Ranveer Singh, find of the decade: It's impossible to pigeonhole the versatile actor into one genre
Since his debut in 2010, Ranveer Singh has delivered one seasoned performance after another, which is a testament to his range as an actor.
In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 13th century epic, Padmaavat, Ranveer Singh played the womanising, power-drunk and barbaric ruler Alauddin Khilji. He played this unrelenting and menacing character with a flamboyance that pushed all his co-stars into the background. Ranveer’s Khilji had the swagger, eccentricity and cruelty that makes him a screen villain for the ages.
The first time the audience sees Ranveer as ACP Sangram Balerao in Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, is during a fight sequence at a dhobi ghaat. As brightly coloured clothes fly, water splashes and the background score swells, Simmba sends a bunch of goons flying in all directions; in slow-motion, of course. It’s with this film that the actor proved his credentials as the quintessential ‘mass hero’. His default mode through the film as he romances in Switzerland, punches villains and delivers cheesy wisecracks is over-the-top. And, he hits every clichéd beat that goes into creating the Hindi philum hero with consummate ease.
Murad of Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is quiet and unassuming. For a large part of the film, Murad is silent, only reacting to everything that’s going on around him. He is still looking for his place in the world. Minutes after he explodes into a spontaneous rap inside a car in a parking lot, he goes back to being the unassuming stand-in chauffeur driving a rich family home. As he finds his voice and channels his anger in poetry, Murad grows in confidence.
In any actor’s filmography, the presence of such distinct performances would be impressive. That Ranveer delivered these within a space of one year or that since his debut in 2010, he’s delivered one seasoned performance after another is a testament to his range as an actor. He’s made sure that it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any genre or archetype.
Vikramaditya Motwane, who directed Ranveer in Lootera, a box office failure but one that made everyone sit up and take notice, calls him a chameleon. “When I saw Band Baaja Baaraat, I was convinced that he was a Delhi boy but when I met him I realised that he grew up one street away from me,” Motwane remembers. When he started casting his sophomore film – the period tragic romance Lootera that was inspired by O. Henry’s The Last Leaf, the director saw the actor as the reticent and brooding thief. “There was something in his eyes. I felt he could play that conflicted person, who is also bit of a villain,” he adds.
Lootera was Ranveer’s third release after the wildly successful Band Baaja Baaraat and the middling Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. If Motwane’s film cemented his reputation as an actor, his second release of the year – Goliyon Ki Rasleela…Ram-Leela made over Rs 100 crores, won numerous awards and made him a bankable star. As he grew more comfortable in his skin, Ranveer started to break every unwritten rule that dictates how an actor on the cusp of stardom should behave. He endorsed a condom brand – complete with a high-energy music video-esque TVC that he rapped for – something that no Bollywood actor had ever done before.
And, once he stopped trying to fit in, Ranveer took all filters off. One of the most obvious things that sets him apart from all the leading men of the past, present, and possibly future is his sartorial style. In a starscape of boring black suits, he has turned up on red carpets rocking a top hat, handlebar moustache, printed silk pyjamas, a satin bathrobe, Sylvester the Cat Looney Tunes slippers and a T-shirt that read ‘No fucks to give’, a black-and-green Polka dotted suit and a bedazzled pink bomber jacket from Manish Arora’s women’s collection.
Many believe that Ranveer’s flamboyant style is cultivated, but Natasha Gaurav who has been styling him for the last eight years insists it isn’t. “His clothes reflect his sense of adventure. As a person he is outgoing, passionate and confident and his clothes reflect all of this. Like with the films he picks, Ranveer is testing the boundaries with his clothes,” explains Natasha.
Whether he is whirling in a pink angarkha during his and Deepika Padukone’s wedding in Lake Como last year, or exploring the homosexual undertones between Khilji and his man Friday Kafur (Jim Sarbh), it’s clear that Ranveer is secure enough in his identity that he doesn’t need to prove his masculinity to anyone. He is also confident enough in his stardom to be okay with his character staying mostly quiet and walking a few steps behind Moeen (Vijay Varma) in the opening scene of Gully Boy.
An overriding aspect of Ranveer’s personality is his unabashed passion for films and entertaining. Motwane believes that he was ‘born to entertain’. “While there is a quiet and reflective side to Ranveer’s personality, he loves being the centre of attraction. He genuinely loves to entertain people. At our crew parties, he would land up with a boom box and make sure that everyone is having fun. He would become the DJ, MC and performer all rolled into one,” he remembers with a laugh.
It’s this passion that’s obvious when Ranveer is talking about his movies in interviews and on sets when he’s shooting. Vijay Varma, his Gully Boy co-star, who refers to the 34-year-old actor as an illusionist, recalls a specific instant from the sets that gave him a glimpse into the actor’s mind. “This was the scene in Moeen’s garage where Murad confronts him for making kids do illegal work for him. It was a tough shoot because it was a very cramped space in Dharavi and we were shooting in April. The master shot was done and then we did Ranveer’s close up. When it came to my close-ups, I said we could start in the middle of the scene because everyone was low on energy. Ranveer butted in and said that we should do the whole scene again. He said, “Kya karega energy ka? Ghar pe le ke jayega?” (‘What are you saving energy for? To take home?’) It made so much sense. We exist because of what we do on camera and every bit of our energy should be preserved only for that,” Varma shares.
It’s with this same single-minded focus that Ranveer plunged into preparing for Kabir Khan’s ’83, his only upcoming release in what will be his tenth year in the business. For the film that charts India’s maiden World Cup win, he’s spent hundreds of hours in the nets to nail Kapil Dev’s potent outswinger. In Gully Boy’s chartbusting track 'Asli Hip Hop', Ranveer raps ‘Kalakar main, kal ko aakar doon. Yehi hai mera dharm, Meri doosri koyi jaat na (I’m an artist, I shape the future. That’s my faith, I have no other identity’). Parts of these lines might be true for some actors but he’s probably the only one who can be described by all of them.
He is an artist, he is shaping the future of Indian cinema, and this is his faith. We love the eclectic individual that is Ranveer Singh and wouldn’t want it any other way.
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