Ranveer Singh has always charmed us and set trends right from his first film. He always surprised his fans with several roles that he portrayed. Be it his quirky one liners to his extremely cool attitude and his outrageous fashion sense, his style, magnetic energy, passion for acting, wit or humor, Ranveer has shined in every aspect in the industry.
Now, the powerhouse performer Ranveer Singh has been garnering accolades for playing an antagonist Alauddin Khilji, one of the biggest villain of all times. His character in the film was unabashed and he gave up all to get into the skin of the role. Ranveer almost confined himself to an extent that he went hysterical at times.
In conversation with Ranveer Singh as he speaks about playing the toughest character till date and how he prepared for the role, his magical equation with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, few improvisations that he did to perform the Khilji, how his role took a toll on his mind, the way he went maniac at a point to enact Khilji and even supporting Shahid Kapoor in this costume drama..
In a candid tête-à-tête Ranveer poured his heart out about PADMAAVAT, the heinous character like Khilji, Bhansali, and much more.
Excerpts from the interview
Congratulations on the success of PADMAAVAT, how does it feel now?
While I was shooting for the film, I was too much into the film. I had given it all. I would be confined from home to shoot, I wouldn’t interact with anyone, but i loved shooting every bit of it. The minute the shoot wrapped up that minute Khilji was out and I was eagerly waiting For GULLY BOY to roll. When I saw PADMAAVAT I was moved to tears. I cried when the last act started. I was like, 'SLB has done it' and considered it as his victory after all that he has been through. He made an amazing film. I can't say that about all my films but this time, I really loved PADMAAVAT.
Were you apprehensive about taking up such a heinous character?
I was very apprehensive and I will tell you why. The apprehension was born basically out of the fact that when I read the script, I realized that if I have to play this character, I will have to visit some very dark places in my own life experiences and consciousness. There was a possibility and scope for me to lose my sanity. I wasn't prepared and didn't want to do it at that point. I was in a very happy space and didn't want to dwell in so much negativity. In my prep process, I do a lot of stuff in those three-four weeks. When I was prepping for my character, I was studying subjects like various acts of oppression in history, genocide, mass-killings and the life of tyrannical rulers throughout history and what they perpetuated and watching certain things. I had to convince myself somehow that such people exist and such things happen in the world. One is almost scared to go into the depths of the rabbit hole. I was apprehensive of this dark space. Knowing myself, I knew I would be going to the depths of it. But Mr. Bhansali somehow managed to convince me and I really couldn't say a 'No' to him.
Did you enjoy playing Alauddin Khilji in PADMAAVAT?
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this part. I like to do different stuff all the time. It's very exciting for me. I always wanted to play a negative character. So, I was like, why not play it with Mr. Bhansali? I wanted to play an antagonist who is the most evil ever. I was initially very apprehensive to take up the role. But Mr. Bhansali convinced me to explore this part and I can never say 'No' to him. I am glad I did this role. I enjoyed playing this part as it was very fulfilling. Not that it was easy but because it was interesting and very challenging. I went through a lot playing it. Because of the way it was shot, it took a toll on me in many ways. But at the end of the day, I have come out a little bit more evolved in my craft and a little bit more matured as a person. I am very happy and fulfilled with the process. It taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I can dig very deep and deliver under pressure. Now that this kind of appreciation is pouring in for it and this has been the response of the viewing audience and people are saying a lot about the character, for me all this is 'sone pe suhaaga'. For me, the process is the prize and I always maintain that and genuinely believe in that. There is no greater gift for me- a kid who always had stars in his eyes and just wanted to be a Hindi film hero. Here, I get to be a Hindi film hero as well as villain.
How playing Khilji took a toll on you?
Yes, to an extent it did. I’ll share a really strange incident that happened. The cameras were off and on the sets somebody made a mistake and I turned towards that person and I was going to physically assault him as Alauddin Khilji. I was like 'wait a second, this is not real.' Suddenly my instinctive reaction was that of the character's and not mine. I realized this is going somewhere and soon I called my best friends and family, they came over to my place and after shooting I would be with them we would talk about normal and causal stuff.
How did you add that touch of madness to your character?
All the eccentricities and idiocies in this character were not there on paper. I added a lot to it by myself. But even more than me, Mr. Bhansali added to it. We added layers and nuances and a lot of things to the written material that actually makes this character unique, fresh and exciting to watch, unpredictable, eccentric. The film has been out for a few days now and a lot of people are actually pin-pointing memorable moments and everybody has a different one. For instance, the scene where Khilji throws perfume on a girl and rubs himself against her stood out for many. That was Mr. Bhansali's spontaneous idea. We were just free-styling with each other and enjoying exploring this character. The scene where Khilji is waiting for Padmavati with a lotus and Maharana Ratan comes and he throws away the lotus that was my improvisation. (Laughs) I and Mr. Bhansali kept feeding off each other and built scenes after scenes to create a very entertaining character with so many layers. At the end of the day when we added so much of juice, it became such a wholesome cinematic character. There was one more scene wherein I had to clap, there are ways to clap, so as Khilji the way I clapped Sanjay sir was blown away with that and just stood and stared at the monitor. After wrapping up the shoot, many months later when I watched the film for the first time, I felt the emotion of the film.
I discovered that I had got some extra gears that I can tap into. I have got deeper reserves to dig into than I had thought. When I thought I couldn't go on and when my mind, body and everything had given up, it came out of somewhere which means I am capable of doing what I had imagined for myself. My capacity to deliver under pressure is little bit more than what I had expected.
When you act somebody like Khilji, how do you build respect for that character so that it resonates?
It wasn't difficult for me because I imagined there to be a great honesty in every decision that he took. If I have to speak in third person and judge him as Ranveer's moral compass, I think he's quite a bad person. He's detested and despicable. But when I play Alauddin and get into that mind space, I am 100% convinced that everything that he is doing is right. I am convinced that I rule over the world and everything that Almighty has created for me. My character is a narcissist; megalomaniac and I convince myself of that reality. And then, every action and decision and everything I do is with honesty. At the very least, you can accept his honesty to his beliefs. If he believes that he is honest in that belief which at some level is worthy of respect. Having said that, a lot of people are not looking at certain aspect of Alauddin Khilji. Most of us are talking about the villainy of the character but he was also a great statesman, a great strategist, very astute and shrewd, has a sense of humor, a patron of arts and a very effective ruler. Of course, PADMAAVAT wasn't his life story essentially. This was a small chapter in his life. He is extremely intelligent and a great fighter. There are so many obvious cues that a lot of people who are critiquing the character are missing out. So, it wasn't very difficult to build respect for this character. Yes, if I had to pass a judgement I don't think he's a good guy and you don't respect that he did.
With SLB, you have done three films which has been hits, As you are working with other directors do you think you will be living up to their expectations?
Currently, I am working with Zoya Akhtar, Rohit Shetty and Kabir Khan, all of who are accomplished filmmakers themselves. Each of them have a unique cinematic language and are specialists in telling a certain kind of story in the same way that Mr. Bhansali is. He has his own style and Zoya has her own.
I have worked with Rohit Shetty before and know that he too has a unique style of approach. I am sure the same stands true for Kabir Khan. They all are very secured individuals. I think on the contrary, they will be excited at the thought of what they could achieve with me and be looking forward to collaborating. They have seen the potential that Mr. Bhansali has unlocked in me. At the same time, I genuinely believe that there is something very special between me and Bhansali Sir. I think we match on many levels. He and I, both are extremists and are attracted and allured to heighted emotions. I make high risk choices as an actor. He makes very high risk choices in the scenes. That's another place where we match. We have a great synergy. Adi Sir (Aditya Chopra) after watching PADMAAVAT told me that you and Bhansali are magic together. There's something very special in that collaboration and we have seen that throughout history, a filmmaker finds a certain actor and then they go on to create a vast legacy of work together. I believe the same thing about Sir and me. I understand and value all for what he has done to my career. He has given me my biggest hits and more than that and above all, he has shaped me with the artist that I am today. The most that I have learnt about this craft is from him. He is absolutely precious and invaluable to me.
As you played the antagonist, a lot of comparisons are being made between you and Shah Rukh Khan who did a couple of anti-hero roles in the beginning of his career. How do you react to these comparisons
I cannot hold my contemporaries for not exploring a part like this. It always function of what's being offered. I am sure one of them would perhaps be pretty excited to play Khilji if it was offered to him. But, it was offered to me and I did it. I have been acting in films for about seven and a half years and from my very first film, people have been drawing comparisons with Shah Rukh Khan. I don't think there's any basis for it. He is a living legend. You can't even take my name in the same breath as him. He has achieved and contributed to the Hindi cinema so much. He is a game-changer in so many ways. Like I always say even if I achieve an iota of his achievements, I will consider that to be genuine achievement. Every actor is unique and every star's journey is unique. Everybody's life experience and circumstances are different. With each person being so unique, I don't think it's fair to especially compare artists.
Months back, you had shared a collage of Khilji, Alex De Large from Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE' and Heath Ledgers' Joker from the DARK KNIGHT on social media the similarity is all three characters had so much fun doing the horrible thing that they were doing. How did you get into the headspace of playing such a character and brought about that sense of humour in a dark character like Khilji?
I had uploaded what I thought was a very interesting collage and I got massively trolled for it. I was like 'what just happened and why?' I just thought of it as a cool looking image. So I spontaneously uploaded it and people started making their own interpretations. I, in no way, will ever compare myself to cinematic legends like Heath Ledger who lost his life playing that part. I am matured and understanding enough to know that there is no comparison to him. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is a cinematic textbook. So, never ever will I compare to these legendary characters. That is a wrong interpretation and people's negative point of view. They think I am comparing myself to them. A fan had sent me that collage and I thought it was damn cool. But, it got badly misinterpreted. Actually the fan brought to my notice that all the three characters had the 'Kubrick Stare' which has been written about extensively. The reason why that picture stood out to me was during my prep process for Khilji, I had studied these two characters very closely. There were small hints of humour were on paper. But I found that very interesting and brought more humour to it. I think if you are playing a negative character, the character must enjoy and be unabashed. If you are going to have fun, humour is bound to follow. I think it comes to me from modelling myself on my best friend. He says the most inappropriate things all the time. He is very unabashed about it and is habitual line-crosser. But yet, he is the most entertaining person to be around with. I think I drew from him a little bit. He's a bad boy but just so funny.
As Shahid Kapoor was new in this genre of costume drama, how did you make him comfortable?
To be honest, I did my best to welcome him and did whatever I could do to be a supportive co-actor. But I think it's got to do with the genre as well. PADMAAVAT is his first costume drama. So, a costume drama has its own set of unique challenges which I faced during BAJIRAO MASTANI and it takes some time to get adapted to it. I think he is reacting to that.
With Khilji you set a new benchmark for yourself. But looking at protests surrounding historical films like this, will you be open to take up such roles in future?
Historically yes, but I am not sure about taking about a dark character. I am done with that for a while. Only because it was very hard doing that. I don't think it's healthy to play that part. I felt like I was going crazy and losing my marbles. I had isolated myself during the shooting process as well. I was going to sets in the morning, being Khilji all day and then sleeping whenever I slept and be Khilji again. I had the hangover even in that period. I was suddenly generating ill feelings and harboring negative thoughts. A really strange incident happened. Once, I looked into the mirror and had an out of body experience. I was thinking certain things and I happened to walk by a mirror. I had this look on my face that I couldn't recognize myself which was really strange. That was when I thought I was going crazy. I had never seen my face look like that. I realize that was because I wasn't doing enough things Ranveer thinks. So, I started calling up my mother and my best friends and telling them how I was feeling. They started visiting me home after spent some time with me after I came back from work. That was very helpful because I was able to talk to them and they could counsel me. We would talk normal things. I am very happy and blessed that I have such lovely support system.