Ranveer Singh made his debut playing wedding planner Bittoo Sharma in Band Baaja Baaraat (2010). Twelve years and 15 films later, he's now gearing up for the release of his social-message comedy Jayeshbhai Jordaar. The actor talks about what's changed along the way, how he's learnt to strike a work-life balance and what the process of becoming kinder to himself has been like:
I asked director Maneesh Sharma how you'd changed between Band Baaja Baaraat and Jayeshbhai Jordaar. He said, "Before Band Baaja Baarat released, we saw the final film for the first time at YRF. Post the screening, I asked Ranveer: Kaisi lagi? And he replied, 'It's not my kind of genre. I don't know what to say, I was honestly just looking at myself. I have a lot to work on as an actor, I don't know what the film was like.' Maneesh said you came to Band Baaja Baarat as a fully-formed actor with the intent of excelling at your craft, and you continue to do exactly that. He said, 'Ranveer has only added arrows to his quiver, but he's hit the bull's eye from day one. As a person, Ranveer has stayed super grounded and super lazy, as he has always been. People see him as an energiser bunny, but the moment he's by himself, he's an ode to indolence. He's at his happiest being a couch potato, watching football or playing video games, and that hasn't changed at all.'
I have probably never heard a more accurate interpretation of me. That's spot-on.
But you watched this film, and you instantly, with a sort of forensic eye, knew that you had a lot to work on. Was that your aim? Not what this whole film was about or what it could do for you?
Any actor, who tells you that they're watching the film, when they're watching it for the first time, is lying. They're only watching themselves. They're only counting pimples and they're making notes like: In the scene just before the interval, there's a huge pimple on my chin. This is the God's honest truth. You're only counting the marks on your face. When you watch it a second time, you're only watching yourself in isolation. It's like everything else is out of focus. Then you watch it a third time, and a fourth time, then after a year, maybe two years, you can watch it as a film. Otherwise, when it's all fresh, you're just watching yourself. I think it's just the natural thing. That's what actors do.
Having said that, my objectivity about a film can only come in much later. Somehow, when I watch the film years later, especially when I decide to watch it spontaneously — like if I see a thumbnail or something and I think of watching a scene or two — then I'm like, 'Okay okay, uh-huh, okay, nice, huh.'
Are you very critical of yourself?
What has changed?
I'm just kinder to myself, in general. It's nice. You've got to be easy on yourself. Now I've started cutting myself some slack. I used to be overtly hard on myself, overly critical. My ambition to excel was such that I didn't want to do anything less than great. That wasn't helping me at all. So instead of being hard on myself, I try and see the merit in me. Now I look upon that guy who gave a performance one or two years ago and I'm like, 'You tried.' I know deep down in my heart that I tried my best. So what is there to critique? I tried, something landed, something worked, something didn't, it's fine. You go out the next time, try again, and even there, you do your best. So lately I've evolved into the kind of person who's kinder to myself.
And you're happier that way.
Yeah, I manage my expectations of myself. I've really evolved right now. I try and achieve a work-life balance. Until not so long ago, it was just work, work, work, because I love my work. I'm obsessed by my work. I didn't even see it as work most times, I saw it as play. I was having a blast in just about everything I did. But as you grow older, you start attaching so much emotional value to your close relationships, and you realize that life is a shared experience and a collection of memories. So you try and build memories and spend more time with the people you love. To nurture these relationships and cultivate them into something more substantial, you have to dedicate time to them. Ultimately, what we have is what defines us. The time we have and how we use it matters.
So earlier, it was very lopsided. I used to only work. But now, I spend time with my wife, my friends, my family, and it's lovely. And all credit to my wife, she is the reason I was able to go through this personal evolution. She guides me since she's been where I was. She's also seen the pitfalls of working too much. She's experienced burnout, and she doesn't want me to go down that same, not-so-pleasant path. So having had this realization herself, that it's important to have a work-life balance, she's now sharing it with me. She sits at the dining table with my calendar and manages my dates. It's really lovely. I'm very lucky.