I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a child. Throughout my school years I used to participate in debates, plays etc. I always knew I was inclined towards entertainment. My first memory was: I had gone for a big b’day party. Dadi asked me to dance and suddenly in the middle of the lawn I am dancing. I remember the song was “chumma chumma. I felt the thrill of performance at a very young age. And the bug bit me then. Grew up on TV in the 90s. When I was 14 or 15, I felt this was a very far-fetched idea for someone like me who does not have any family backing. Prime opportunities came with lineage. So I pursued my second passion which was creative writing. Then when I was in America, in college, I took an acting class. And on the first day, my instructor said: I don’t wanna know who you are, what you do, just go up and perform. And that very day I decided this is what I wanna do. I would be compromising. This is what I love and I’m best at. So I took theatre as a minor. When I came to Mumbai I became an Assistant Director. Network a little with people in the industry. Then I said to myself, let’s get more acting specific. I did theatre. I wanted to only act in mainstream Hindi movies. When I went to meet to directors, producers etc. they felt it was an advantage because I was a blank slate. I had never been seen on any screen before. One day I got a call, saying it’s a Yashraj role, lead role, so I came, gave it my best shot. Then finally I met Maneesh, the director of BAND BAAJA BAARAAT. He took me to meet Mr. Aditya Chopra. He greeted me with a smile. I was numb, feeling so many things. I was trying to be professional. He said: “Ranveer, we’re going with you.” I was so excited I just stood up, gave Maneesh a big hug. All my professionalism was gone! Adi sir gave me good words of advice. I was dawned that my childhood dream had come true. I just sunk to the ground and started crying in the middle of the corridor. And Maneesh looked back and said: Yeh kya kar raha hai yaar. Adi also walked out, and saw me, and patted my back, and said “don’t worry bacche, tu kar lega”. They handed me the script so I had a tangible symbol of my achievement.
You got the script. When you read it for the first time, what did you feel about BBB?
Maneesh had already narrated to me the 1st half. By the time he had reached the 5th page, I had already started imagining and planning how I would structure the character and how I would create this character. It was just a very easy read. I loved the first half so much that I was absolutely curious to know what the second half was gonna be! The thing that stood out to me was Bittoo! It was such a fun character; he was such an endearing character. Such a cool guy. And more than anything I saw so much scope of putting my own personality in the character. The very heavy emotion is in sparing doses. Mostly fun film, light film. I felt that this film will be a lot of fun when it’s made. And it is!
Tell us something about Bittoo Sharma.
The good thing about being an actor is you get to play so many characters, you get to be so many
“YRF has spoilt me to bits.”
The character that you play, Bittoo Sharma, is a realistic character. Not from fantasy land. How comfortable were you with the character and the life of Delhi?
I think Maneesh’s biggest concern was this. That he acts well, but he doesn’t know much about Delhi and its life. When they went to do the recce, he decided to take me along! His intention was to expose me to the world of the film. They have their own culture. Delhi University, the whole world is very distinct. And it’s very important because it makes the character very relatable. He took me to the university and left me. Said – Launda banke aa! I was running free in the university, meeting all students, hanging out with them; see how they speak, what their tastes are, where they come from. All my days in Delhi were spent with them, while I also lived with them. And I went incognito as Bittoo. I used to introduce myself as Bittoo Sharma. Every day I would meet new people. Attended classes, went to watch movies together, did loaferbaazi. Interestingly, I met this guy who was very close to Bittoo. He had the swagger, the way he dressed, spoke, I knew when I met him for the first time, I knew he was my guy. So I studied him for a few days, hung out with him and have made Bittoo like him. He had the attitude and energy of Bittoo. I knew this is as Bittoo as it gets! He was crucial in my preparation of Bittoo!
CHECK OUT: BAND BAAJA BAARAT Movie Preview
The preparation pre-shoot was a long process. Habib Faisal, the writer and Maneesh Sharma, the director are both from Delhi. What help did you get from them?
At first I was struggling with the reading. They were having a tougher time explaining to me the character. But once I came back from Delhi, I was flying. I wasn’t only doing exactly what they were looking for, but adding to it! So all thanks to Maneesh that he took me with him and exposed me to the setting of BBB. I had absorbed so much of the world of the film, that they were thrilled.
Habib was the main driving force behind the emotion of the film. Once I went to Delhi, I had mastered where the character was from, his background, his setting etc. After that, I needed to know what the emotions would be and when they would come. Habib sir knows exactly what he has written, so precise, what emotions etc. he is so meticulous. I couldn’t have got the emotion right without him!
You both play wedding planners in the film. How did you put this into your character? During the recce you learnt a lot, so by the time you reached shoot, had you understood what was needed?
I only learnt and studied up until you see him first in the film, when he is a university boy. Uske baad jo bhi dikhaya hai, woh uske liye bhi naya hai. He is also planning a wedding for the first time, and going to places in Delhi for the first time. So I let that be a new experience for me too. That was why I could be most natural; it would all be new for me, not rehearsed, so I could act it out well.
Maneesh is crazy! He is a raging bull on set! He has a very clear vision. He knows what he’s saying; he knows his style, his vision of the end product is so clear! It just makes everyone’s job so easy. He knew every nuance of every line, how he wanted, where he wanted. This script was so much in his system. And it had gone through so much processing in his mind. And the way he would speak, you would know how much and how well he knows BAND BAAJA BAARAAT! He is not unclear at any given point. And he doesn’t compromise. Till he gets it, he doesn’t move forward. Everybody has to get on the same page. So for me he is the best director in the world! He really has natural talent and is a great story teller.
What was your experience of meeting Anushka for the first time?
I remember it was during the audition process, a Sunday morning. Maneesh told me to come for a reading, and said it would be with a fellow actor. I had no idea it was going to be with Anushka! I was already very nervous. And when the door opened, there was Anushka! It was like a scene out of a film. I was stunned! I had been a fan of hers. Loved her work in RAB NE BANA DI JODI. I was stunned. She is so gorgeous in person, twice as she is on screen. I was taken in by her presence. I was already nervous, then you popped Anushka in front of me. She is very hard to ignore.
The film being character driven requires tremendous chemistry between the actors for its success. What did you do for chemistry?
I’m lucky that she was cast to be Shruti. Anushka and my approach to acting are very different. I rehearse and rehearse and she leaves it to be as spontaneous as possible. Because it’s such a beautifully written script, the chemistry was already on paper. The rest was just our approach to it, and I guess the chemistry just followed.
Did Anushka explain to you from her experience?
I am a nervous kind of guy! But I never allow my nerves to be detrimental to my performance. I’ve learnt how to channel them and make them a positive energy. And that time Anushka helped me. She would help me at every level. When she says something it’s like reggae music. When it comes at you it’s not harsh. She had a wonderful way of supporting and encouraging me at every step of the way. What’s remarkable is she accepts another actor whose approach is totally different. We learnt from each other. She is very cool, collected, calm and operates from a space of extreme confidence. And she has so much that even I became confident! She was like a pillar of support throughout the process.
CHECK OUT: I have lost objectivity on BAND BAJAA BAARAAT
Did dancing come easy to you?
For my first audition, I was required to enact a couple of scenes, but the second one required me to dance! Maneesh rolled the camera and said pick your song! I chose ‘My Name Is Lakhan’ and ‘Chaiya Chaiya’.
In the feedback, they said you can dance, you have rhythm but your moves are terrible!
Then I met Vaibhavi ma’am who made me dance and then made moves according to what I naturally can do. I am not trained, but enjoy it. That’s why I get away with it! She made me do dance classes. Finally we rehearsed before the shoot. The songs are so much fun, I never felt like I was going to work. If you choose a job you love, you will never feel like you’re going to work.
Instance during the shoot that was memorable?
There are two.
When we were shooting in the DDA market in Delhi, there was a huge crowd gathered to see the shoot. And there was a liquor store there. It was situated in such a place, that the crew was blocking its way. After some time, the owner came up and said I have lost so much money because of you! What the hell are you doing? My business is going down! Everyone was trying to control him. The direction team tried to plead saying, we are just going, we are just about to finish. But he was not budging. Then I went up to him, and said, “Please sir, meri pehli film hai”. And I don’t know what got into him. He suddenly melted! And said: “Oh bhai, toone kya baat kehdi. Ab tu shooting kar! Saari raat shooting kar!”
Another day when we were shooting an intense scene, I had to be dramatic and my elbow ended up whacking Anushka’s face. I was dying! I had just whacked the heroine! But Anushka was so cool about it. All the Ad’s started having fun and wanting to watch the scene in slow motion!! It really created a tense situation, but I think Maneesh was so happy, because the tension helped the scene!
How would you sum up your whole experience?
I hope I do many more films in my life but BBB will just be that special one! I feel really lucky to play a superb character like Bittoo in my first film. The people I worked with are so awesome. They are so good at their work. YRF has spoilt me to bits. I am so thankful to Adi sir. I owed it to him and I’ve tried to give it my best shot. I’ve given it everything. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. The kind of growth and personal development during BBB has been the best, the coolest, the most fun and most satisfying thing I’ve done in my life.