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Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Let’s just say, he’s the man of the moment. Ranveer Singh creates magic time and again with every performance and ‘Gully Boy’. He enters adorning a multi-coloured outfit – and yellow shades – not surprising since it’s Singh. Not to mention, he carries it all with panache. We get chatting about ‘Gully Boy’ and him turning out to be one of the most versatile actors of our times. Excerpts:

Did you expect this sort of response to the music of ‘Gully Boy’?
I was not expecting this sort of response, but was hoping it would be good. I understand that it’s not typical popular music but it’s a huge thing for me that I’ve done vocals for the first time and it’s become number one! Of course, I’ve not written it myself but I’ve given my vocals to five songs and two poems. It’s awesome to see the track doing so well. It’s not typical commercial music like ‘Aankh Maare’. ‘Apna Time Aayega’ is legit hiphop. That’s significant for the overall scene of underground hip hop music when such a song gets a mainstream acceptance and that’s what we’re hoping for, for the sake of the overall scene and rappers themselves. It’s not just about us, the film is important for them. And it could be a turning point, a real boost for this whole music and these artists. They keep adding that authentic flavor to the film, taking it to another level. It’s really made the film special.

Were you apprehensive earlier about the singing part?
Yes, I tend to enthusiastically jump at opportunities (laughs), so I wanted to rap. But Zoya was not sure. She was like, “this is a full music album! I know you’ve done few things here and there at award shows and ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, but if you’re not good enough, I’m not going to let you give the vocals.” I had to give a test. And for me, I obviously wanted to do it because it calls for the actor giving his own vocals to the music because it’s a journey of a boy who wants to make his mark. She called me to the studio, and it was like my recording test. I had a lot of help though. At any given point, people in the studio helped me because this was my first time.

Now the expectations from you are high each time, considering the past record of your movies. How does that feel?
I discover something on that, when I meet someone from the marketing team of any of my movies and they are like, ‘Now after Simmba….’ So, the success of ‘Simmba’ has especially lead to that expectation from me. It’s fantastic. Getting the tag of a ‘bankable star’ is creatively empowering, and I think it comes with responsibility now. I said this at the time of ‘Simmba’ as well that if people come to know that your face is attached to a project, and your face is on the poster, then that’s a promise of quality and entertainment almost. And those people are paying hard earned money to buy tickets and go to the hall believing that you will deliver. So, you need to keep up with that. They are putting their money on you, so you bloody well deliver.

“Getting the tag of a ‘bankable star’ is creatively empowering, and I think it comes with responsibility now”

Does this film also display a different side of you, which has been rare?
One had to become comfortable as an actor, revealing that side of yourself, because it’s a very real, authentic side. It’s something you protect from people and that side of you perhaps comes out only in front of people you really trust – family, close friends, my wife. I wasn’t initially comfortable being emotionally naked in front of the camera, and Zoya has the ability of peeling into those layers and tapping into a very real part of me. I think that’s because of the relationship she’s cultivated with me. I really trust her, she’s more than just a film-maker to me – she is my friend and we share a tremendously warm and affectionate relationship which is why she is able to reach that part of me. In her films, I have no shell to hide. She cuts my hair, takes my beard off, there are no good clothes. It’s just a very real and original version of me. I explored it first in ‘Lootera’, then in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, but I was very raw in ‘Lootera’. Even in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, that mode of performance of being re-active to co-actors. Like in ‘Simmba’, he’s got all the dialogues, all the action, he’s driving every scene and this is different. He is present, but he is reacting to everything around him. That mode of performance, I learnt for the first time in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’. And now I feel like, I have evolved from there also. I feel I have a more depth, when I see myself now. You can say it’s the kind of performance where there’s not much to do, but more to react and it’s structured by your co-actors. I’ve had the privilege of having some wonderful co-actors – from Alia to Siddhant to Vijay Raaz to Amruta Subhash. I am stunned at the work they’ve done in the film.

Playing this underdog from the larger-than-life Khilji and then ‘Simmba’ – how satisfying has it been to sort of unlearn each time, be this new person and make people root for you?
You’re definitely rooting for all these characters and that’s the achievement of the story-teller. I am thrilled that the films I’ve done have come out in this sequence because what that allows for me is the establishment of the notion that I’m a versatile actor. That’s something I’ve endeavoured also to do. Because there’s no good and bad acting, it’s all subjective. I may like a performance, you may not. In  that case, what defines a good actor or best actor. I can define an actor as good, only if he is versatile. If you can be effective across genres, if you can be a tyrant and be as believable as an underdog. That is what I’ve consciously tried to do. That happened when I did ‘Lootera’ and then ‘Ram-leela’ in the very same year. And then in 2015, there was ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ in the same year. So, now what has happened is that, because of social media, that aspect is being spoken about more than ever before, people are recognizing my versatility and that’s heartening because that’s what I’ve always aimed for. I want to be recognised as a versatile actor so for me it’s heartening that this kind of talk is at the forefront and louder than ever.

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