Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh loves a good satire and his latest film ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ falls into this beloved bracket.
In the movie directed by Divyang Thakkar, Singh plays the titular role of a young man emasculated by his domineering father and family, who are fixated on having a son. The trailer indicates that Singh’s character has to take some drastic measures when he and his wife learn that they are having a baby girl.
In countries including India and China, the scourge of gender-selective killings isn’t uncommon and many patriarchal families prefer a boy over a girl child. But one of Bollywood’s top actors is willing to throw his celebrity behind this worthy cause.
Singh is one of Bollywood’s most outlandish personalities with some superlative acting abilities, and has delivered blockbusters such as the sweeping epic ‘Bajirao Mastani’ and class-divide drama ‘Gully Boy’.
Here are excerpts from our conversation with Singh ahead of his film’s release in the UAE cinemas on May 13, where we talk about his new film, his rising career, and his take on the North-South film divide that’s dominating headlines:
What’s your movie ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ all about?
It’s a satire and it’s a genre that I have always loved. I love the mix of emotions in this film which is essentially a social commentary. I agreed to this film without batting an eyelid. When I heard the narration, I was like: ‘I am on’. Sometimes I take a week or sometimes a month to say yes to a project, but ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ went straight to my heart. I am now looking forward to the reactions.
You play the title role of a Gujarati here and it’s a community that’s often caricatured in Hindi films. Were you careful not to go down that stereotypical route?
Honestly, I have never had a problem with caricatures. Of late, I believe we have this fear of humour and we are going through a time where we can’t say anything about offending anybody. Comedians will tell you all about it in detail. While I have taken cognisance of that, ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ has none of that. But it’s become difficult to do comedy without stepping on someone’s toes. These are the times we live in. We live in sensitive times.
But I can tell you that ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ is a brainchild of a sound Gujarati boy from theatre and cinema who’s aware of their culture. I assure you that this is not going to be a caricaturish representation and I am proud of it. As an artist, I am particular about a representation of a culture in the cinema that I am a part of. And I really hope that all those from that community will give me a thumbs-up for ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’. It’s my priority and I personally ensure that as an actor I don’t end up caricaturing my characters.
For instance in ‘Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani’, I play someone from Delhi and I have ensure that the culture, my language, the vibe sticks to that. In ‘Bajirao Mastani’, I wanted Maharashtrians to be proud of what I did. So here again, while I played the Gujarati I wanted it to be played with absolute authenticity.
This movie also touches upon a significant topic of female foeticide … But should artists and entertainers be given this responsibility to take on morally-charged roles?
The message that we are trying to convey through this film is very noble. We have something to say about something that’s really important and shed light on injustices that are plaguing our society — like female infanticide, foeticide, patriarchy — in the most sensitive way. It’s a wholesome concoction of humour and emotions. If you can impart some message through humour and in an entertaining manner, you often touch their hearts. This is important to me … Through such films, you lighten the burden among those who go through such issues. Through a satire, it has commentary and criticism and a solution towards the end. Satire is one of my favourite genres. I love the Charlie Chaplin series. When you think of Chaplin, you smile. But he’s a homeless person who hasn’t had food to eat for three days. And he famously said: ‘To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it.’
In the last 10 years and more, you have experimented quite a bit. Your last film is poles apart from ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, but do you have to be really brave in Bollywood to be versatile?
I operate like any other actor and endeavour to be versatile. In fact, it was after my last film ‘83’ that there was chatter about me being a versatile performer. I am extremely proud of that. From the beginning of my career, I have aspired to be versatile. As an actor, I wanted everyone to know that I can seamlessly fit into any genre or any cinematic language. I wanted my audiences to be constantly surprised and amused by what I come up with. As an actor who’s extremely protective of my artistic integrity, I wonder what an actor is doing if he isn’t distinctive … But I am still exploring and I want all my films to be starkly different from one another. I have always looked up to actors like Daniel Day Lewis or Christian Bale who have this quality of being a chameleon on-screen. From the physical appearance to their voice to their content, they have ben diverse and it has been constant endeavour to do the same. To be considered versatile make me feel fulfilled.
Recently you gave a very sensible response when asked if Bollywood films should be threatened by South Indian films doing extremely well. You said there’s no ‘Us Vs Them’ and that all regional films come under Indian films … Are we moving towards a territory-agnostic world now?
After the pandemic in the last two years, our consumption patterns have changed drastically. I have noticed it in a pronounced way. I can understand the power of OTT [streaming] platforms and there are more opportunities now. And something made in India can be seen by someone in America now. We now have access to Spanish and Korean shows. Why are we then surprised that the lines within India, our country, is blurring? It now boils down to content and if it can resonate even if it’s made in a particular language. South Korean film ‘Parasite’ is a great example of winning the Oscars, the highest honour in cinema … If you ask me, I will be happy to perform in Telugu or Malayalam … It’s only when Deepika [Padukone, actress and Singh’s wife] started working on other languages that I thought about it. Now, I feel confident to perform in other languages too.
There’s a strong Indian diaspora in the Middle East and they look at Hindi films as a cultural commodity. They tried to find connections to their land through our movies. I receive a lot of love from that region which is also a lucrative market for our movies in terms of box office collections
Don’t miss it!
‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ releases in UAE cinemas on May 13.