This coming festive season will be a special one for Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh, and not because it will be the first one he will spend as husband to frequent co-star Deepika Padukone.
The pair's November wedding in Italy, after they dated for six years, was one of the talking points of 2018, but they have had to put honeymoon plans on hold due to the fact Singh is gearing up for the release of his next film Simmba on December 28. Those first three days at the box office, the last three days of 2018, will deliver a verdict on what Singh calls the "biggest film" in his career, which spans eight years and includes many hits.
The claim that Simmba will be his career pinnacle is surprising, considering his turn earlier this year as Alauddin Khilji in the period drama Padmaavat – which also starred Padukone – is being widely acclaimed as one of the best performances of the year.
But Singh tells The National why his latest is his greatest: "Simmba is my first film 'in and as' the title role, with the biggest director [Rohit Shetty], and it's mounted on a very large scale".
"The film rests solely on my shoulders: with Padmaavat, there are others with joint equity, so from a 'business of films' point-of-view, this is my biggest film."
The Simmba team are already in the middle of the whirl of promotional activity, and Singh concedes that he is struggling to be the bundle of energy he usually is, but that work comes first. "The past few weeks have been very hectic. I am not getting enough sleep these days. Rohit sir was kind enough during the shooting to give me time off [before the wedding].
"I have been doing some good time management as well, and now, after the wedding, things have been really, really crazy. Hopefully by January it will be all fine."
The film's trailer:
Deepika likes the film, but don't call Ranveer a method actor
Padukone, the other half of the famous couple DeepVeer, is fully supportive of her husband. "I think Simmba has success written all over it," she said at a screening of the film, held just for her, last week. "So, I think we are just focused on his film's release and then, we will figure out honeymoon and birthday all after that."
The couple's professionalism and work ethic is undoubted: Singh locked himself in a room for 21 days to prepare for the role of Khilji in Padmaavat, but he is quick to dismiss talk of him being associated with the method-actor club.
"I think method acting is a very loosely thrown around term, and not many understand what it means. To me, method acting is one man's theory towards acting, and acting is a free-form art, and free-flowing for anybody to approach in a way that suits them.
"For period films, it is important to go back in time and try and understand the character. For light films like Befikre and Dil Dhadakne Do, it does not require much method acting.
"But, having said that, it is not that we did not require effort during Simmba. In fact, we had two weeks of dedicated prep where me, Sara [Ali Khan] and Rohit sir read the script – cover to cover, start to end, again and again.
"And after that, during the day, I would go home and study my own character. I chose to create a very distinctive character for myself. I had to work on the dynamic between characters, and the spoken language because there is an accent there and a peculiarity."
Simmba is directed by Shetty and is a spin-off from his hit film Singham: in it, Singh plays a corrupt police officer who has a change of heart and straightens up. Shetty's other film Golmaal spawned into a four-part franchise, and it's likely that Simmba will go that route. No wonder Singh's hopes are riding high.
Is it lazy that the songs are both remixes?
Two songs, both remixes, have also caught the fancy of millions on Youtube. Tere Bin was shot in Switzerland and is a revamped edition of a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan number. Aankh Maare panders to Shetty's style of mixing music with funky dance moves and boosts Singh's reputation as an energetic dancer.
The two songs being remixes indicating a lack of creativity is a notion brushed off by Singh. "I would like there to be more original music, but music is a creative form which you cannot put envelope or time to ... Aankh Maare is the number one song in the country, and people are dancing all over to it and are loving it.
"The volume of content people are putting out, and the effort that goes into original music and songs can be difficult. Personally, I prefer original content, but I also have nothing against remix culture. Ultimately, they are good songs and remixes have their own charm. People are getting joy out of it."
Though Singh sounded offended, he is only mirroring producer Karan Johar who makes a quick cameo appearance in the song trailer to exclaim "one more remix" and yet has gone ahead with it. And Singh is playing ball, too.