"This year at the IIFA Awards, I fell really ill and had to perform for over 50,000 people," says Ranveer Singh excitedly.
Yes, excitedly. Because when he went on that stage to perform, he saw a face in the crowd cheering him on. "It was Govinda. And almost magically, I was infused with energy," Singh says. "So I sucked it up and danced, just the way my idol would."
Singh, 28, says he owes a lot to Govinda. Growing up, he never met the '90s superstar but knew that he wanted to be an entertainer like him. "I have always been a performer," Singh admits. "I am an outsider. So is Govinda. I knew I could realise my acting dreams if I just followed in his footsteps."
Which he did. And today, after four years in films, life has come full circle: Singh will appear alongside Govinda in the upcoming Kill Dil. "How amazing is that!"
In 2010, if someone told you that a not-so-good-looking boy with no filmi connections would be the next big thing in Bollywood, you'd have laughed. Singh's preference for velvet jackets and checkered pants made Johnny Depp look stylish in comparison. And where most actors dream of breaking into the endorsement game with a cola or sports gear, he signed on for, of all things, a condom brand. And yet, Ranveer Singh is breaking through. "Because I don't think of consequences," he states simply. "I am willing to be called arrogant for that."
If you're going to call him arrogant, don't forget he's also cheerful and hyper energetic. "Why should I be anything else? I am so many different characters in my films, I will forget who I am if I start pretending in real life as well," Singh says.
It is also this image that lets him off the hook at times. Singh's endorsement of condoms, a product most other actors wouldn't be seen with, garnered lots of praise, but little surprise. Singh, for his part, doesn't understand why people can't talk about sex. "In our country, we should endorse condoms a lot more aggressively because clearly, we're having a lot of sex."
The master of restraint
Now, with a few hits under his brocade belt, he's upped his whimsy. He got rid of the moustache just as everyone was falling in love with it; he declared his love for Deepika Padukone (under the influence of medication after a bout of dengue), and is wearing even stranger clothes.
Fame is also allowing him to display another trait. "Ranveer has a quiet side," says Vikramaditya Motwane, director and close friend. In Motwane's Lootera, Singh gave a restrained, critically acclaimed performance that one did not expect from the same guy who played the street smart Bittu in Band Baaja Baaraat.
And it slips through when he talks of his struggle to break into the industry, the 19 months without a release when he hurt his back on the sets of Lootera and the fear of losing himself. "I went through the grind of auditions to get Maneesh [Sharma] to cast me in Band Baaja Baaraat," he says. "That grind didn't bother me. The prejudice within the industry did."
Last year, he entered the Rs. 100 crore-club with Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela. "Even I didn't think I would be here," Singh admits, laughing. "But it's great to get validation from people." The actor says he's learnt some tact since, even though he finds it "painful" to lie. "I hold back if I feel it might upset people. But lying is not my favourite thing." There you have it... Ranveer Singh!