RANVEER SINGH TALKS ABOUT A PROJECT THAT COMBINES HIS LOVE FOR RAP AND MUMBAI
by ASJAD NAZIR
The past 12 months have been incredible for Ranveer Singh. The dream year has included blockbuster hits Padmaavat and Simmba and also saw him marrying long-term love Deepika Padukone in a dream wedding that made global headlines.
He has also firmly established himself in the top tier of Hindi cinema and shown off his immense versatility as an actor with challenging roles dramatically different to each other.
The A-list superstar continues to venture into new territory with his latest film Gully Boy, which is based on real-life events and revolves around the rise of a rapper from the Mumbai slums. He stars opposite Alia Bhatt in the Zoya Akhtar-directed drama filled with superhit music. Eastern Eye caught up with the seriously in-demand actor to talk about his remarkable rise, Gully Boy, rap skills, versatility and inspiring next project.
The year 2018 was incredible for you, have you had a chance to enjoy the success?
I did take a week off after the release of Simmba and then came back to work in January. That was a really lovely, much needed and welcome break where I kind of applied the brakes and soaked in everything that is happening. Yes, 2018 has been a really incredible year, which included two of my biggest blockbusters and one of the most glorious chapters in my life, my wedding. It has been a very blessed year.
2019 has started with a bang…
Then the trailer of Gully Boy came in soon after and kind of hit the spot with audiences. Now people are very excited about watching the film. The song Aapna Time Aayega has become a hit, so the going is good and it is a reward for all the honest effort one puts into the work. (Laughs). I am feeling the love, what can one say.
Is it a coincidence that all the roles have been so dramatically different to one another?
It is actually not a coincidence at all, Asjad. But also, the thing is, what kind of roles you are doing and in what sequence is a function of when they get offered to you, so a lot of it is not in your hands. In terms of choices, I have always tried to build a very diverse filmography and have tried to be recognised as a versatile actor. The talk about the versatility aspect about me as an actor is now more significant than ever before. It started in 2013 when Ram Leela and Lootera came out in the same year.
Yes, then in 2015 when Dil Dhadakne Do and Bajirao Mastani came out in the same year…
Yes, so it has been going on for some time now, but Padmaavat and Simmba happening in the same year, and Gully Boy coming out soon after means that talk about versatility is louder than ever and I am aware of it. I am very appreciative of it and it’s very heartening for me that the audience is recognising that because it is what I have always endeavoured to be. I’m trying to be the best actor I can possibly be and in my estimation, the best actor is the most versatile one, so I am always consciously working towards that.
You are succeeding because all your films are so different to each other…
I try to do films that are very different from the last one I have done. It is very important to me and a very conscious endeavour. I like to switch things up and don’t like to play it safe. I like to deconstruct and break it down and do something completely different in my next outing. That is what excites me as an artist. That comes through in my content, for instance, playing a really evil character like Khilji in the same year as Simmba and then Gully Boy.
What did you like about Gully Boy?
It is the coming together of too many things that I love. It is something that appeals to me on a very deep level. Zoya (Akhtar) is someone I have a personal connection with, beyond just a filmmaker and an actor. She is a close friend, a confidante, somebody who I can trust, someone who nurtures me as an artist and somebody I can share a laugh with. She is a wonderfully warm person. I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Zoya. I am a quintessential Mumbai lad, so for me, I have a very deep connection to my motherland. I am as hard a Mumbaikar as they come.
That connection means the film must be close to your heart?
So it is my connection to Mumbai and the love story of my city; my love story with Zoya; it is my love for hip hop; my love for the spoken language of the streets. It is Mumbai, it’s rap, it’s Zoya and the coming together of so many things. I made a deep connection with that when it was offered to me. It was an irresistible prospect and something so tailor-made for me that it was too good to be true. It has been such a fulfilling journey.
Who discovered you have mad rap skills?
I knew that I was decent at it. Zoya was unsure and said, ‘we will put you in a studio and only if you are good enough we will allow you to use your own voice for the character, but if you don’t make the cut you will have to go with someone else’s voice’. I didn’t want that, because to stay true to the nature of hip hop it would only be authentic if I gave my own voice. She said, ‘if you are not up to the mark we won’t do it’.
What happened next?
So she put me in the studio. Zoya, rapper Divine and the music supervisor were there. They made me rap Meri Gully Mein and said ‘that was great’ after hearing it. I went onto record songs in different meters and flows. So it has been very fulfilling and helped me discover another dimension within me that has been latent. The experience has been very rewarding.
Tell us about your connection to hip hop?
Hip hop has been alive in me ever since I was a kid. I started off with the more mainstream pop guys like MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Will Smith and then I gradually got into Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G, Dr Dre, Wu Tang and NWA. Then, of course, Eminem became a phenomenon. I used to go on the internet, memorise the lines and rap along. Even when I was working as a copywriter for a brief period of time, whatever jingles or taglines I used to write would be done in a rhyme scheme. So I always had this as a side skill. But it was very latent. After entering show business I had kind of done it for some live shows, ad campaigns and once briefly in a film. I got to explore it in depth for the first time in this movie.
Would you feel confident in a rap battle?
Yes. I think I would be able to hold my own for sure. The journey of this film helped me to discover my own musicality and myself as a hip hop artist. I thought I was okay and decent. I feel much more confident in my ability as a musician now. I realised I am able to express my thoughts and feelings in a fluid manner. I realised that I have got some kind of flow that people actually like.
Aapna Time Aayega has gone onto becoming a chart-topper…
That song is a significant thing for me, although it is written by Divine and in his flow. I think that over this period of time I discovered myself, also as a rapper and a musician.
Your chemistry with Alia Bhatt looks amazing in the trailer; what was she like to work with?
Alia is one of the most special actors to have ever graced Hindi cinema. At a young age she has such emotional depth and maturity. Any day I go to shoot with Alia I would become completely carefree because I knew that all I had to do was just be present in the moment with Alia and react to what she is doing, and my job would be done and the scene would fly. She is so good that she makes her co-actors look good. She is extremely secure, generous as an actor and a thorough professional.
How does Alia compare to other actors you have worked with?
Alia is one of the best actors I have had the good fortune of collaborating with. She is doing so well and if she continues on the same path, I am sure she will succeed because she has a severe passion for what she does, she has the making of an all-time great.
What most inspires you right now?
I am really excited and inspired about the film I am going into next because it is one of the most extraordinary stories I have ever heard. An underdog story about a team of guys who people had written off and went onto achieve the ultimate glory. It is one of the most glorious chapters of our nation’s history, which changed the face of sport and cricket in our country. The story of the 1983 World Cup win, which is such an amazing human story that the current generation is not fully aware of.
Tell us more?
It is about the spectacular journey of the world cup winning team. How nobody believed in them and they went onto achieve the ultimate glory. It is really one of the most amazing extraordinary human stories I have ever heard and I’m very honoured to be part of the project.
Gully Boy is in cinemas now