Ranveer Singh is terribly upset. One wonders why, as the actor has a million reasons to be happy. Ram-leela has been applauded by critics and cinegoers alike. Not only that, the critical appreciation he received for his mature act in Lootera has made directors sit up and take notice of his craft. But all this has currently taken a backseat. Slouched in his humongous leather couch at home, he sulks and sulks some more. Prod him to share his dilemma and he feels up his recently clean shaven face and says, “I miss my moustache bro.” Damn! Talk about first world problems. He says his Rajput looking mooch, which he was “awfully attached” to was shaved off by his new-found buddy Arjun Kapoor, on the set of their film Gunday. We tell him about the limited time we’ve got to wrap up this interview, thanks to his busy schedule and he sits up, positions the dictaphone like a mike in his hand and lets the caffeine rush do all the talking. Presenting the mad hatter Ranveer Singh, who claims to be a changed man post a certain Ms Padukone walked into his life. Excerpts…
Congratulations on Ram-leela’s Success. You Must Be on Cloud Nine!
I’m not really elated by the success of Ram-leela. I’m just relieved. I had no idea in which direction this movie was going and what the reactions were going to be. I was expecting both, good and bad things. What has happened is obviously great but things could’ve gone drastically wrong too.
What do you Mean?
What I committed to on paper and what you saw on screen was a completely different film. Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali, my co-actors and I used to come to set everyday and improvise. SLB would tell us what he wanted to convey with a particular scene. We’d give inputs and then he’d give his suggestions. Meanwhile, our writers used to pen fresh dialogue on the spot. I’ve worked for 200 days with this kind of conviction because there was no other way This is how Ram-leela was made.
Can you Give us Some More Anecdotes from the Set?
There were days when we didn’t shoot because we couldn’t crack a scene. There were days when SLB was happy with what we were doing but then again there were days when he wasn’t. For him, every scene is significant. Till he isn’t satisfied, he won’t start shooting. There have been times when he’s cut a four page scene to half a page. And there have been times when he’s converted a line into an elaborate interaction. He’s creatively so volatile that you need to be prepared to play any emotion at any given time. There have been times when we’ve shot scenes and he’s said, ‘I don’t think it’s needed in the movie’. And we’d start shooting some other scene altogether. Which is why when the movie was complete, I didn’t know how people would react to the film.
Bhansali Also has a Reputation of Being a Control Freak…
SLB is controlling to the extent of putting me in a spot and forcing me to push my boundaries as an actor. He could ask me to do an emotional scene in freezing water at 5 am in the morning. But within the periphery, I’d be free to do whatever I want. He’ll set the scene and then he’ll leave me to play with it. He’s a mad genius. He challenges you. Ten minutes before roll time, the writers come with fresh dialogue. You’re shit scared. But after he’s thrown you the challenge, he’ll do whatever he can to help you perform. You have to invest incredibly in him. He pushes people beyond their limits. I was surprised when I saw myself on screen.
Didn’t you Ever Feel Frustrated by This Process?
Not at all! In fact, it was so much fun. We’re used to getting a bound script. All you need to do is rehearse and execute the scene. But that’s not how SLB works. He wants to extract a performance, which is as spontaneous as possible. He gives you enough space for that ‘happy accident’ to happen, where we don’t know what the spontaneity will bring out. It’s a unique way to work and one needs to have balls of steel to follow a work pattern like his. All the other directors I’ve worked with have every step of their scene ready. Lootera is a perfect example of that.
Lootera Failed to Make an Impact at the Box-Office. What do you Think Went Wrong with the Film that Went Right with Ram-leela?
One reason why Lootera didn’t work could be that the film was filled with old school romance and Ram-leela was contemporary. But more than that I feel Lootera’s pace caused it damage. I always had that fear while working on it too. When I finally saw the film, I told Vikramaditya Motwane (director, Lootera), as much as I loved the film, the world has changed and in the age of the IPL (Indian Premier League), he’s showing test cricket. We watch world cinema and we’re aware of the content and its pace. But if we watch television today, people are conditioned to 1000 messages in 60 seconds. For an audience, which is conditioned to get so much information in so little time, to come into the theatre and watch a film like Lootera, they’re bound to think, ‘chal na yaar’ (c’mon, get on with it). They want to see a fast film. This is the truth.
So Why Did you Choose to do Lootera?
I’m a risk-taker. Lootera was a risky film and a risky character to play. But my underlining assurance was director Vikramaditya Motwane. He’s so good at his craft, I knew he wouldn’t make a bad film. He’s not capable of that. His work might not click sometimes for various reasons but he’s one of the most significant filmmakers today. I strongly believe that if there’s one guy who will put our films on the world map, it’ll be Vikramaditya Motwane.
You Believe the Risk Paid off?
Absolutely. The film got what it deserved. It made more money than it was made in. And it was made after severe budget hassles. I remember Vikram once told me that he was facing so much difficulty making the film. He told me in order to make a period film you need a bigger budget, otherwise it’s difficult to show a grand scale. All the money goes into getting the elements. The film got critical appreciation. I got recognition for a performance that wasn’t expected out of me. I consider Lootera a big success in my career. I have no regrets doing that film.