MUMBAI — The fireball of energy quotes his reel wife Priyanka Chopra at the very beginning. “She feels that my energy is not all that much — it is my enthusiasm that has peaked!” says Ranveer Singh with a smile, “She feels that is simply because I am happy that I could realize my childhood dream and become an actor, and that this is my way of saying 'Mommy, mommy, main actor ban gaya (I have become an actor)!'"
The energy is concentrated as much in place like his Maharashtrain ‘choti’ (pigtail), royal mustache and hairdo. Clearly, shooting for his next rom-com “Befikre” has yet to begin, for Singh is still straddling the world as Bajirao.
Recalling his early days as an actor, he goes back to the first day of his shoot. “Before ‘Band Baaja Baraat,’ I was an AD (assistant director), but very low in the ranks like I was sent to handle crowds! But I was clueless about the acting side. I went and stood like a schoolboy on the sets until an AD told me that till I was called, I could go to my vanity van.”
Says Singh, “I did not know what a vanity van was! And he told me, I had to go into this van and wait there after changing into the costume for the day. And then I would be called when the shot was ready! So I was like a novice, a child on the sets. Acting and everything connected with cinema I learned on the job. “
He adds, “And then my first film worked, and I was an overnight star. Again it took me a while to realize that I could not talk on a public forum as if I was in my own drawing room!”
Today, Singh would like to surprise people every time with his performances and range. “Deepika (Padukone) tweeted when I did one of my films — ‘Accha, so you can do this too?’ And I want everyone to think that way,” he stresses. “After the extrovert Bittu Sharma of ‘Band Baaja...’ I played this reserved introvert in “Lootera” and then was a garrulous, flamboyant, human peacock in ‘Goliyon Ki RasLeela Ram-Leela.’ Then I was a candid character in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do.’ Now I am Bajirao. You guys should not know what to expect from me!”
Having said all that, Singh considers himself a showman and entertainer and likes giving people pleasure. “I love large crowds. I am a people-pleaser!” he grins. “Today, I have become more intelligent in what I say. I am 90 percent open and honest still, but 10 percent is also about not discussing certain things with which I am not comfortable like my family that leads a completely normal life that I do not want exposed to the media. Or anything to do with my personal life.”
What did a Bandra boy feel like while playing a five centuries old person?
“As I said, I want to be versatile and make my characters so distinctive that I could transform completely, and Bajirao had that scope,” he answers. “But, yes, it was so draining and tiring in every way that I feel blessed that I am doing Aditya Chopra-sir’s light romance “Befikre” after this! Though doing a light film is not all that easy! Someone asked me if it would be easiest to play myself one day. Well, it can be really easy, I feel, but it could be really difficult as well!”
About his preparations to play Bajirao, we mention what Padukone has told us that on sets he would refuse to respond to anyone from the unit who addressed him as Ranveer. He would only respond to Rao or Bajirao. Now was not this method acting pushed to the extreme?
“This is not at all method acting,” he replies. “True method acting is just about one or two schools, like Stanislavski’s, and I have used techniques from there in my career, as there are some good points to take from them. For me, it is about an actor’s process on specific different roles and films.”
He goes on, “My process adapts to and changes with my character, film and director. It takes a lot of work and effort to be different from whom I am, and two hours to get ready, complete with makeup and the heavy costumes. After all this, if someone just tells me, ‘Ranveer, your shot is ready!’ all that goes to waste, so really, what I do is not all that bizarre, though it seems that way!”
He enumerates, “For the scene in ‘Lootera’ wherein I have been shot, I actually stapled myself on the right side of my abdomen to feel the pain, as I have never been shot! After a point, the part goes numb and you don’t feel anything, so I would give it a box with my fist! For '...Ram-Leela' I visited Gujarat and interacted with people there, especially the young men, and mastered even their expletives! For ‘Band Baaja...’ I spent time in Delhi’s colleges with the boys there, and I met someone so close to my character of Bittoo that I modeled him on that guy.”
And so he comes to the limits to which he went to portray a Marathi emperor of the 1700s. “I could not go back to that era!” he says. “So I went and stayed in a hotel for 21 days, which is all the time I had before the shoot began. I had to go away from myself, so I was cut off even telephonically from family and friends, who understood that I was at work!”
In the mornings, Singh would lift weights — as he was convinced that Bajirao’s physique had to be intimidating and that he should stand out as a leader among his men. In the afternoons, he practiced his Marathi, and knew that he would have to speak it with a Hindi accent! Evenings were reserved for watching Marathi movies and other films on warriors, and learning to walk, speak and feel like Bajirao.
“I would wear what Baijrao would wear,” he reveals. “What he did in different circumstances was important. I marinated myself with my character, thought about how he would be at home, and how he would be at war. I exercised to get the right voice for a king — I changed it to a baritone.”
How does all that reconcile with what he told us during “...Ram-Leela,” that Bhansali made him a spontaneous actor. “Bhansali-sir relies a lot on instinct, including my instinct. He would change a lot of things at the time of the shoot, but ask for Deepika’s, Priyanka’s and my inputs as well. And as I said, I have a process. Deepika’s is different and so is Priyanka’s, with whom I have done ‘Gunday’ and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do,’ but we gel well with each other.”
Finally, we ask him what Padukone means to him. “There is something divine yet inexplicable about our connection,” he replies shortly.