It was 2010 when Ranveer Singh, as the boorish yet charming Bittoo Sharma, sashayed into our collective consciousness. It has been a good eight years since the film came out. Yet, Band Baaja Baaraat remains one of the most remarkable entrants in Hindi cinema’s overdone genre of romantic comedies.
For one, it was one of the first few films to articulate with precision the growing aspirations of youth from small towns. Second, it takes the viewer on a roller-coaster of emotions, throwing in every shade of romance there is. And most importantly, for giving Bollywood and the world at large, the phenomenon that Ranveer Singh is.
Singh sinks his teeth into the character of Bittoo Sharma with unparalleled sincerity. In doing so, he emerges as a striking portrait of the stereotypical Delhi University graduate who is lost in his laziness and has no concrete future plans except not wanting to return to the small town he has come from. He makes ‘binness’ plans while devouring bread pakoras with careless relish, has no qualms about speaking with his mouth full and is a bit of a dimwit to acknowledge his feelings for Shruti (played by Anushka Sharma).
And when he does, there is no elaborate display of emotions, no grand gestures but a nonchalant, “tere bina kisi cheez mein mauj nahi... na ladkiyan taadne mein, na chai mein, na chowmein mein”. It is this disarming spontaneity that catches you unawares – a trait that has become a Ranveer Singh trademark over the years.
In his sophomore outing, Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, Singh pulls a crisp conman act despite the rather inconsistent and mostly predictable plot line, but it is Lootera where he stuns the audience with his performance.
Of Vintage Charm and Old-World Romance
Vikramaditya Motwane weaves a wondrous tapestry in Lootera, deftly carving a universe at the cusp of change. He takes the action to the Bengal of 1950s, replete with Old World charm that’s painfully skirting its way out.
Between Manikpur and Dalhousie, a lot happens but at the heart of the film is a tale of love and loss.
In essaying the character of Varun Shrivastav, Ranveer Singh sheds his vivaciousness and slips into reticence with an effortless ease. He doesn’t attempt to impress with dazzling dialogues but fills the void with long silences, stolen glances and a piercing vulnerability.
Ranveer Singh as Varun is quite a revelation as the troubled soul battling an eternal tempest within. If he chooses his calling, he betrays his love. Either way, he loses. He suffers in silence and you suffer with him.
Lootera is a magnificent film with picture-perfect frames, exquisitely crafted music, deft screenplay and perfectly brewed characters. But for me, the cinematic experience got elevated much more because of Ranveer Singh’s superlative performance.
His stillness got to me... until Ram shook me out of it through his boisterous energy in Ram Leela – Singh’s next screen outing.
Ram-Leela & the Beginning of Career-Defining Partnerships
Lootera brought him critical acclaim but it was Bhansali’s Ram Leela that cemented Ranveer Singh’s position as one of the most commercially bankable stars in Bollywood.
He packs a powerful punch as the spirited Ram and sets the screen on fire with his crackling chemistry with Deepika Padukone.
Two years later, he would collaborate again with Bhansali and Padukone to give another smashing hit in Bajirao Mastani. He gets into the skin of the character along the lines of the skin-crawling rasp of pen on paper. From the physique to the Puneri accent, he gets everything right. He is perfect in every frame, be it as the shrewd warrior, the guilty husband or the passionate lover.
Bajirao Mastani, undoubtedly, is Ranveer Singh’s film and he owns it with aplomb.
In a film that can be called a passionate celebration of love, Ranveer Singh surprises you with his smoldering intensity. He is magnetic in the song Malhari and his screen presence - or rather complete screen domination - sends you on an adrenaline rush.
And just when you thought Ranveer has reach the zenith of his acting prowess, he comes back to seduce you with his villainy in Padmaavat – the biggest blockbuster of his career till date.
In a lot of ways Padmaavat is to Ranveer what Sanju is to Ranbir.
In playing the maniacal Khilji, Ranveer wears barbarism as his second skin letting the character engulf him completely. He pursues Padmavati with an all-consuming junoon, is unrelenting in deceit and mouths painfully narcissistic lines such as ‘Allah ki banayi hui har nayaab cheez par Alauddin ka haq hai ’. His high-pitched clamour left me gasping with a what-will-he-do-next breathlessness.
And when he is not speaking, he emotes with his kohl-rimmed eyes.
He is grotesque. He is repulsive. But he is also the pulsating heart of the film.
In giving three solid films to Ranveer back to back, Bhansali has shown in him immense faith and each time Singh has magnificently risen to the occasion. His performances are uniformly excellent, so much so that he has metamorphosed into the quintessential Bhansali lead.
Of Dil Dhadakne Do and a Few Masala Flicks
Bhansali may have written some of the most glorious chapters of Ranveer Singh’s career but the actor is equally delightful as Kabir Mehra in Zoya Akhtar’s ambitious Dil Dhadakne Do. He is like a whiff of fresh air amidst a sea of caricatures. He is the calm to the chaos of his folks. And the electrifying chemistry between him and Anushka Sharma is one of the highlights of the film.
In fact, Singh is the best thing about Dil Dhadakne Do with his impeccable comic timing and a fine balance of restlessness and restraint – a towering presence despite being surrounded by an able entourage.
In Gunday, Ranveer Singh is a complete hoot as the gangster Bikram, whereas he is the only silver lining in Kill Dil, which is in most parts is little more than a snooze-fest. He is an infectious bundle of energy who manages to charm his way through the unnecessary twists and turns that Shaad Ali weaves.
In Befikre, he is passable but that’s because it’s the only film in his eight-year long career where he doesn’t meet the standards he has set for himself.
Watching a Ranveer Singh film is like partaking in an immerse experience, letting your hair down and getting consumed by his all-pervasive energy.
And for his detractors who accuse him for being extra, he wears ‘extraness’ with a badge of honour, unabashedly, albeit with some pride and that makes it infectious.
He dons garish costumes, loud outfits, mismatched silhouettes while having sheer fun.
He steals the limelight even while playing the anti-hero.
And all this when he is not, by his own admission, a conventionally good-looking actor.
As he gears up for Simmba and Gully Boy, watch out for this actor, for he is the one who’s going to break every rule there is in the rule-book.