Touted to have played one of the most evil and negative characters ever in Hindi cinema, Ranveer Singh who is just 11 films old has gotten into, the extreme an actor chooses to go only after achieving the ‘Superstar’ status, Method Acting! After making a sensational debut with ‘Band Baajaa Baaraat’, he did an experimental film like ‘Lootera’ which proved a point about this young actor is here to do the something unimaginable. He proved it once in his first Sanjay Leela Bhansali film ‘Goliyon Ki RaasLeela: Ram-Leela’ and twice in another Leela Bhansali directorial ‘Bajirao Mastani’. He’s struck the third time in the same director’s film playing an antagonist Alauddin Khilji, a power hungry monarch, in ‘Padmaavat’ which has only garnered him appreciation.
Celebrating his success with the film set to attain a Blockbuster status, Ranveer Singh sat down to chat with us. Here’s what he revealed:
Q. How are you so energetic all the time?
Ranveer Singh: Since my childhood I’ve had this bundle of energy. I remember my school report cards having remarks like this kid is bubbly, vivacious, gregarious and hyper energetic. I have a great level of enthusiasm. I’m very excited about acting in films. I wanted to a be a ‘Hindi Film Hero’ since childhood. And because I’m doing what I love, I have huge level of enthusiasm for it. It’s a combination of my natural hyper energy and genuine enthusiasm in what I do and that translates as a lot of energy.
Q. You haven’t shared screen space with Deepika even once unlike other Sanjay Leela Bhansali films. How different was it?
Ranveer Singh: I didn’t have single day on schedule with Deepika. Although we were working on the same movie, we really never met. We once had a joint meeting and then we pretty much met at the cast and crew screening. However I used to drop in on sets to see some of their scenes and not interact. I found that very fascinating because there’s a lot to learn from just sitting and observing. I had put on weight infact because for months I was sitting at home doing nothing so I used to make these visits. The Chittorgarh set shoot took a lot of time to be shot. It was a unique experience to star in the same film and not have a single day of shoot together.
Q. How was your experience shooting for ‘Padmaavat’?
Ranveer Singh: There were delays due to unforeseen reasons because of which the shooting of my part got delayed. And then when our part was on, we shot continuously for 35 days. So for Bhansali Sir’s films where every scene is intense, after 6-8 days you get 2-3 days break after each so that you incubate. There were scenes in a day when I’m on top of my voice, banishing Mehrunnisa (played by Aditi Rao Hydari), having a fight with Shahid (Kapoor) and the next day doing other important scenes. So the shooting process and especially the climax which was being shot around May due to a delay, shooting at 1 in the noon under scorching heat at a piece of land in Film City. I almost felt like I would melt. I used to faint on the sets. They used to remind me to jump and then I would puke. I wouldn’t even get time to compose and would continue. That sequence especially was really exhausting. It was almost like my body was falling apart. I remember on Day 37 I called up my mom and started crying in the night saying I can’t do it, I can’t shoot tomorrow. I had a meltdown because things were starting to take its course. There were instances where my mind and spirit were intact but my body and muscles wouldn’t move. While doing the ‘Khalibali’ song sequence my legs wouldn’t move properly. They would to do specific shots around my legs.
Q. What is the best compliment that you’ve got?
Ranveer Singh: Javed Jaffery’s son Meezan, a very handsome boy, assisted Sanjay Sir on ‘Padmaavat’ and at the special screening I met Javed Jaffrey who gave me a warm hug. I admire him a lot as a actor and things like these bring faith. And of course Amitabh Bachchan’s letter.
Q. How difficult was it being Alauddin Khilji?
Ranveer Singh: I really enjoyed the character because I was free to make a lot of bold choices as an antagonist. For example, Maharawal is a righteous and noble man who has certain boundaries to be in. He wasn’t free to make that many choices. I enjoyed being Alauddin Khilji but the shooting process took everything out me, literally my blood and sweat.
I remember this one incident where at Reliance Studios in Film City, we were shooting and this one day I couldn’t feel I could deliver. I was crying and wanted to leave the set. My make up artist Madhav dada was trying to calm me down. He wiped my tears and he’s a father figure to me. There was blood spilling out of my mouth (for a scene) and that moment I asked him to remember this moment because here I was shedding my blood and tears together. At the cast and crew screening he reminded me of that moment and we hugged. Because of the way the film was scheduled to be shot, I was under a lot of pressure while performing it.
Q. With good actors from Bollywood making their way to web series. Would you be interested in taking a detour from the big screen if you’re offered a great web series project?
Ranveer Singh: My focus at the moment is to do mainstream Hindi films. The screens are becoming smaller and the consumption of entertainment is changing. We have access to world class entertainment on mobile phones. So if you’re a Hindi mainstream film actor you have to up your game. And make a product that can compete with the product made anywhere in the world. There are films with trailers that make you feel I can watch this film at the comfort of my home and not necessarily go to the theatre. Going to theatre has become tedious now unless you’re offered a big screen experience. So my focus is to offer that big screen experience which can bring footfalls.
Q. What kind of preparations did you do before getting into this character?
Ranveer Singh: I didn’t relate to Alauddin Khilji at all when I heard of it. Now that I have done all of this research on him and read about him I can understand. Initially I couldn’t understand the part of him being this ambitious, the scheming and the sinister that he was. I had to study about rulers of that period. I have studied some really dark material like genocide, serial killings and the stuff that happened in that era. I studied the animal kingdom, about a lot of creatures to know about his bird collection fantasy. I generated that conviction in me. I learnt about the existence of such people.
Q. We heard that you locked yourself in a house before commencing the shoot of ‘Padmaavat’ to get into your character. What are the thoughts you went through during this phase?
Ranveer Singh: It’s a very rewarding process. It’s my favorite time after ofcourse being on a movie set. Creating the character is my favorite time. It is important for me to get isolated because any kind of interaction in that period with known elements which includes family, friends and even things, it kind of hampers my process. I did this during Bajirao Mastani, I did it in Padmaavat as well. There are no rules. You’re there with the material and you’re finding the character on your own. There are dozens of things. Sometimes you’ll see me furiously just writing, sometimes cutting things and pasting them, sometimes I’m painting, sometimes I’m looking in the mirror, sometimes I’m walking around and sometimes I’m just talking to myself. It’s so many things that you do just to arrive at the starting point. Then the rest of it happens with the director on set. You build a foundation and take it on set to Mr. Bhansali to edit it. Mr. Bhansali and I had the most fun doing this character.
Q. Playing an antagonist so early in your career, that decision must have been hard to take. Although you’ve excelled yourself, did you have any initial inhibitions?
Ranveer Singh: I had zero expectations on the reaction from people. I go by the saying, Do and don’t expect! I learnt this during ‘Bajirao Mastani’ when my broke my shoulder without even starting to shoulder for the war scenes yet. My spirit was broken then, I would lie on bed thinking there’s nothing that could be done. I was in bed rest, I was borderline depressed. I used to listen to audio books and a motivational speaker’s speech made me realize the process is all that matters, it’s the price. Being on the set, playing a character that you studied so much about, developing it, adding layers and nuances, playing off with other characters, that is the process and that the price. I was completely detached. One day I aspire to reach the cinematic brilliance of my screen idol Johnny Depp. He doesn’t even watches his films after he’s acted in them. I didn’t know how I’ll be received as an antagonist. It was a huge risk because nobody would want to portray the kind of menace this character had to showcase at this point of their careers. I didn’t know how to be received. If this had gone wrong, I would have been a dead end. There was a huge sense of relief.
Q. What have you learnt from your past few films as an actor?
Ranveer Singh: Every film teaches you something. It may teach you to improve yourself as a person. It may teach you something about the craft. I may also give you a new skill set. You’re always learning and it’s important to grow and develop as an artist. Even during ‘Befikre’ I learnt a lot. It was acting with a camera. The scene would start and we would indulge in a conversation for one and a half minute straight without cuts. It was a unique experience for me. I never viewed ‘Befikre’ as a failure. I got to collaborate with Aditya Chopra and learnt so much about the craft. He has a special place in my life. As a dancer and as a comical actor. I always look at the positives. One thing I learnt during ‘Padmaavat’ is a lot about my own self. At one point I thought I couldn’t go on and somehow I did. If pushed I can do things and that’s what I learnt about myself.
Q. Do you think you’ve set the bar high for yourself after playing Alauddin Khilji in ‘Padmaavat’? Would you put yourself under a radar to do better roles and films?
Ranveer Singh: I don’t take that pressure. For me every film is different, characters are apart and directors are unique. The emotions, sentiments and message of every film and the story is different. I prefer not to directly compare my work. But I know that I have more hold on my craft than I’ve had before. I’m shooting ‘Gully Boy’ now, I don’t know how it’s going to end up but honest in my approach. I do my boy and the rest is filmmaking. What’s important for me is I continue to be honest. I see people around me get jaded and wanting to take a break, my peers are sometimes not enthusiastic with the work they’re doing and that would be something you have to fight. I’m thoroughly excited about the work I’m doing. The day ‘Padmaavat’ ended I couldn’t wait to start ‘Gully Boy’. I’m interacting with rappers, working with Alia for the first time. After this is done I start Rohit Shetty’s film ‘Simmba’, which is masala film filled with action, comedy and romance. This is something I was born to do. Doing Zoya’s film had me getting into a lot of technicality but Rohit Shetty’s film is home grown. I have admire such kind of cinema. I’m an entertainer and I’m excited about it. I’ve worked with him in an ad film and I love working with him. It’s going to be a great synergy. Then my greatest challenge shall be to embody Kapil Dev. There is such a great equity that the story already has. I find myself honored and privileged to be doing it. I was talking to the producers on how lucky we are to be chosen to tell this story on celluloid. A team of underdogs lead the country to victory and that is a great story to tell because our generation isn’t aware of it. By the time we understood cricket we already knew these people were superstars. It’s a blessing to be doing this kind of work.
– Yaser Khan