He has barely made an entrance into the world of Bollywood and already Ranveer Singh has already created curiosity. The newbie will debut with Anushka Sharma in 2010’s shaadi flick of the year, Band Baaja Baaraat. For any newcomer, working with Yash Raj Films is a dream come true and Ranveer has managed just that. The actor plays a young boy from Delhi who is totally different from his own personality especially since their backgrounds are totally diverse. However, the debutant actor has taken on this fact as a challenge and according to insiders, has performed immaculately well. However, it wasn’t as easy as it all seems. The actor had to undergo a series of acting courses but then the big break and he was found by Yash Raj films. From then on, there was no looking back for Bittoo Sharma aka Ranveer Singh. The actor speaks to BollySpice about all things Band Baaja Baraaat, weddings and being an actor.
Tell us something about yourself and your background. How did you end up becoming an actor?
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 was never very good at academics or sport. But what I used to excel in was cultural activities, creative stuff, dancing. When I won, I loved it! I always knew I was inclined towards entertainment. My first memory was: I had gone for a big birthday party. Dadi was getting bored amidst all the kids. Suddenly she looked at me and said: Dance for me! I was zapped but did not say no! Suddenly in the middle of the lawn I am dancing. I remember the song was ‘Chumma Chumma’. Next thing I know the whole party has gathered around me, clapping for a kid who has gone crazy. The more energy I put into my performance the more they would cheer. So I felt the thrill of performance at a very young age and the bug bit me then. I used to watch a lot of TV. I was very robust. Grew up on TV in the 90s. I used to be glued! Then 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. I thought I would become a copywriter. And they said, you’re good, you have a future in this also! Then when I was in America, in college, I took an acting class, just randomly. 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 all of us went up to stage and just performed. I came back to my seat, and boom! I said: THIS is what I wanna do. There is nothing else I wanna do. I would be compromising. This is what I love. This is what I’m best at. So I took theatre as a minor. Did well also which was very encouraging. When I came to Mumbai I became an Assistant Director. It was a good decision because I got on-set experience. Network a little with people in the industry. Get my foot in there. Then I said to myself, let’s get more acting specific. Did theatre. I wanted to only act in mainstream Hindi movies. Thing was I wanted to keep my face fresh. I made it a point not to give my face away. 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. Went through the conventional way: got my pictures clicked, went to casting agents, anyone who was willing to see my pics. Started ambushing people! Went on for a good 3 and half years. One day I got a call, saying it’s a Yashraj role, lead role, so I came, gave it my best shot. I crossed many stages. Then finally I met Maneesh, the director of Band Baaja Baaraat again on the 19th of November. I did not know what the verdict was going to be, but I know I was going to be told that day. It was my decision time. He took me to meet Mr. Aditya Chopra. He greets me with a smile. I was numb, feeling so many things. I was trying to be professional. I sat on the couch and he said: “Ranveer, we’re going with you.” That’s it. That’s all he said. I was SO excited I just stood up. I gave Maneesh a big hug. All my professionalism was gone! And then I had to collect myself. Adi sir gave me good words of advice and what I should do. I listened to him. As soon as I left his office, took 5 steps and then it dawned on me, that my childhood dream had come true. I just sunk to the ground. Sat on the floor, and just started crying in the middle of the corridor. Just couldn’t control myself! 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’. And suddenly I got up as if I had got a new life! Suddenly my lust for life doubled. Just in a matter of minutes. They handed me the script so I had a tangible symbol of my achievement. I went to my friend’s place, went to my family. Everyone was really happy.
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 fifth page, I had already started imagining and planning how I would structure the character. It was my natural instinct to start processing in my head 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! Jaldi se ghar jaake maine second half padha. 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. When I finished, I said this is superb! The very heavy emotion is in sparing doses. Mostly it is 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 people. I am so happy I got to play this part. Bittoo ek Delhi university ka launda hai – awara, typical loafer, always doing masti with friends. He has no interest in studies, bas maza karne hain, chill karna hai. Aage nahi sochta. Third year, khatam hota hai. Now he has to decide what to do. That is when he meets Shruti. Bittoo sochta hai, yaar yeh badi sorted ladki dikhti hai, main iske saath chipak jaata hun. Iske bhale mein meri bhi kuch setting ho jayegi. Zyaada kaam nai karna padega. Yeh life mein kuch karegi. Somehow convinces her that we should start a business together. You do all the thinking and I’ll do all the execution. And then the story goes forward: about their relationship.
The character that you play, Bittoo Sharma, is a realistic character. Not from fantasyland. 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! Everyone said why are you taking him! He fought for it and took me. 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, saying that I had come to check out the university because I was thinking of transferring to Delhi. 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! How I met him was sheer luck. I was at lover’s point. When you went to Hansraj College, you must go to lovers point. I was lying down and taking a breather with my shades on. Watching a game of football. And I heard a voice: Eh oi! Walking around as if he owned the college. Tere baap ka college hai!? I said I can’t take that! So I sat back, didn’t answer, and gave him attitude! He just paused and looked back thinking to himself, did this guy actually do that to me. He walked up to me, he’s a dada, and he took my shades and put it into his pocket, and said: haan bhai, kaun hai tu!? In my mind, I was like yes! — I’m messing with the right guy! I just remembered a dialogue by Jaideep Sahni and I said: main tera papa hoon! Again he paused: who is this guy!? I said: apne paas rakh, fayda hoga. He suddenly high 5 me, and that was it! The next 5 days we hung out together. Most amount of bittoo-ness I learnt from him. He would get into fights, he was a jugaru. Blessed to have met him! He was crucial in my preparation of Bittoo!
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. I knew that after the recce. I knew that. After that, I needed to know what the emotions would be and when they would come. In many instances, I saw things differently. Habib sir and me went back and forth on why he was saying things, why he was reacting to certain things. So it took a lot of readings, Habib sir knows exactly what he has written, so precise, what emotions etc. he is so meticulous. He wouldn’t mind putting 4 hours on one line till he knows for sure you have understood where Bittoo is coming from. I couldn’t have got the emotion right without him!
The accent in which you speak Hindi is very simple. Was it easy bringing that typical Dilli accent into your acting then?
Even though I went to an English medium school, Hindi was our main language. Hindi mein main saaf isliye hoon, kyunki my favourite teacher in school was my Hindi teacher. School se hi aur bachpan se main Hindi bolta aa raha hoon. Mere teacher mujhe hindi dramatics, elecution, karwate the. Poetry likhwate the. Mere ghar mein Hindi bolte hain. Toh use meri Hindi kaafi brush up ho gayi. Ek baar main university gaya America mein, kam log milte the jo hindi bolte the. Aur jo milte the, woh ya toh Lahore se ya Delhi se hote the. Isliye unki accent meri accent ban gayi. Lahori Hindi aur Delhi Hindi alag hai. Vapas aaya toh mujhe mushkil hoti thi. Hindi bolne mein. Sirf 5 din pehle, main ek play karke aaya tha Delhi se. audition se 5 din pehle. Most interesting was to see how people in Delhi spoke Hindi. Unka style alag hai. Boss ki jagah bhaiya. Typical Delhi. As an actor, I started learning it. Audition ke liye jab bulaya gaya toh maine bilkul wohi Hindi boli. People used to think I am from Delhi! I’ve always been fascinated by how people talk. I have always been learning.
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 Sharma. The director of the film: How is he as a person and a director?
Maneesh is crazy! He is a raging bull on set! But in a good way. 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. You just have to take instructions from him. That’s what is remarkable. To be clear at the very outset. 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 storyteller.
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. Anyway, that was my first face to face with her. 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 give tips 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. 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.
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.
What was your experience like with Vaibhavi Merchant?
Vaibhavi ma’am is a master. She knows her work so well. She knows exactly what she wants. You only have to get onboard with her! She is a true artist. The way she goes about envisioning, listens to the music for the first time. It’s a sight! She’s amazing. So, so talented. When she hears a song for the first time, she just zones out, listening to it on her headphones. She goes over and over and over it till it seeps into her blood! Then wham! Suddenly she’s got it. She suddenly has all the moves, the way she’s envisioned her choreography. It’s awesome. When she puts so much, you owe it to her to give your best.
Instance during the shoot that was memorable?
There are two.
One 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!”
Two 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!
I will give you words. You answer briefly.
Bittoo – endearing
Delhi – love it
Delhi University – awesome place, amazing energy
Weddings – hectic!
Wedding planning – nightmarish at times!
Maneesh – mad man
Vaibhavi – master ji
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.