BM: An experience!
Lead pair of Bajirao Mastani – Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone talk about their movie in a candid conversation with Box Office India.
Box Office India (BOI): Ranveer, why did you take so long to visit our office?
Ranveer Singh (RS): I ask you, Mr Vajir, why? Kyun?
BOI: We have called you before but you were busy.
Deepika Padukone (DP): It had to happen with me because I am the favourite here.
BOI: Can’t deny it, that’s true.
DP: It had to happen!
RS: Yes, it had to, for a special film like Bajirao Mastani. I have always looked forward to visiting your office, sitting here and posing for pictures that will be printed front page par. I was telling this gentleman, that every time I receive an edition of Box Office India, it has a designated place in my living room where I can easily find it. First, it used to be in the TV room, this room or that room but now it is on the red sofa near the table, in that corner, in case you want it. So I open Box Office India and go from back to front, not front to back, acha toh sab samajh mein aa jata hai. Kyunki main inn baton mein kachha hoon na, numbers and all. First, I pretend to understand everything!
DP: Just call me when the interview starts (Laughs).
Then I get to know what’s happening with the others, about dubbing, shooting kya kya chal raha hai. Then I get to the features. As I was saying (Laughs), I have the latest edition at home, not the latest one, the one prior to that, whose cover read ‘Unstoppable Force!’ (Laughs). Bhai toh aate jaate wahi dikhta hai mujhe ki yaad rakh December 18!! There’s Mr. Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) on the cover, gun in hand, and it says, an unstoppable force. That’s just a reminder, aate jaate.
BOI: Is this your biggest film, so far?
RS: Yes sir, it is definitely bigger in scale, mounting, budget… everything, the universality of the film itself, at a commercial level and also at the creative level. It perhaps goes into the level of spirituality, and the scale is visible in the trailer. It is no secret that it’s one of the biggest budgets any Hindi film has had so far. So, yes, it is a big deal for me, to do one of the biggest-ever films, at this stage in my career. And the credit goes to Mr Bhansali for backing me.
At the time of Ram Leela, it was a big film for me to do and Lootera had not even released when he signed me for that film. So for this film to come to me at this stage… you could say it’s before it’s time. Waqt se pehle you know. Only a few guys have worked on a budget like this. But Mr Bhansali believed that I could deliver after seeing my work in Ram Leela. I am grateful to him and, hopefully, this film will be, not a step forward, but a leap forward for me.
BOI: It took him so many years to make this…
RS: …12 to 15 years.
BOI: 12 years.
RS: Yes, this story had a journey. Every time Mr Bhansali wanted to make a film, he actually wanted to make Bajirao Mastani but he ended up making something else. Finally, while making Ram Leela, he decided it was time to make this film, and had mentioned that in passing. Then, after the success of Ram Leela, planning that film the way he did, he was confident that he would make this film. Now, here we are, 10 days away from its release.
BOI: Do you think the script waited for Ranveer and Deepika?
RS: I think it waited for Deepika (Laughs). We all know the value she adds to any project and we knew it during Ram Leela as well. So, thank you, Deepika, also for why Bajirao Mastani was made.
BOI: Deepika, you have been part of many big films. Was this one any different?
DP: It is actually different in every way. It is different in terms of the character I am playing; it is different because of the kind of film it is; it is different because it is a period film; and it is different because of Sanjay sir’s vision and hunger to make this film. It is a very challenging film for an actor and it takes a lot out of you. There were days when you just felt like giving up; there were days where you were so exhausted that you just didn’t want to do it any more.
Of course, when we watched the trailer and everyone got goosebumps, it was overwhelming and it reminded one of all the hard work and energy we had put into the movie. Everything came back in a flash… all the arguments, all the disagreements, all the crying… it all comes back and you feel choked. Everything you probably thought while shooting – I don’t want to do this film, I want to give up or I am never going to work with him again – suddenly vanishes. You feel recharged and ready to work with him again because of what you finally see on the screen.
RS: But, literally, haan… blood, sweat and tears. Khoon bhi nikla, pasine bhi choot gaye, tears also. There was blood, sweat and tears for so many people.
DP: (Cuts in) Broken bones too!
RS: Yes, broken bones. I mean, what haven’t we done, yaar?
BOI: And you shot for over 250 days.
RS: It didn’t feel like that as the process was so immersive, so all-consuming that you feel as if nothing else existed. I was training from 5am to 7am, learning to use a bow and arrow, horse-riding or sword fighting. We would shoot from 7am to 7pm, and train again from 7pm to 9pm. Training and shooting simultaneously was all-consuming. For 12 hours on the sets, his (Bhansali) creativity keeps evolving, he keeps improvising the scene, designing it differently and changing lines. You have to keep up with him, which means you have to be on your toes. Between shots, you are either learning your lines or offering inputs because he is very collaborative and is always asking you questions. It is not like you’re waiting, off camera, while the shot is being set up for four hours. You are fully immersed. During those 12 hours, you are all about that (film). In the past year, every other aspect of life took a back seat but for a good reason. I mean, look at the trailer, I was blown away when I saw it on the big screen.
DP: More than 200 days of shooting makes you wonder how much you can give. Because it is so consuming that, after a point, there is a fear of exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, mental exhaustion, because you have to submit and give so much every day, to every scene, over one and a half years. And he (Bhansali) is not easily satisfied. Never mind satisfied, he always demands more than 100 per cent. There is no… Chalo, ho jaayega, nothing is upar upar se or a chalta hai attitude. It makes you wonder whether, emotionally, you will be able to give what he is demanding of you due to the sheer duration of shooting.
BOI: Ranveer, what was it like for you… the action, the physicality of it all, the emotional intensity that Deepika spoke of, being a period film. What was the scariest part for you?
RS: Some of the emotionally charged scenes. It was very daunting to listen to those scenes even at the narration level. Your instinctive reaction is, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to approach this scene?’ There are points in this character’s life that are very difficult, so you don’t know what it is going to be like. Those points in one’s life are very daunting. The climax gave me sleepless nights for an entire year! I would keep asking Bhansali questions and he would tell me, ‘You will do it (Laughs).’ Some of those scenes are part of an emotional memory that you tap into from your own life. You have to go back deep into your soul, to once again feel the way you did at that time. If you haven’t experienced anything like that, you have to rely on your imagination. And, amid all of that, we had to keep up with Mr Bhansali, who is like a charged-up bunny on the sets! As soon as he arrives on the sets, his ADs, actors and technicians begin chasing him, anxious to be given instructions and information. That is Mr Bhansali’s creative process and it is hard to keep up, especially when there are difficult scenes to perform. Those emotional scenes were very daunting. I wonder how they have turned out because I haven’t yet watched the entire film!
BOI: Was it easier doing this film as you had worked with Bhansali before?
RS: Yes, it is easier because you are familiar with the man’s creative process. You have to go in, every morning, like a blank canvas; you can’t decide beforehand how you will execute a scene because everything is going to change while shooting. Sometimes, a six-page scene becomes a one-page scene or one sentence can become a monologue. You sleep araam se, and you need a minimum eight hours of sleep to function on Mr Bhansali’s set.
BOI: Finally, what do you think will happen on December 18? What are your expectations?
RS: I don’t know. I will be going to cinema halls, most probably, just to get a first-hand reaction.
DP: Bajirao is not a film; it’s going to be an experience.
RS: So I want to see the faces in the audience.