Ranvir Shorey shares experience after fallout with Bhatt family: ‘I was professionally and socially isolated, pressured’
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Ranvir Shorey talked about not getting his due in Bollywood, the insider-outsider debate and why streaming platforms promote a ‘healthier system of working’.
Despite noteworthy performances in several films over the years, including Khosla Ka Ghosla, Mithya, Traffic Signal, Titli and Sonchiriya, Ranvir Shorey continues to remain one of the most underrated actors in the film industry. In a candid conversation with Hindustan Times before the release of his next, Lootcase, he opens up about not being approached by ‘big mainstream filmmakers’ despite giving breakthrough performances ever so often, the repercussions of his fallout with the Bhatts, nepotism debate and his Sonchiriya co-star Sushant Singh Rajput.
Q. When Lootcase was snubbed in the virtual press conference to announce Disney+ Hotstar’s line-up, were you disappointed?
A. Yes, I was very disappointed and I was very proud that Kunal Kemmu raised his voice about it. With OTT platforms, one expects a more democratic form of distribution and more even playing ground. When something like this happens on such a platform, it is very disappointing.
Q. What was your experience of working with such a diverse team on Lootcase?
A. It was great because they were all such great actors and a great director also. It was great fun. The work itself becomes fun when the actors are good, especially when you are doing comedy.
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Q. Do you have any regrets that Lootcase could not release in theatres?
A. Not really. I have never been fussy about which platform my films are being released on, as long as they reach the audience. With streaming platforms, it is a more even playing ground and everybody gets their place, unlike the theatrical system where it is difficult for smaller films to get shows. So no, I have no regrets as such.
Q. A few years ago, you expressed disappointment that despite doing good work, you did not get any ‘mainstream’ offers. Has that changed now?
A. I don’t think that has changed. I still think the really big mainstream filmmakers are not keen to cast me, but I think that is more for political reasons than anything to do with how I do my job.
Q. Can you elaborate what you mean when you say ‘political reasons’?
A. Meaning that there are some people whom the powers that be decide to make their own and then there are others whom they decide not to make their own. I happen to be in the latter.
Q. Recently, you tweeted about being subjected to professional and social isolation in the film industry and how you briefly had to leave the country because things got so bad. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
A. This was back in 2003 and 2005. Well, I don’t know how much you know about the big interviews that were all over the press back then when I had a very public fallout. With one of the people involved, there is a police case now.
Q. Are you referring to your fallout with the Bhatts?
A. Yes, that is what I am talking about. I went through a similar experience where I was professionally and socially isolated, equally pressured from all ends. Every chance and every platform they would get, they would be lying about me, saying I am an alcoholic and abuser. You feel so helpless and powerless because these people are so powerful that the press will just listen to them and not even bother calling you for your side of the story. You just feel so helpless and frustrated because you can’t do anything about it. It got really toxic for me at the time and I had to leave the country for a while.
Nobody bothered to check the facts because a certain party is more powerful, famous and more friendly with the media. Only their version comes out. The facts and reality of the other person’s story never comes out. The media is to blame for half of it.
Q. What made you decide to return and fight for your place in the film industry?
A. The fight for my place in the industry is still on. I am still an outcast. It is not like that fight is over. After I came back, I had to start from scratch. I went back to doing television. I did The Great Indian Comedy Show and from there on, it has been a crawl making my own space as an actor. Now, thanks to streaming platforms, one doesn’t have to depend on the coterie that controls theatrical distribution and media in the country, as far as the movie business is concerned. Since then, I have had to slowly and steadily had to work at my own filmography. I have done parts in films which thankfully got some attention and notice. But that is definitely no thanks to me being accepted by so-called mainstream biggies.
Q. In the past, you have talked about losing out on opportunities because of rivalries people had with your father (producer KD Shorey). What is your take on the nepotism and insider-outsider debate?
A. I don’t see it as an insider-outsider debate. I see it as only a handful of people having the power over distribution and media, step-child treatment given to smaller films and talent which they don’t approve of. There is a constant struggle. Whenever a few people hold power which they are not accountable for, there will be this kind of an uneven and unjust playground.
Q. Have you ever been removed from a film because of such rivalries?
A. Nothing which I can say was to my face. There was one big franchise film, which I got to be a part of. The director wanted to cast me, it was not because of the studio. Then they made a sequel and they completely cut my part out of the whole thing. I have seen some of it but mostly, this stuff happens behind the scenes, not to your face. The way they play their cards is that you will not even be in a position to say anything because you can’t prove anything. It’s just sidelining and ignoring you completely.
Q. With streaming platforms, do you think that the era of box office rivalries will slowly come to an end?
A. Streaming platforms are inherently more democratic. Earlier, there used to be a limited number of shows and theatres controlled by a limited number of people because of their relationship and having what you call the ‘star system’ on their side. But now, with streaming platforms, that is not the case. Everybody’s product is on the shelf for the audience to choose from. That is a much healthier system of working than the theatrical ones.
Q. You have earlier expressed your disappointment that Sonchiriya was not given enough screens when it released...
A. It’s always disappointing when a film doesn’t do well at the box office because with the conventional theatrical system, that is the benchmark of success. But other than that, we all were very sure that it is a film to be proud of and thankfully, the critics and the audience have agreed with that.
Q. There have been allegations that attempts were made to stall the career of your Sonchiriya co-star, the late Sushant Singh Rajput. Do you feel that he was wronged?
A. Unfortunately, I don’t know what was happening behind-the-scenes with him. But I do know that what has been mentioned, stuff like that can happen and does happen. I don’t know if he was going through all this, that is for the investigators to find out.
Q. Recently, you talked about your contribution to cinema being completely overlooked at awards shows. How does that make you feel?
A. It used to make me feel disheartened but then I got used to it. It hasn’t stopped me from trying to be good at my job and trying to do good work. If anything, it has made my resolve stronger. But the fact is that they are a sham and the incident I quoted in my tweets was exactly that. This is what awards functions have become - a mutual admiration society by a select few people.
Q. You and Anurag Kashyap recently exchanged differing viewpoints on Twitter. What did you mean when you said ‘Bollywood flunkies’ and who were you referring to?
I was not referring to any person in particular. I was broadly talking about an ecosystem… There is a trend where you see bloggers, critics, journalists, filmmakers and actors who initially make their identity, when they are not accepted by the so-called mainstream system, you go and cry about how unjust the system is. As soon as they become a part of that coterie, they conveniently change their tune and forget what independent artists and technicians are put through. My tweet was about that and I think there was some misunderstanding and Anurag took it personally. I didn’t mean it personally at anyone at all. He is a friend of mine and this thing is just a misunderstanding, which has been blown out of proportion because it was on Twitter and you know everything gets blown out of proportion on social media.
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