Ranvir Shorey on playing a dacoit in Sonchiriya and bridging the gap between mainstream, art-house cinema
For an actor who has walked away with critical acclaim in almost every film, Ranvir Shorey has been part of and finds comfort in the middle-of-the-road cinema, and Abhishek Chaubey's dacoit drama Sonchiriya was a perfect fit
For an actor who has walked away with critical acclaim in almost every film, Ranvir Shorey has been part of and finds comfort in the middle-of-the-road cinema, and Abhishek Chaubey's dacoit drama Sonchiriya was a perfect fit. Shorey's impressive filmography comprises films like Khosla Ka Ghosla! Bheja Fry, Titli, Mithya, A Death in the Gunj among others. What also excited Ranvir was the genre of dacoit which is so rare. “That is what attracted me the most. Daku films are rare. They are made only in India just as how kung fu films are made only in China. Dacoit films are India’s offering and show the world of baaghis (rebels). I liked my role; it’s a beautiful story and I was really excited to play a dacoit,” said Ranvir, a self-confessed rebel. “My heart is rebellious. There are so many things that I want to change about this world,” laughs Ranvir. It wasn’t very long ago when Ranvir had said that Bollywood movies are still considered a "freak show" and do not get enough credit on international platforms.
On being asked about the most defining image of a dacoit in Hindi movies, he immediately says, “Vinod Khanna in Mera Gaon Mera Desh, and then comes Gabbar Singh of Sholay. However, Abhishek Chaubey’s film is a far more refined depiction of dacoits. The world that he has created is in the space somewhere in between Sholay and Bandit Queen.”
“Dacoits are those people who didn’t want to follow the norms of society or the laws because they don’t find justice and have their own rules, lifestyle, way of life more than committing robberies and killing people. These are the dakus with existential issues and that is what the film explores. Even for the current generation the film offers a window into the world of dacoits in the 1970s. The research and story is very authentic to what that world was but the way the film is shot and stylised is very contemporary. It is going to be a great ride for the current generation as well,” the actor says.
Set in the dacoit infested Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh in the Emergency (1975-77), the film’s ensemble cast includes Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Manoj Bajpayee and Ashutosh Rana. Calling the film a sausage fest in a light-hearted manner, Ranvir says, “I have always looked up to Manoj and Ashutosh. I was still an assistant when they were already established actors. I really admire Sushant because he is taking risks with different kinds of roles at this point in his career. He can be easily called a role model for the current generation.”
While Sushant’s character arc in Sonchiriya is somewhat of a conventional hero, Ranvir, according to Chaubey, is Sushant’s antithesis. “It was a pretty challenging role for me. Even learning Bundelkhandi was challenging enough. I have never played this kind of a character. It’s not just about playing dacoit but the kind of person Vakil Singh is. His style, his attitude, the way he talks, walks. I prepped for two to three months but finally when we were shooting I was intoxicated with the character. Even when we were not shooting and merely roaming around in Chambal valley dressed as a dacoit, sporting a big moustache and holding a rifle in my hand, I had that swag. It was great fun,” said Ranvir, who doesn’t believe in having a reference point to play any character.
“I believe you can’t copy. Reference should come from the script, the story and the character, his back story, his arc and attitude. An actor will find all these ingredients in a good script if he or she reads between the lines. I follow my director and his vision. I believe that a writer can hold the audience attention in the midst of their lines and the actor’s job is to bring out that world from those lines and present it in real life. It is like the writer giving a gift to the actor and latter opening that gift box,” he added.
“Ranvir is a very clever actor. While all the other actors were quick with their lines when we were doing the reading, Ranvir was struggling but once he came on sets he was so well prepared. He is extremely impressive in the film and this will be one of the most memorable performances of his career,” says Chaubey.
Though it may seem that Sonchiriya doesn’t fall into the category of mainstream or ‘comfortable’ art, Ranvir believes that the film is relatable and would entertain all segments of society. “I always wanted to be part of the middle-of-the-road cinema which is not completely art-house and not completely mainstream either. So, while on the one hand I may have done Gali Guleiyan, but I have also worked in films like Chandni Chowk To China, Singh Is Kinng and , on the other. I don’t like complete art-house cinema with no entertainment value, I have usually gone for a mix of art and entertainment,” said Ranvir.
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