From playing boy-next-door to embodying larger-than-life onscreen characters, Ranveer has scaled dizzying heights in a rather short span of time. His broad, dynamic range as an actor spans across diverse genres. He can transition from a pompous Simmba to the subtle Murad of Gully Boy with effortless ease. Known to completely get into the skin of his character, by zoning out and adapting into the techniques of method acting, Singh has given us some of the best films of the past decade.
What’s most unique about his performances is that he has proven to be the king of last acts, with a consistency that is rare. Right from the last scene in Lootera (2013) to Bajirao’s death in Bajirao Mastani (2015), he has a knack for rendering a death scene with an unmatchable poignancy. The most noteworthy of all his scenes is the one in Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-leela (2013), wherein he is supposed to kill his lover. All in all, there is certainly a pattern in the three best scenes that have almost come to define Ranveer Singh’s illustrious career; they are all centered around death. In a 2017 interview with Film Companion, Singh notes how he found it most difficult to enact these three sequences in particular.
Besides being an on-screen charmer, Singh has repeatedly shown how he is also a director’s actor. He completely submits to the process in every film. Majority of his work is a result of his long-standing collaborations with Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Zoya Akhtar, all of which is significant in shaping his oeuvre. What is incredible about Ranveer, although, is his capability to furnish the nuances of Kabir (Dil Dhadakne Do) and the beastly nature of Khilji (Padmaavat), with an equal degree of comfort. Be it Bhansali’s intense process or the Zoya Factor, both work on Singh like magic.
Balancing the comic and the tragic perfectly, Ranveer’s two most underrated performances come across in his pairings with co-star Anushka Sharma. From a stellar debut in Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) to the tragicomedy of the dysfunctional family dynamic in Zoya’s Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), the actor displayed a sparkling ability to make you laugh and cry at the same time.
Coming to the musicality and dynamism of his performance for the songs of Padmaavat (2018), the sheer energy that he infuses in his character is par excellence. But, the tenderness with which he envelops his role in Lootera (2013), specifically when the song Zinda plays in the background is commendable. And, to top it all, he sometimes chooses to sink into his comfort zone and dance to the beats of Aankh Maarey, or voice his own rap songs with the finesse of an actual rapper.
Delivering every role with equal conviction, Singh is truly a star of proven mettle. Having commented on his own acting style in multiple interviews, he deems himself as a ‘painful’ person to work with, owing to the complexities of his process. The actor also claims himself to be a naturally histrionic actor, who had to go on to learn the new school of acting upon practically doing films and adopting styles of other co-actors. Well, we don’t think so.
Today, on his 35th birth anniversary, here’s ranking the best performances of the very versatile Ranveer Singh:
7. Band Baaja Baaraat (2010)
Ranveer Singh was the first solo hero launched by Yash Raj Films. And what a roaring debut! From being told by producer Aditya Chopra that he wasn’t a ‘conventionally good looking guy’ and would have to up his acting game to delivering a winner in every (almost) subsequent film, he has indeed come a long way. And expectations only soar when your first film is an instant hit.
The lighthearted rom-com trails Bittoo Sharma and Shruti Kakkar, who go on to succeed as business partners, until their ‘frandship’ hits a roadblock. Ranveer’s portrayal of Bittoo is true-to-life and extremely realistic. He remarkably goes on to embody a young, college boy keen on discussing ‘binness’ plans with Anushka Sharma’s Shruti, delivering a tale of comedy infused romance with admirable conviction.
6. Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela (2013)
Western in plot and Indian in form, this Indianised adaptation of the Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet stars Ranveer Singh in the lead role of Ram. Singh plays a rather raunchy and ferocious version of the Gujarati Romeo. From the introductory song ‘Tattad Tattad‘ to ‘Laal Ishq‘, he holds on to his character with true grit and passion for the film, even when the moods change from joyful to morose.
This film marks one of the prime landmarks in his career, as it is this one that helped him take off as an actor. Seamlessly blending into Bhansali’s world, which is rife with communal tensions and power politics, he transforms from the silences of Lootera to the grand and pompous Ram-Leela with a terrific sense of craft. Developing on his abilities film by film, he showed us a completely contrasting side to him. High-end emotion, chemistry and romance play out well for Ranveer, as his training as an actor has been in the realm of histrionics and theatrics.
5. Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)
Ranveer didn’t lead here. He was part of an emsemble cast – Anil Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma. But he admirably held his own among the more experienced actors. His subtle comic timing is in step with Zoya’s adept, nimble storytelling.
Delving into the complexities of a modern family dynamic, Singh morphs into Kabir, a cheerful guy who gets entangled into his family’s issues. He eventually falls in love with Farah (played by Anushka Sharma), and that becomes the driving force of the film’s plot. In many interviews, he often notes how it took a director like Zoya Akhtar to enable him to perform low-energy and low-on-drama roles like this one in particular. The film definitely helped him expand his spectrum as an actor, and unleash his potentiality of warping into any role given to him.
4. Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Although he could have come out of the action schedule of this film unscathed, unluckily Ranveer incurred injuries during the shooting of Bajirao Mastani. Marking his second and least controversial collaboration with filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, this film gave Ranveer the space to blend the aggrandized historical with the relatively subtle nuances of a fictionalised Bajirao. Bhansali’s films are always subject to grandeur in terms of their production design and other aspects, but in terms of acting, they open windows for their actors as they get to explore a dynamic range of possibilities.
Bajirao Mastani came at a point in time when Ranveer was up-scaling his acting game film after film, and now this was being hailed as his best performance. Who knew, that he would beat his own best over and over again, following a trail of successful and commercial viable cinema? With an on-screen pairing that went on for four films (including Finding Fanny), what played a crucial role in Ranveer’s success as an actor throughout his work with Bhansali was his co-actor Deepika Padukone. They shared a crackling chemistry together. Their upcoming pairing in 83 is much awaited.
3. Padmaavat (2018)
A period drama, Padmaavat is based on the epic poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Revolving around a fictionalisation of a historic character, it stars Ranveer as an antagonist for the first time. Arguably, this forms Singh’s most difficult and controversial work as an actor, after the fate it met. Padmaavat somehow managed to work its way out of being completely scraped out of release.
As the menacing Khilji, he is portrayed as the beastly outsider who wants to take over territories and women alike. Rendering the role with intense vigor and unmatched energy, Ranveer thoroughly yielded to the character he embodied. In an interview, he mockingly notes that he believes in the dictum ‘one is what one eats’, which is why he ate red meat for one-and-a-half year to meet the character’s physicality/bestiality.
2. Gully Boy (2019)
This award winning, critically-acclaimed film is inspired by the real-life success stories of Dharavi rappers Naezy, Divine and others.
This underdog story follows the journey of Ranveer Singh’s character into his struggle to make it big as a rapper. With his dreams superseding his reality, Murad commits to making the two match; and Ranveer delivers that particular defining scene with utmost conviction. His pairing with Alia Bhatt also works out in favour of the film.
Having covered a wide spectrum in the acting process by the time of the release of the film, Ranveer Singh delivers a deeply internalised performance. Holding on to its organic nature throughout the length of the film, he does not just enact Murad, he becomes him. In portraying Murad Ahmed’s vulnerability lies Ranveer’s true strength as an actor.
1. Lootera (2013)
Master storyteller Vikramditya Motwane broadened the canvas of cinema with this absolute masterpiece. He was the first filmmaker who tapped into Singh’s fine-drawn capacities to play a sensitive character. The two-film old Ranveer was entrusted upon by the makers a role that commanded fine subtleties and less inflated grandeur that was a part of his previous films.
Adapted from a story by O’Henry, the film, much like the story, hinges on a punchline; and delivers the same through a well crafted ending. ‘I remember the day I got shot in Lootera, I was very raw, in my craft, at that time. And, I really submitted to what was going on, and as a result, that night, I couldn’t sleep,’ said Singh in an interview. While both his films before Lootera cemented him as a hero in Bollywood, Lootera beautifully undid that image. It enabled him to carve out a space as an actor, by giving him the right environment to hone his skills. The film completed seven years yesterday.
Here’s a beautiful note shared by Motwane on Instagram:
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Screening the first copy of a film used to be a ceremony. The fresh print would come from the lab and we would watch it being spooled in the projection room and pray, fingers crossed very tight, that everything was ok. As a director, seeing ‘copy no. 1’ on a can of film used to be bittersweet. It meant the absolute end of production. No more work. The film is finally ready. You can’t do shit anymore. You can shave and be less obsessed and finally get some sleep. But it also meant that this amazing journey with all these amazing people has come to an end. And all you’re left with are the memories of the times you spent together writing, prepping, shooting, editing, working on sound and music. 7 years of Lootera…
A post shared by Vikramaditya Motwane (@motwayne) on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:19pm PDT
Special Mention : Finding Fanny (2014)
‘We were just discussing this character, Gabo. There was no face to it. One of us was like, why don’t you do it? And he prepared for it like he would for a full on film.’
– Deepika Padukone, in ‘The Making of Finding Fanny ‘ The Wedding’ (see video above)
Now, you might wonder why this character in particular finds a place on the list. I’ll leave you with this 2-minute video to know why Finding Fanny deserves the spot!
Do you agree with our ranking? What are your favourite films of the actor? Tell us your favorite performances of the actor in the comments below.
By Sanghmitra Jethwani