MUMBAI Nearly two years after his last big-screen outing, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh is gearing up for a box office battle armed with a period romance partly based on a short story by American writer O. Henry.
Singh's film "Lootera" opens in Indian cinemas on July 5, going head-to-head with jailed Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt's last completed film "Policegiri".
Singh, 27, impressed audiences in his 2010 debut as a street-smart Delhi wedding planner in the romantic comedy "Band Baaja Baaraat". A year later, he played a con artist in "Ladies vs Ricky Bahl".
His new film, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, is partially adapted from "The Last Leaf", a short story with themes of hope and self-sacrifice published in 1907.
Singh spoke to Reuters in a telephone interview about "Lootera", taking up action roles, and having as many as four Bollywood releases in the coming year.
Q: How did "Lootera"happen?
A: I had seen his (Vikramaditya Motwane's) film "Udaan" and I thought it was one of the greatest films made in Hindi cinema … I was completely in awe of his work. I met him backstage and told him ‘I loved your film and if you ever have anything for me, please tell me.' And he said: ‘I have got something.' We met one nice lazy afternoon at a club, ate Chinese food and he gave me a bound script. After my first film, all the offers were either concepts or half-baked stories. It was nice to get a bound script and I was instantly impressed. I read it at two in the morning and it brought a tear to my eye. It's a really gripping story, a heartfelt romance. More than the film it was my faith in Vikramaditya. The man has a cinematic mind that is head and shoulders above the rest.
Q: Is the film inspired by the O.Henry short story "The Last Leaf?"
A: It is actually. I remember this story when I studied it in school. The whole film is not based on O. Henry's story, but there is a certain part of it which has been adapted. The whole film is a romantic thriller.
Q: Was it a tough shoot given that you shot in remote regions?
A: It was a tough shoot. The time we went, Dalhousie (in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh) had the strongest snowfall in 20 years. We just couldn't shoot; the equipment couldn't reach there. Vikram had picked up an injury trying to get to the location, and the set that we had created there caved in under the snow. The second time we went, I had a niggling injury that I had carried with me from Mumbai. We had to walk in four feet of snow uphill, for six kilometres and then come back. We had to do a bit of action on top of the hill and my injury got worse … that injury put me out of action for three months. At one point during that time, I was doing six hours of physiotherapy a day, because I had to get back. I told myself that not only will I recover from this, but I'll become so fit that it'll never ever happen again. Three months later, my doctors told me that I had made a 120 percent recovery. I made sure I bounced back from it.
Q: Your first two movies were romantic films. Did you get similar offers after them?
A: After "Band Baaja Baaraat", there were a lot of films which had a Delhi boy and plenty of offers in the same zone. I just made a conscious choice to invest in directors. I see myself as a director's actor. I realise that it's his puzzle and I am just a piece of the puzzle. Who is directing a particular story is as important as the story itself. There is also Mr (Sanjay Leela) Bhansali - who could say no to him. He is a master director and I am glad I am getting to work with him this early. I am also working on Shaad's (Ali) film.
Q: As an actor, can you afford to wait till the right script comes along?
A: I am very selective. The ratio of no's to yes's is alarming. Yes, God forbid, if there ever comes a time that none of the scripts are worth investing in, in my estimation, I would probably take a break and travel the world. Do something constructive and productive. Maybe write a script, pick up a new skill but I would not get into something I don't believe in 100 percent. If the offers at a particular time are not interesting, then I won't do films.
Q: With "Gunday", you are finally doing action films?
A: "Lootera" has a bit of action in it. (Bhansali's) "Ram Leela" has a bit of action in it. And (Ali Abbas Zafar's) "Gunday" is an out-and-out action drama film. The director of my first two films, Maneesh Sharma, used to tell me that ‘you are an actor who is built to be in an action film. You are an action hero.' Coming from someone who has worked with me closely, I believed him and then it turned out that Yash Raj Films had this fantastic script called "Gunday". I love action films, the "Rocky" series and the "Rambo" series, so I'm glad I'm getting to do one at such an early stage.
Q: You have four releases this year. Where do you hope to be at the end of it?
A: I hope to be a few steps ahead of where I am. This is a crucial year for me and at the end of it, I hope I'll be offered better and better films. (Editing by Tony Tharakan)