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Is Ranveer Singh, ‘The Last Bollywood Superstar’, Our Last Hope At Breaking The Shackles?

The man, the superstar, the enigma…

Surina Sayal

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There’s no one quite like Ranveer Singh. No, this is not me having a ‘fangirl’ moment, though I definitely am. 
Be it his sartorial choices, his movie picks, his public display of affection for his wife, Deepika, and his family and friends, or his million-watt smile—he’s all about the extra, the literal definition of over-the-top. This man wears his heart on his sleeve, well, when he’s wearing one at least. This brings us to this current media storm he’s managed to kick up with a risqué shoot.

He’s posed nude, flaunting his bronzed body in all its glory for the latest cover for Paper magazine. (To jog your memory, this is the same magazine that sent the Internet into a tizzy with the famous Kim Kardashian champagne photoshoot in 2014.) Many have likened his racy shoot to Burt Reynolds’ iconic nude photoshoot for a Cosmopolitan centre-fold back in 1972. 

It’s not as if nude shoots haven’t been done before in India. Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre did it back in 1995; Aamir Khan went nude for the movie poster for his film PK with only a stereo to cover his modesty. So why have these particular photos of Ranveer got everyone talking? Simple! Because it’s Ranveer Singh. He surprises and shocks us constantly. So consistent is he in surprising us on a regular basis, that if tomorrow he’d step out in, let’s call it, civilian clothes, we’d still be shocked!

From a newbie with unlimited energy in Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) to epic period dramas like Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), or the powerhouse hip-hop performance in Gully Boy (2019) and even going against his grain for the restrained character where he essayed the role of Kapil Dev in the historic cricket movie '83 (2021)—Ranveer Singh is as versatile as versatile can get. 

But who is Ranveer Singh really?

Ranveer, the extrovert vs Ranveer, The private man

Who is this man? Do we really know the real Ranveer Singh? He’s an enigma—a mystery, really. He’s an extrovert but claims to love his privacy. 

In the interview with Paper, he admits to liking “minimalism in my spaces and maximalism in my appearance.” You go to any space that’s his, and it’s completely sparse and minimal. “And I’m very protective of that. I’ve never shown the world my personal spaces. Never! Not a single picture of me in my house. When guests come over, I ask them not to take any pictures. You’ll never see my house in AD. I just want there to be a space that I know is free of eyes. There are only a few spaces left like that for me.”

This makes us wonder, who is the real Ranveer? Which side of these two stark personalities is truly ‘him’. The gregarious star we encounter in the news every other day or this man who says he’s never shown the world his personal spaces. Is it an irony that he will show the world and its prying eyes all of him but not his personal spaces?

The article in Paper quoted another interview where Ranveer’s said, “I keep things light and low-brow and silly and slapstick… there should be humour and a lightness of being. And sunshine, you know? I reserve the darkness for myself. God knows I’m a dark guy, I’m really dark… yeah.” And following a silence, he quickly added, “See? No cheer for that. Hmm.” The crowd bursts into laughter. 

While other actors tend to turn off their star personas when off-screen, Ranveer clearly doesn’t. He’s always on! Always performing. Maybe the person is the actor, or the actor is the person; the lines between both have clearly blurred in his case. We don’t really know, and maybe we shouldn’t care. 

Breaking free from the shackles of fashion and society

You can label his style whatever you like—non-conformist, gender fluid, OTT. The fact remains Ranveer breaks all silos and can’t really be compartmentalised. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, his stylist Nitasha Gaurav said, “He just likes to wear what he feels comfortable and happy in.” But is it really that simple? How is it that all of us can’t follow suit as easily?

She’s also often said that Ranveer loves colour and is flamboyant. So on one hand, he’s drawn to colour and everything that is alive and vibrant, while on the other he admits to being a ‘dark guy’. Is it this dark side of him, then, that is drawn to all things bright and sunny? Is it the polar opposite that excites him and attracts him to it?

In another interview with Quint, Nitasha said, “He is extremely confident as a person. He is not looking for approval. And that immediately sets him free in a way that you can’t even imagine.”

It’s not just his clothes and attitude. It’s what they represent. He so easily and simply breaks the shackles of conformity in a nation that’s still traditional. It’s probably all this combined with his confidence and devil-may-care attitude that we aspire to have. That’s what makes him and his personality so magnetic. Bottom line is that we want to be Ranveer Singh.

Coming back to the question, do we know the real Ranveer Singh? We probably don’t and never will. Fact is, how much do we ever really know an actor, a star, a superstar anyway? They are performers, we’re the audience. They perform, we watch—enthralled. They’re aspirational, we’re the aspirants. Do we really need to cross this invisible line? Maybe not. And when it comes to superstars like Ranveer Singh, maybe we prefer the illusion, the enigma, the entertainer. Because it gives us something that is innately human, it gives us hope. And someone famous once said, ‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.’

Photo: Instagram/Ranveer Singh
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