Congratulations Ranveer! On your marriage and also, on your first masala movie..
My first 'in and as', how about that? I earned my stripes. I put in the work. You have to have a certain amount of equity. You can't just get an 'in and as' unless you're super lucky. Lekin time se pehle aur aukaat se zyada kisi ko kuch nahi milta. Simmba has happened at the right time and in the best way possible. I always wanted to foray into the genre but not with anyone other than Rohit Shetty.
Did you two discover you were made for each other during that 'Ranveer Ching' ad?
Actually, that was a big plot that I had hatched. That was me fielding. Ching's came up with this enormous budget, unprecedented. So we said, "Who should we go to?" And at first, I thought, "Let's get Guy Richie." It didn't work out. So we said, "Okay, let's look at someone closer to home in Mumbai who can do this." Only one name comes to mind when you're thinking that kind of scale – Mr. Rohit Shetty.
So Rohit was your idea?
Yes, because I genuinely thought that there's nobody who can mount it like him. He knows what to do with a big budget. You want to give it to somebody you can be confident about and we were very confident that he would be able to, if he got into it, give us something big. He set it up and I went to shoot there and I knew this was like a test for me. If he liked my work, then in the future he may consider working with me. On the post production of that ad, we were dubbing for it in Yash Raj Studios, and he comes into the dubbing room and he said, "Mere paas tere liye ek subj–," and I was like, "Haan, shooting kab hai?" I was on like donkey kong.
We really have bonded over the course of shooting the film but earlier than that, his movies were my favourite kind of movies to watch. In terms of a shared viewing experience, going to Chandan, going to Gaiety; watching Golmaal 3, Chennai Express, Singham – there's such joy in that and there's nobody who does it quite like him. There's a certain panache with which he goes about making commercial cinema which I'm a huge fan of so he's been a top-rated director for me always.
But tell me, people like me tend to be dismissive because there's no logic, but it can't be easy to do this..
Oh, it's not. And that's something I would like to tell you personally and everybody else who may or may not be the biggest fan of this kind of cinema, it's painstaking. There's a lot of work, a lot of thought and effort, hours, sweat, blood and tears that goes into making something that is seemingly very frivolous. But it's for entertainment. And look at the number of people, the hordes and hordes of people he entertains! He really is a front-footed, unabashed entertainer.
We've been really honest in the making process. It's shooting round the clock, back breaking sequences. Everybody is constantly thinking of how to contribute, make it better. He has a very unique process as well, it's like he's packed up day 1 at 6 pm and from 7 to 12, he'll remain on the set, send all the talent away, keep the assistants back and they will actually block the entire scene, shoot it, edit it. When you arrive the next morning, he will show you the edited scene with music and everything, so everybody is crystal clear on what we're trying to achieve and then it just works like clockwork. Everybody knows what to do. It's a very unique process.
Tell me, though, where do you get the swagger from? They can't teach you that in any acting school.
He actually does. In Rohit Shetty films, you don't just walk. There's a science to it because he knows when to slow it down. When he's watching the take, the background music is already playing in his head. You've got to take his little cues when he gives them to you because then you're just going to see the most immaculate walking shot.
He says, "Don't close your fist, leave them a little loose. Just cross your steps like this." He's one guy who definitely micro-manages the swagger. Of course, there's an inherent swagger but he works with it and it's just immaculate.
Is it harder toning down than to do something that is much louder? Projecting so much?
Well, for your boy it is. The way I am is the way I am on the poster of Simmba. Gully Boy is me after having gone under some evolution, having seen life a little and having understood various other things. But it's learned. My core is this.
In Simmba, there's a lot to do and Gully Boy, you just have to be. In Simmba, I'm the center of everything – I'm saying a lot, there's lots of dialogue and action, I'm driving the scene. In Gully Boy, there's a lot happening around me and I'm reacting. I'm very quiet.
Two very different modes of performance and how blessed I am to have Zoya Akhtar on one hand and Rohit Shetty on the other. Gold standard in their respective genres and styles, but they're poles apart.
In terms of output, I don't feel as exhausted on a day of Gully Boy's shoot as I do on a Rohit Shetty film. In terms of sheer energy, wattage, output, there's just a lot more you've got to pump in there. In that sense, it's tougher. But personally, I'm a doer. So to just be, I need to wrap my head around it. It takes a Zoya to rein me in.
When the trailer first came out, there was a fair amount of criticism that the film was peddling these archaic stereotypes – that the rape of a woman becomes a catalyst for the redemption of this alpha male character; that the women are just 'mother', 'sister', or decoration. What is your response to that?
Not at all – they are all strong characters in the film. I can't elaborate much on this until the film comes out. To me, the women of the film are very much at the centre of things. If you're not the protagonist and if you're the catalyst, you're still pretty pivotal in this narrative and they most definitely are. I guess one can't hold that against anyone to infer that from the way the trailer's structured, but the trailer is the trailer. There's only that much time. People won't think this once the film comes out.
So Rohit told us that in between your multiple receptions, you were dubbing for the film. I think men don't get asked enough about the work-life balance. How is it going for you?
It's very difficult. I'll come to the work-life balance after I tell you about the dub. My god, what a difficult dub! The thing is, they were all dialogues that were delivered very spontaneously and mostly, I did them all in one take. I chose to break the metre of the writing and say it my own way. And for some reason, I chose that this character speaks very fast and says everything in one breath.
Now when I look back at it, I think I made every choice to make this, by far, the most complicated dubbing job ever. To match the spontaneity, to say everything in one breath, to speak at the speed of knots is like… it was a slog to dub for it. That's why I started it so early. I had to go in and get started, it was going to be a very involved, immersive process. It was almost like doing the performance all over again.
This work-life balance thing is not working right now. I'm working 20 hours a day. I'm not complaining – I'm enjoying everything that I'm doing. But the missus isn't particularly happy. I have promised her that once this film releases, I will streamline my life in a way that I will be able to maintain a respectable work-life balance.