Exclusive: A candid chat with Ranveer and Priyanka on their movies, friendship and more!

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Amidst the extensive, whirlwind promotions of ‘Dil Dhadhakne Do’, the brother sister duo at the heart of this family drama have said all there is to say about each other! Yet when you ride in a car with them to yet another event for a quick chat, you can’t miss the ‘mutual admiration club’ (in Pee Cee’s words) that Ranveer Singh & Priyanka Chopra share. While calling their personal bond ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘weird’, both actors are quick to state what they admire in each other: Priyanka’s natural fitness and ability to stay on top of her multiple projects wins Ranveer over. As for Pee Cee, she finds Ranveer easy going & committed.

In Zoya Akhtar’s lavish ensemble piece, they play super rich brother-sister who have to make choices (of marriage or divorce alternately) against their desires. In real life though, their families are completely opposite. They acknowledge the key role that parental support has played in molding their careers so far.

Priyanka said, “Actually with me not at all; my family really supported me with whatever I wanted to do or whenever I wanted to do it. At 12 years I decided that I wanted to stay back and study in America. My parents explained the pros and cons of that and let me take my own decision. I think that’s why I have been able to stay back and make my choices. With a lot of people that doesn’t happen, and everyone comes under pressure. That’s what ‘Dil Dhadhakne Do’ is all about. Often people come under pressure and do what they are expected to do; not because they want to do that but because that’s how something is done. “

Ranveer added, “My parents never imposed any kind of direction on me. Like Kabeer Mehra, I have led a sheltered life, but I have been allowed to choose for myself. At a very young age, I realized that I was not cut out to be a businessman, and in my seventh standard itself, I told my dad that I wouldn’t want to work in the family business. My parents always taught me that you will only do your best when you do something that you love. So in my tenth standard, when I chose not to become an actor and instead, focus on advertising – that was a decision they supported. But when I decided to switch back to acting after working in advertising that was also a choice I made. My father had actually invested a huge amount of money in getting me a foreign education; at the time when I decided that I want to abandon it and come back to Mumbai and become an actor. Not once did he say why I would want to do that, instead, he only insisted that I complete my education. “

Promoting a big film is a massive task, with repetitive interviews & multiple public appearances. The duo has also been shooting nights for their Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus, ‘Bajirao Mastani’. Ask them about time management, and out comes a lesson in multi-tasking. Says Priyanka, We divided and ruled (Ranveer Laughs); Ranveer went ahead and promoted DDD while I held base; I shot nights for ‘Bajirao Mastani’ for we are working to a very tight schedule. Then I came & joined the promotions of DDD while I also worked on this last schedule for the film. You know, life is demanding. But I really am of the belief that promises need to be kept, and commitments need to be upheld. So if I have made these promises then I believe it’s my job to do them well. If I am spreading myself thin doing that, then maybe it’s my fault that I take on all that I do. It gets physically exhausting sometimes (smiles tiredly), but I am blessed to have the job I have! So many people want to be in this position. So I never take it for granted even for a moment.

Ranveer returned to the opulent ‘Bajirao Mastani’ shoot after nursing a shoulder injury that put him out of action for nearly a month. His second innings proved challenging. He says, “Bajirao Mastani is a really difficult film to shoot. It is very challenging to work with Mr Sanjay Bhansali and to adapt to his style of shooting a film. In fact, he is the only person that I know that goes about shooting scenes the way he does. You don’t go on set to execute; you go on set to create as a collaborator with Mr Bhansali. What that means is that the challenge is tenfold. You know whatever is being created has a lot of you in it. That’s actually the great thing about him. But of course, the flip side of that is that you have to stay on your toes on the film set every day! Like, you know a film like ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, was an easy shooting experience. It is a casual, conversational film that has a very candid style; it’s like two people chatting on a couch. But Mr Bhansali’s films are very different; they are very emotionally charged; he demands a lot from his actors. And why not? He brings out the best from any performer. But in order to summarize it, that is Mr Bhansali.

Priyanka will soon be dividing her time between the first season of Quantico, a TV series for ABC networks in the USA. Calling this project a personal win, she said, “ It’s my first TV experience but it’s an extremely exciting time for me. When I was in school in America, I always saw that we as Indians were put in a box. The girls were always beautiful princesses who ride an elephant and can charm anyone and the boys are always geeks and nerds who talk with a funny accent (Ranveer’s muffled laughter provides requisite background sound effect). When I went to school there I faced some racism too, not from everyone but from some people. Janine Stevens, I thank you, for bullying me so much that I returned to India! I thank you for my career; I owe that to you (laughs). For me, being out of the stereotype, and to not be reduced to an inconsequential part of a programme, for me is a personal win against thinking that Indian talent is just meant for that. I think Indian talent should be taken seriously. I am not some messiah of Indian talent, I just happened to be given that opportunity and I am grateful that I got to do this on my terms.”

In India, Priyanka will be seen in Gangajal 2, a Prakash Jha film. She said, “ I am going to finish Gangajal 2 before I go in July for Quantico (Ranveer titters); Pee Cee pauses and asks, “What are you laughing about?” Ranveer ‘Quantico’ (imitating an American twang); Priyanka coolly proceeds, “I finish that and then I return in between to finish the last schedule of ‘Bajirao Mastani’.

I think I feel happiest & proudest of the fact that people love my work and continue to support me; and they give me an opportunity to entertain them. And I would like to keep entertaining them for as long as they watch me. I am an achiever & an entertainer, and this happened to me by chance. I was also a stereotype who wanted to become an engineer by the way (smiles). I also don’t take it all very seriously for art is subjective. But I feel happy that my abilities have brought me here, and destiny has led me to this and I am not going to fight the tide.”

As the ride comes to an end, I ask Ranveer Singh what the current crop of upcoming stars feel about the blockbusters with their female contemporaries in leading roles; be it ‘Piku’, ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, ‘Queen’ or a ‘Mary Kom’. Confidently, the actor states, “I am proud that these films have done so well; it just goes on to show that good content works. I don’t even know if we should call these women oriented films.” Priyanka rejoins, “I hate that term! We don’t call a hero’s film a men oriented film,” and Ranveer nods.

And you see that for once, these two stars genuinely share a bond of admiration & affection. Here’s hoping it works magic onscreen this Friday.

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