The intensity of the screams rumbling within the imposing Red Sea Mall could mean only one thing: there is a Bollywood star in Jeddah. The star in question is Ranveer Singh, one of the honorees at this year’s Red Sea Film Festival. The star accepted his award from actor Sharon Stone on the stage of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel a few hours after his talk at the glitzy festival opening ceremony.
Singh was welcomed by a feverish crowd at the festival, with fans lining up the corridors of the Vox cinema in the hopes of taking a photograph with the leading man. The actor welcomed the audience’s reception, claiming “I didn’t expect this energy in the room but I’m all for it,” before going on to call his fans “the wind beneath my wings.”
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This is Singh’s second visit to the festival, having attended the inaugural edition with the event’s closing film, Kabir Khan’s “83.” Singh fondly recalled his 2021 visit, calling it an “unforgettable experience.”
“Nothing excited me more than movies,” said the actor of discovering his love of cinema during his childhood. “I was very inspired by the larger-than-life heroes that we would see in Bollywood and Hollywood cinema.” Singh went on to meet one of his heroes during the festival’s opening ceremony, actor Johnny Depp, who was also present at the gala. “One of my screen idols is in the audience. Thank you for everything you have taught me about the crafts as a master of transformation and versatility. I’m inspired by you.”
Versatility is one of the actor’s main goals, with Singh dedicating much of the talk to commenting on how Indian cinema has diversified over the last two decades. The actor described the current state of his national cinema as “multigenre” and reinforced his desire to become a chameleon not only physically but also when it comes to mentally and emotionally embodying his characters. “If I watch the movie back and can’t see a trace of myself, that’s a victory. I give myself a pat on the back in these moments.”
Despite this appreciation for taking on new challenges, Singh remains fond of revisiting beloved characters. The actor is currently shooting Rohit Shetty’s “Singham Again,” in which he is set to reprise the titular role in 2018’s hit film “Simmba.” “I’m very excited to be reprising the role. It’s a delight because it is such a lovable character and I cannot tell you how much fun it’s been to shoot so far.”
The film will mark yet another collaboration between Singh and his wife, actor Deepika Padukone. The beloved Bollywood couple first met in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” 2013’s “Ram–Leela,” and went on to co-star in other major productions such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat.” “[My wife] understands the challenges and difficulties of the work. I’m very lucky that I have an artist as a life partner,” he said to a collective swoon from the audience.
Speaking on the pressure of making the right decisions for his career under such a glaring spotlight, Singh said he felt “all his decisions have landed correctly,” going on to add, “In the last five years, we have seen a seismic shift in the entertainment world, with streaming and social media entering our lives.”
“Social media has changed the meaning of celebrity,” he continued. “Everybody can be a content creator and a performer now. I think the biggest change I’ve seen in the last decade, however, is the advent of streaming. The binary of what belongs in theaters versus the content you can consume at home is very, very clear now. Hollywood has already experienced this stretching of the binary a decade ago, but back home in India this has happened almost overnight after the pandemic.”
Singh commented on how films that have once attracted audiences to theatres no longer do so because viewers “would rather watch films at home,” emphasizing that cinemas nowadays are reserved for “spectacles” and “experiences that warrant a giant screen.” The giant screen experience is exactly what the actor aims to attach himself to, stating that “forging a bond and sitting together as a community in this magical dark chamber where we tell stories is the most magical thing.”
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