’
A: Musicians Ankur (Tewari) and Divine gave me tips in the studio, and I did a rap test. And they helped me a lot! After I rapped, they said, “Okay, this is happening, this is ON!” And now, it is very heartening that my songs have caught on so well.
Q: After the last two blockbusters, expectations are high from you.
A: Yes, when the marketing team and distributors say, “Aur ‘Simmba’ ke baad to (And now after ‘Simmba’)…,” it is creatively empowering. But there is a bit of responsibility now. When my name is attached to a blockbuster, and my face is on its poster, there is a certain promise about the quality of my film, about it being an entertainer. And if the audience is paying hard-earned money for this promise of entertainment, I have to live up to it, and as the tickets are very expensive I bloody well do it! So I am choosing my stories wisely and doing the best I can.
Q: The buzz in metros is strong. What about the response from small towns?
A: I will tell you something. Alia Bhatt’s security guy watched the film with us – he is a typical “Simmba” audience, and I know that he has watched “Simmba” multiple times. He is a 120-kilo giant, and he was crying at the end of the film! When I asked him why he was crying, he said, “Bahut accha lagaa picture. Yeh to apni picture, apne logon ki picture hai (I liked the film a lot. This is our film, a film about us).” The characters are very relatable and grounded. And the world Zoya has created, you can almost smell Dharavi.
Q: You have opened your vulnerable side here. How easy or difficult was that?
A: I had to become comfortable with my character and make him real, authentic and vulnerable. I have never been so naked emotionally in front of the camera, and I was not very comfortable about exposing that side, since I normally protect it from being seen by anyone except people I trust, like my wife, family and close friends.
But Zoya tapped into that real part of me, peeling away the layers, which only shows the relationship she has cultivated with me. She is more than a filmmaker, she is a friend, and was able to show the real and authentic side of me. She cut my hair, knocked off my beard, and removed any kavach (shield) I had.
In “Dil Dhadakne Do,” my performance was about reacting to my co-actors rather than dominating everything as in “Simmba.” I learned that kind of acting for the first time with that film. Here too, it is the same, and I have got a bunch of exceptional co-actors, beginning with Alia. I can objectively recognize that I have come a long way and learned a few things. I am now adept at that kind of performance structured by my co-actors, who are so outstanding I am stunned.
Q: How does Deepika Padukone find your looks as “Gully Boy?”
A: Oh, she loves my looks!
Q: Going back to “Padmaavat,” would you like to do such a dark character again?
A: Probably not, and certainly not anytime soon. Touch wood, I am very blessed. It’s been a good time, and I am very happy. I am happily married, showered with love and affection by my wife, so I am in this warm and fuzzy space! When Khilji was offered, I was happy, but now I am not prepared to go down that track, as I know how deep and dark that is. Hopefully, I will never do such a role again, khud pe rehem karke (by showing mercy on myself)!
Q: How do you look at “’83” and your films to come?
A: I always wanted to do a sports film, and I am very excited, lucky and blessed to be portraying one of the greatest living legends in “’83.” It is the most extraordinary story, almost unreal, unbelievable, extraordinary and spectacular, and there is a whole generation that does not know what went into the story of the 1983 World Cup. I would like to do so many good scripts, and especially when I look at what Ayushmann Khurrana is getting, I always think, ‘Yeh film mere paas kyoon nahin aayi (Why did this film not come to me)? (Grins)”