Ranveer Singh: I haven't arrived yet
Four months ago, it was easy to write off newcomer Ranveer Singh.
In the trailer for his debut film Band Baaja Baaraat (BBB), he is shown stepping out of his college hostel room and stretching languorously with the sun streaming down. The face is then revealed in a slightly dramatic fashion — thanks to some slick camerawork.
Ideally, this anticipation-inducing introductory scene should have treated the viewer to an all-conquering handsome Bollywood hunk. But with one look at Singh's scruffy face, you are tempted to reach for your remote control. No malice intended, but he is not your average sweet-looking, superbly-sculpted matinee idol. As it turns out, that's a good thing.
Since the film's release, things have taken a 360˚ turn for this 28-year-old newcomer. His romantic comedy went on to become one of the surprise hits of 2010. In the UAE alone, the film about two spirited wedding planners fetched Dh1.6 million in box office — and his trophy cabinet is bursting with a stack of debutante awards scooped over the last three months. Singh pins his meteoric rise on "low expectations".
"I think people were surprised. It was almost like they didn't expect anything from me. Band Baaja Baaraat was an underdog film — it was releasing along with an A-list, big-budget multi-starrer [Anees Bazmee's No Problem] — we were the complete underdogs," said Singh in an interview with tabloid!.
He admits that the trailers didn't generate the kind of buzz that is expected when a new face is unveiled. In Bollywood films the heroes are invariably introduced in a larger-than-life fashion. Bombastic sequences, including balancing precariously on a motorbike (Ajay Devgn in Phool Aur Kaante) or a fierce car-racing scene with a wind-swept hero behind the wheels (Salman Khan in Maine Pyaar Kiya) are some of the oft-employed tools.
"Here, all they saw was a new face and in the trailers people weren't really impressed by the way he looked. Yes, he displayed some sort of confidence, but there was nothing much I could prove in 30 seconds flat. People had no expectations when it came to me or the film."
In fact, the initial misgivings were not just felt by the masses. Even acclaimed director and producer Karan Johar confessed in his chat show Koffee With Karan that he scoffed when the BBB producer Aditya Chopra pinpointed his latest find. But the guffaw gave way to praise as Johar declared him "the biggest movie star" after he watched BBB. Even Bollywood titan Shah Rukh Khan gave him a pat on his back at an awards function.
"The biggest compliment that I have received was when Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Raju Hirani told me that I had done a good job. Their praise meant a lot to me. Knowing that you are doing what you do because of these people and then being praised by those very people — that feeling is just amazing. It's just amazing when actors whom you look up to compliment you," says Singh emphatically.
It's not just the industry that has embraced him with open arms. Today, when Singh steps onto the streets in India, he's instantly recognised.
"Some of them actually holler Aree oye Ainvayi Ainvayi [the chorus of his hit song from BBB] or scream out ‘Bittoo' [his character in BBB]. It's unbelievable. My life has changed completely in the last three months.
"This is the best time of my life. To know that all I dreamed of is actually happening tangibly before me — it's so surreal," says Singh. But the 25-year-old debutante is trying his best to keep his feet firmly on the ground. So much so that his trophy rack, which houses eight statuettes including the Filmfare Best Debutante award and an Apsara award, is hidden away.
"I have kept all the trophies in a place where I can't see it every day. I don't even go to that part of the house. I keep it away from my eyes because I don't want to see it and get complacent or feel ‘haan, kuch kiya hai life mein' [yes, I have done something in my life]. This is just my first step," said Singh, who was in the midst of an acting workshop for his next romantic comedy Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl when he chatted with tabloid!.
The one-film-old star is surprisingly cautious about his meteoric rise.
"My [career] trajectory has been shooting up north — straight 90˚. Just like that! I am thankful, but somewhere down the line I think people are getting a bit caught up in the excitement and are giving me too much credit. Lately, I have been getting this feeling: ‘Arre, kuch zyaada nahin bol rahein hai?' [Are they not giving me too much credit?]."
He may occasionally feel bogged down by soaring expectations, but there's one winning proposition in his next project — namely Anushka Sharma. Simply put, it was their palpable onscreen chemistry that made BBB a robust, romantic feature. In his second film, he is once again paired with the Bengaluru beauty.
"I just can't articulate what works between me and Anushka. If you really ask me, Anushka is a brilliant actor and you will have to be really daft if you don't have any chemistry with her. She is such a generous actor — the give and take is always happening."
Though he is banking on their chemistry to be re-ignited again in their next film Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, he is currently focusing on polishing his acting skills.
"My focus is on keeping my head above all this. After all, I want to approach every film as if it is my first film. So I don't think I have arrived — not yet."
One film wonder
Bollywood newcomer Ranveer Singh may have enjoyed a spectacular success with Band Baaja Baaraat. But not everyone has been this lucky. tabloid! gives you a round-up of debutantes who sank without trace in the last couple of years.
Debut: Kal Kissne Dekha [Who has seen tomorrow].He lost nearly 60kilos in less than two years. However, neither his drastic weight loss nor his powerful Bollywood connections could save this film from becoming a box-office debacle. He played a brilliant student with clairvoyant powers. For Bhagnani's sake, we wish he had predicted the outcome of his debut.
Debut: Teen PattiThis gambling drama had all the ingredients of a blockbuster and was backed by A-listers, including Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley. But a confused plot and pretentious dialogues made it a losing proposition for veteran actor Shakti Kapoor's daughter.
Debut: LuckHassan, daughter of South Indian matinee idol Kamal Hassan, may have looked ravishing in Luck. But that didn't add any punch to this stunt-filled drama. A note: exotic locales plus stunts rarely make a good film.
"Anushka is a brilliant actor," says Singh of his Band Baaja Baaraat co-star (left). Singh scooped eight debutante awards over the last three months, including
the Filmfare Best Debutante Award, (above) for his role in Band Baaja Baaraat.
Did you know?
Ranveer Singh has signed a three-film deal with the prestigious banner Yash Raj Films — the production house that launched him. "It's a non-exclusive contract which means I can accept other films too. In my next film Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl with Yash Raj, I play a suave casanova," said Singh.
Joining the league
Post Band Baaja Baaraat success, Ranveer Singh has a tiny entourage trailing him. He has hired a personal trainer, a chauffer and personal assistant."I had to have these support systems in place so that I can devote all my attention to my films. These are not status symbols. I needed them. For instance, I needed a trainer because the body is an actor's instrument."