The People’s Superstar: What makes Ranveer Singh the ultimate hero of the masses?
Cheering crowds turn him on. He is happy to pose for the paparazzi. Ranveer Singh’s natural ease with the crowd makes him the people’s favouritebrunch Updated: Feb 24, 2018 22:34 IST
It is past 10pm. I am in Dharavi, the third largest slum in the world, and the labyrinth of lanes has the map on my phone utterly confused. After reaching the same dead end twice, and then taking a tricky walk over a dimly-lit narrow, covered drain, I finally manage to reach the shooting area of Ranveer Singh’s forthcoming film, Gully Boy. And I am still 15 minutes early! Yes!!
As his manager, Natasha, ushers me in, she informs me that the actor is running late. I brace myself. But 10 minutes later, Ranveer walks in, looking sincerely apologetic. He hates to keep people waiting, he says. This is refreshing, if not actually surprising, coming from someone who is currently ruling Bollywood.
“Every morning I catch myself thinking: ‘Yaar sapna toh nahin dekh raha hun’?”
As we settle inside his vanity van for the interview, he quickly checks his Instagram and is elated to find a fan wearing a blouse with his Bajirao avatar embroidered on the back. His eyes light up like a child as he shows me the picture. It is as if he still doesn’t quite believe he is that famous.
“It is hard to believe! Every morning I start my day and something will happen and I will have this surreal moment where I will catch myself thinking: ‘Yaar sapna toh nahin dekh raha hun? (I am dreaming?!)’ I can’t believe these people are cheering my name and they want to take a picture with me. I love all of it. But it is still just hard to believe!”
Heart of a hero
Ranveer wears his celebrity as casually and as confidently as he wears his rainbow-coloured outfits. And he lets neither define him. He is unlike any star Bollywood has ever seen. He could turn up at an awards night dressed as a movie poster hoarding, or become the country’s favourite meme with his Zebra print coords. From landing up at Bandra’s Linking Road in peak traffic hours in a Krrish costume to do Hrithik Roshan’s Bang Bang dare, to stopping a kali-peeli taxi in the middle of the night to click a picture of the xXx logo under its number plate to encourage his ‘rumoured’ girlfriend Deepika Padukone ahead of the release of her film xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and dubsmashing with Akshay Kumar to promote the latter’s Padman (2018), his actions are often bizarre. But here’s the thing: they are always all heart.
“If I am dancing in the middle of Linking Road, I am getting a huge kick out of it I don’t see it as putting in an effort ”
“If I am promoting an Akshay Kumar movie or a Hrithik Roshan movie, I don’t see anything abnormal in it. I have grown up watching their films. They have inspired me! If I can give something back to them, why shouldn’t I?” asks Ranveer. “I love doing those things. If I am dancing in the middle of Linking Road, I am getting a huge kick out of it! I don’t see it as putting in an effort.”
But his antics can often lead to security concerns, among other things. “I know! I am red flagged on the list of the security agencies who work with Bollywood people,” he laughs. “But I am a very tactile and affectionate person. I love people and my way of expressing that is to hug the person or plant a kiss. These are basic reactions for me.”
“My dadi had a very larger-than-life, flamboyant personality and I grew up in a large family where you would show your love through big gestures. When I see fans screaming my name and putting their hands out to touch me, I feel like jumping among them and giving every single one of them a hug and a kiss to tell them that I love them just as much!” he adds.
In fact, the most endearing thing about Ranveer is the way he treats his fans. “I used to be a huge fan of Bollywood stars,” he grins. “So I know very well what it means for a fan to catch a glimpse of their favourite star or to get a selfie with them. I met Jackie Shroff on the sets of Aar Ya Paar (1997) and Akshay Kumar on the sets of Keemat: They Are Back (1998) I was a kid then, just a regular Bandra boy. But both of them were so gracious and showed me so much love that even today, at 32, I vividly remember every minute detail of those interactions. I want to give my fans that. A memory they can cherish.
“I know very well what it means for a fan to catch a glimpse of their favourite star or to get a selfie with them”
“And it doesn’t take much, you know. I pose for as many selfies as possible. Yes, there are times when I am tired, or in a rush, but I make it a point to at least smile or wave to acknowledge them. It is such a bad feeling to be looked through. I hate doing that,” says Ranveer.
A quiet clown
Truly, Ranveer thrives on attention. Not because he needs validation, but simply because this is how he is as a person – a ball of energy, in psychedelic colours. What is surprising, though, is how he has protected his essential ‘Ranveerness’ from being diluted by fame and success.
“In my interaction with people, I project myself as a frivolous, light-hearted person. But that doesn’t mean that I am putting up a show”
“There is another side to me that is hypersensitive and extremely intense. People who are very close to me are aware of that side and I reserve it for the screen where I channel it into some of my characters,” says Ranveer. “But in my interaction with people, I try to keep things light. I project myself as a frivolous, light-hearted person. I like to make mischief and have fun. But that doesn’t mean that I am putting up a show. Both sides are equally real. In fact, all my school report cards have me marked as ‘very talkative’ or ‘gregarious’.”
He is serious about not letting success stifle his being. “I still go to movie theatres to watch a film. I am okay if I have to engage with the crowd in the process. I won’t miss an experience that has always been so dear to me just to keep myself from getting mobbed,” he says. “I am actually very good at dealing with people. That stems from the fact that I have an endless resource of patience. I don’t get fried like my co-stars or colleagues. In fact, I love it! Although I still can’t believe that all this is really happening to me.”
This confidence to be himself did not always exist. “In my first two years in the industry, what you saw was a very confused version of me, maybe even a tad arrogant. For me, success came almost overnight. Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) came out on a Friday, and by Saturday, I was kind of famous. I was not prepared for it at all. I was suddenly seeking the validation of an entire industry, and when that validation did not come, I tried to become a person whom people will like,” Ranveer muses. “It was overwhelming to deal with sudden stardom.”
He had no clue what he was doing or supposed to do. “It would have been different if I had known someone in the industry. I was a rank newcomer, a total outsider,” he says. “So I had to learn everything, including how to handle myself as a public figure, on the fly.”
From the very beginning, his enthusiasm and exuberance has attracted attention. “I was suddenly in the midst of people I had grown up watching and idolising, whom I had until then only seen in movies! If I stumbled upon Kareena Kapoor at a film party, I would be completely star struck. These days, I am getting a bit used to it, though,” he grins.
A pinch of reality
According to Ranveer, 2013 was a turning point for his career. Lootera got him immense critical appreciation, and Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela got him box office numbers. “Lootera and Ram-Leela releasing back-to-back really helped because the industry recognised that I can act and that I can carry a film mounted on such a huge scale. That kind of validation gave me the confidence to be myself,” says Ranveer.
Once he started being himself, there was no looking back. “Slowly I started to lose the fear of being judged. I found it far less taxing to be myself, and an easier way to be,” he says. “It is success that keeps me grounded. The more I do interesting roles, the more I realise how little I know and how much there is to learn. I am falling deeper and deeper in love with my craft. Also, the more I get, the more I give. The more I am showered with love and appreciation, the humbler I become.”
He was humble to start with, actually. Though Ranveer always wanted to be a Bollywood hero, it wasn’t fame and fortune that attracted him. “I have always loved the process of acting, how you develop a character from scratch. The other things are all by-products,” he explains. Which is why he thoroughly enjoys his stardom.
“Acting was all that I wanted to do. It was only when I was in Class X that I realised that the chances of making that dream come real was one in a million,” he says. “It was a time when Bollywood was a family business. It was a mom and pop shop. You could only get inside if you had some kind of a lineage. My chances were so bleak that I decided to give up.
“I went to university to learn copywriting and there, by chance, was enrolled in an acting class. When I started acting, I realised how much I loved performing and evoking a reaction out of the audience. It gave me a huge rush and I decided to give my Bollywood dream a shot. I could accept failing, but I couldn’t accept not trying. And it worked out. So, indeed there are times when I pinch myself to check if all this is really real.”
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From HT Brunch, February 25, 2018
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First Published: Feb 24, 2018 21:41 IST