Ranveer Singh isn't here.
Yet his presence is undeniable at a football turf somewhere in Bandra on an irritatingly humid afternoon. He is here in the busy hands of the PR executive scrambling to make things happen last-minute. He is here, around the four husky bodyguards, dressed in all black, each attempting their best version of the poker face. He is here amidst the young kids, donning jerseys of their favourite football clubs.
A lot of minutes later, he is finally here in person. For a round of football-related promotional interviews. Around him, every single character mentioned in the preceding paragraph and more. Now everyone's here and they all want a rub of the superstar whom they consider to be at a higher frequency. Stories about actors' energy exist by the truckloads.
Ranveer Singh is dressed like a professional football player. Stockings, studs, pads and all that. His hair dishevelled, his beard unkempt and he is now roughly 200 metres away. As the entourage around him begins to maraud forward, he reluctantly picks up the pace and eventually makes it to the canopy at the other side of the ground.
I am second. A popular tabloid newspaper has first dibs on him. After an awkward exchange about his wedding that lasted a full four minutes, he's relieved the first one is over and done with. Something is amiss. The boy looks nervous. His demeanour? A thousand miles away from Simmba.
"Hi," he reaches out sheepishly with his right hand. His nails uncut. Ranveer Singh is trying his best to look at me and smile. Oblivious to the fans that have climbed the wall of the property, hoping to get a glimpse of him.
I assure him that all my questions will be about the sport but he's still apprehensive and quiet. Very. Alternating between serious and reserved, my three-minute conversation with him eventually ends on a good note. A picture with his hands around my shoulder. We're both beaming.
I tried to probe deeper into Singh's uncharacteristically brittle conduct on the day. Principal photography for Gully Boy began in January 2018 and the film was wrapped up in April 2018. Our conversation transpired bang in the middle of his shooting schedule (26th February, 2018), It finally became clear. The boy was in character. Ranveer Singh wasn't here. Murad Ahmed was.