Bollywood’s Mr Brightside


Bollywood’s Mr Brightside

Illustration: Akshita Monga

It was difficult to keep our eyes open during the last season of Koffee With Karan, but there was one episode that was instructive. Ranveer Singh walked on to the sets of Koffee With Karan like he walked into Bollywood: with supreme swagger in his choice of outfit, a Fidelesque beard, and a “I’m going to give you the best you’ve had this year” attitude. His force of personality, like his films and public appearances, elevated the spectacle to the pantheons of KWK in a year of mostly suboptimal chats with an out-of-touch Karan Johar.

Suddenly, Ranveer was everywhere. He was doing push-ups with Baba Ramdev, kissing vigorously in the groan-fest Befikre, and shocking the nation with a sexist ad and heavily padded speedos. And in that entire process, he rendered everyone from Ranbir to KJo to Ramdev as mere witnesses to his performance.

The road from actor to celebrity to star is a difficult one to travel (cc: Abhishek Bachchan), but Ranveer has steamrolled through it while standing atop a tank and firing an AK-47 for fuck’s sake. He’s moved from Band Baaja Baaraat to Lootera to Bajirao Mastani at the speed of the virality of his hair ruffle in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, establishing himself as a bankable star in the post-Khans era, with the rare ability to guarantee an opening.

The fourth estate collectively ejaculated like 13-year-old boys, as Ranveer treated them like equals and made them feel like they mattered. A profile of Ranveer from February portrays this clever inclusivity which includes hugs, pecks, selfies, and intrigue, all the while maintaining a maniacal sixth-gear energy bordering on self-harm. He has tested the bounds of fan-media-celebrity interaction while constantly fine-tuning his public persona, going from the wildly enthusiastic, outspoken outsider who wrote a spunky Durex advert, to the assured yet wildly enthusiastic and outspoken outsider who made out with Karan Johar in front of thousands in India’s first roast. He changed everything we thought we knew about celebrity culture, moving at a 100 kmph, playing the self-aware clown in Bollywood’s self-aware circus. This reckless unpredictability has defined Ranveer’s career, making what should be a steady rise to our Friday getaways a rollercoaster set to breathless heavy metal music.

The fourth estate collectively ejaculated like 13-year-old boys, as Ranveer treated them like equals and made them feel like they mattered.

Ranveer and his complete disregard for decorum when he’s talking about fucking or kissing on screen makes the rest of the Bollywood brigade look like a bunch of sanctimonious pricks. “I fucked around a lot till I was 26… but I love being in a relationship. It’s the best thing ever,” he said in an interview. “Motherfucker! I must be growing up,” he declared to a world in which Ranbir Kapoor won’t even acknowledge the existence of a relationship and Salman is an eternal virgin.

It’s no wonder then that the web, forever in search of a non-mainstream pin-up boy, happily embedded him in public imagination as a “star” with boyish eclecticism and roving references. Ranveer has always projected himself as a charismatic actor ready to light up the box office, and now the purveyors of information have started singing his song. In addition, his ability to bring in torrents of energy sets him in stark contrast to the lethargy of Ranbir Kapoor, or the constant sleepiness that Arjun Kapoor induces in audiences, or whatever the fuck Shahid wants you to feel. He has become a dreamy dick: Never ever saying no and always throbbing frantically with hope. Just look at his attempt to beat Baba Ramdev in a yoga-off a few months ago.

Add to this, his affability and charm which are inclusive of a slum-dweller in Dharavi and a 20-year-old driving a Mercedes in Lutyens’ Delhi. Ranveer has become the funeral pyre where all clichés go to die. His intersectional likability is eerily reminiscent of that of Shah Rukh Khan’s in the late ’90s, maintaining a base-level lovability, however, pubescent his remarks may seem. Perfect projections with box-office success have made Ranveer India’s first star boy: The kind of dude who would look at an unscalable mountain, make sure someone is around to watch, and then tell the mountain, “I’m Ranveer Singh, bitch,” and start climbing toward its peak with his bare hands and no harness.

This boundlessness was much in conversation during the release of Befikre. Over 20 kisses in the time of Nihalani and sanskar was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. For Ranveer, the promotion involved admitting that he loves being a sex symbol and joking about the film having some sort of a story, with an emotional cavalierness that he’s normalised over the years. Sadly, even Ranveer’s shenanigans failed to elevate Befikre from a rich man’s Neal ‘n’ Nikki or a poor man’s EuroTrip. 

There’s a curious post-Befikre lull now. There are few appearances by the star, fewer crazy outfits, and even fewer press interactions that have the potential to go viral. One thing’s for certain though: Whenever Ranveer does get back into the limelight, he’ll come all guns blazing. “Tattad Tattad”, of course.

This is an updated version of an article published earlier.