Frenetic, edgy, sexy and likable. How Ranveer Singh is reinventing the role of the Bollywood hero
For the first time in over a decade, none of the highest-earning Hindi films starred the Khans.
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The birth of a top grossing movie star is an epochal event in Bollywood. His or her very rise is predicated on realignments in the industry's constellations, shaking up the star system.
For several years now, the Hindi film industry hasn't had any room at the top, especially since the Khan troika – Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir – had, despite pushing 50, sealed their slots at the marquee with a steady stream of Rs 100 crore-plus box-office hits.
Then, last year, something remarkable happened.
For the first time in over a decade, none of the highest-earning Hindi films starred the Khans. It was 11 films old Ranveer Singh who, with the Rs 225 crore grossing Simmba, emerged as the year's most bankable star.
His last two films have earned Rs 500 crore. He is the face of 26 brands, one half of the #DeepVeer power couple and the youngest male actor in the top 10 of the Forbes India 2018 celebrity 100 list, with earnings of Rs 84.67 crore.
The son of a Mumbai businessman and a homemaker, Ranveer is an outsider in Bollywood. This is what makes his current bull run that much more remarkable. The outsider who makes it by the sheer dint of his talent is a classic success story that's sometimes as entertaining as the movies themselves. A path followed by a handful, including Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar, something Ranveer is acutely aware of.
Just seven films old at the India Today conclave in March 2015, he declared, in his usual expansive style, that he was 'one in a million'.
I first met him at that conclave, five years after his Bollywood debut. His dramatic entry at the venue brought a smile to everyone's faces. He enthralled us with his vaudeville 'Journey through Bollywood' act. In that one-man show, the energetic star sang, danced and delivered dialogues from all his favourite stars from the 1960s to the present.
His appearance at the event was not only a sign of his commitment – his right arm was in a sling, the result of an accident on a film set – but also a revelation of his wry, self-deprecatory sense of humour - 'I'm preparing for Sling is King, Sling-ham…'
I was struck by his exuberance and his ability to improvise on the fly. If there is anyone I've seen truly high on life, it's him. He reminded me of the Energizer bunny in the Duracell battery ad that goes on and on. He had the talent, the ambition and the passion to become a movie star. He's become just that.
Four years later, he is on the cover of India Today as The Ultimate Showman for his incredible box office run – from a string of costume epics like Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat to his latest, Simmba.
He'll be playing a whole repertoire of roles in several keenly awaited films – Gully Boy, in which he plays a street rapper from Mumbai; 83, where he plays cricket icon Kapil Dev; and Takht, which sees him back in period costume as the tragic Mughal prince Dara Shikoh.
Says Senior Associate Editor Suhani Singh, who wrote the story, "Following the indefatigable Ranveer for three days can be daunting. Even with three hours of sleep, the actor has a spring in his step. The hours spent revealed that behind the eager-to-please persona is an actor meticulous about his craft."
He also had this to say at the conclave. 'All I ever wanted to do was to become a Bollywood star…29 years later, I am living the dream.' And the whole nation is watching him living and enjoying it.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for cover story, The Ultimate Showman, for January 28, 2019.)