Mumbai,Upala KBR: I have finally figured out what gives Ranveer Singh that relentless, boundless energy. It’s sugar and coffee. At YRF Studios, where I meet him, he wraps up two chats – one with Aditya Chopra, another media buddy, almost simultaneously. Between bites of frosted cupcakes and sips of coffee, he tells me what he went through while shooting for Bajirao Mastani and the biggest compliment he’s received for it — from Amitabh Bachchan. Read on for excerpts from our chat.
What’s the best compliment that you received for Bajirao Mastani?
First, I want to tell everyone that you (Upala) thought that perhaps, I was too young to fit into the role of Peshwa Bajirao. Which is not completely invalid as there are enough people who felt that. Now, enough people are saying things to the effect that they underestimated me as an actor.
Tell me about the industry reactions?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by Hindi films and wanted to become an actor. My idols are Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Govinda, the three Khans, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan. After Hrithik saw Bajirao Mastani, he gave me a hug that almost crushed my bones (laughs). That was a very special screening for me because there was Rekha, Sridevi, Madhuri, Hrithik and Tabu — all icons in their own right. For them to react the way they did and say the kind of things they did, was amazing. In fact, those reactions came straight from the heart and it’s a very personal thing, so I can’t really share them.
The best part was when Mr Bachchan sent me a handwritten letter and a bouquet. It’s more coveted than any award for a young actor like me. It’s my first ‘award’ for Bajirao. He has done it before and every time he has done it, I treasure it so much that I don’t even keep it at home. I frame those letters and they are kept like that in the bank vault with the most precious possessions of the family. I will tell you why…
As soon as I started understanding the world around me, this man was my hero. I used to sit with my daadi and watch his films, she planted the seed in my head by saying: when you grow up, you have to be like that guy. I hope she’s smiling down on me today. My grandfather, who is an architect with no connection to films and a very spiritual man, told me, ‘When you told me you wanted to become an actor, I was worried for you because it is supposed to be a very erratic line of work, so I was doing ardaas (a Sikh prayer) and asked God, ‘Is my kid on the right track?’ The answer came, ‘Someday, he will be like Amitabh Bachchan.’ That is my connect with the man. The first time I experienced the joy of performing, was when I was six years old and was dancing at a birthday party to Jumma Chumma De De. That’s the first time people clapped for me.
At 19, I thought of becoming an actor — far-fetched for someone with no connections in the industry, without any opportunity of bagging the leading role. I always believed in my ability, but I didn’t believe that the film industry would reward merit. It was very nepotistic. When I was 15 years old, the only people being launched were Hrithik Roshan, Zayed Khan and Abhishek Bachchan. When you think mera toh yahan koi nahin, toh actor banke kya matlab? But at 19, I was late registering for my classes. There was just one seat left for one class, and it was acting and by now I had switched tracks. I had no intention of acting, but I had to take that class. My instructor said he didn’t want any introductions, that all of us have to perform something — a poem, dance or sing — he just wanted to see. The only thing I knew by heart was Bachchansaab’s Deewar monologue (the ‘Tumhare usool, tumhare adarsh’ one). Again at that special moment in my life, I had a special connection with Mr Bachchan. I got back to my seat and started thinking, ‘Why am I pursuing anything else? I love acting.’ I called my father from USA and told him I wanted to try my hand at acting. That was another turning point for me. So, you can say I am a bhakt of Mr Bachchan. Today it’s as if I have received validation from God.
What was it about Bajirao Mastani that made you give up a year of your life for the film — something so different and that too a period film? You chose that over Shuddhi.
That’s partly because I know the value of Mr Bhansali and the ability he has in extracting performances. The way he showcases his leads is magical. But what it took was one meeting with Mr Bhansali, which he gave me the one one-liner of four scenes — when he does this and when he does that… that was his narration. I was like ‘I am one’. He said, ‘You know I am going to take your hair off’ and I said, ‘That’s fine’. That was it.
You also lost films because of your shaved head…
I lost films, endorsements, TV shows… so many things. My father watched the preview of the film last week. He was among the first three people to see it. He used to look out for me out of concern and would often tell me, ‘Beta I don’t know if you are doing the wise thing by doing this film and letting go of all the money. You could have done three films in this time and look at what the film’s taking out of you — your health, hair, you are losing endorsements and shows…’ The day it came out in theatre the first thing he said to me was ‘It was all worth it.’ My father is the audience —he has no connection to the audience or people of cinema or knows the industry business.
How did your mom react to the film?
I had to hold her half-an-hour after she watched the film. She gets very disturbed, she doesn’t like it when I die on screen. I told her that it would be an intense experience for you, so I had to sit next to her and when it got over, I had to hold her tight for half-an-hour and hug her. So, I was holding her and having conversations.
What do you do when you run out of energy?
I never run out of energy.
What’s your energy booster — caffeine or sugar?
It’s caffeine, but I will tell you something — I have thought about it a lot. Priyanka Chopra teases me about it, and says ‘Tereko woh hai na, dekho-dekho mummy main actor ban gaya.’ What she means is that acting is a high for me. For somebody whose chances were a million to one, to have this dream come true — it’s sheer enthusiasm that drives me. I can’t believe that people want to take my interviews, or just get happy seeing me in person or seeing me on screen… It’s almost as if I feel all those things happening to and around me are too good to be true. Like my twitter bio says: Living The Dream. And she’s absolutely right, but I think that gets translated as energy but what it really is, is just a basic enthusiasm for everything that’s happened to me.
Are you like this at home also, restless and jumping with energy — or are you calmer and quieter?
I guess everybody is different at home, no? It is an environment unlike any other. Even inside one’s home, there are different moods, right? It’s human nature — everybody is different in different spaces.
Three of the best things that happened to you in 2015.
The process of shooting Bajirao Mastani, the learning, I signed Aditya Chopra’s Befikre and became the brand ambassador of one of my dream brands. I had a successful release at the middle of the year where my performance was appreciated (Dil Dhadakne Do). People told me it was a completely fresh turn which was what was promised to me by Zoya and she delivered, and people recognised that. Deepika’s first tweet was her reaction – ‘Wow! You can do this also!’ And that was the reaction across the board, so I got a chance to put my versatility on display one more time. My performance got appreciated there and then, the icing on the cake is Bajirao Mastani.