As the crass, good-for-nothing school dropout Bunty in Khosla ka Ghosla (2006), he was compelling, while in Mithya (2008) you empathised with his character VK, a wannabe actor whose undoing is his striking resemblance to a dreaded gangster. Sadly, it’s been a while since we saw a performance that’s half as exciting from the talented actor Ranvir Shorey. Instead, you have duds such as Bajatey Raho , Chandini Chowk to China and Do Knot Disturb , which do no justice to his calibre. “If I’ve done a certain kind of work, you’d think you’d get better offers. But that doesn’t seem to be happening to me... Usually, I get really B-grade trash. They may be great parts... But either it’s a bad script or a director who can’t even blow his nose,” he says.
Recently, he reclaimed some of his old glory with Kanu Behl’s Titli , which was screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard category. The tale of a Delhi-based car-jacking family received encouraging reviews from the foreign press. “Cannes was a bit of a culture shock for me. I’ve never seen something so extravagant before. People liked the film, liked my work, and we got a huge standing ovation,” he says. In the film he plays Vikram, the oppressive elder brother at the helm of the illegal business. “Although I’m supposed to be the antagonist, in a way, I’m also the victim of the patriarchal system. Aside from the fact that I had a great role, I wanted to see this film made,” he says.
Like every working actor with pending bills to pay, Shorey says he too has a long list of projects he walked into knowing they weren’t the smartest of choices. He’s now decided to consciously limit such subpar work by opting for less embarrassing ones. He is now the host of the celebrity dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa on Colors, and has appeared as a contestant on the reality show Khatron Ke Khiladi — the Indian adaptation of Fear Factor shot in South Africa. Pitted against the usual crop of television soap stars who hop from one reality show to another, Shorey appeared to be a bit of a misfit. “I wanted an adventure holiday, so I thought, chal , I’ll do this and get paid also. I had such a great time. That’s why I agreed to do Jhalak ,” he says.
But TV work is like returning to his home turf. Long before entering films, Shorey was a popular veejay on Channel V. His pairing on TV with actor Vinay Pathak, who has since appeared with him in numerous films, stood out for its flawless comic timing.
“I learnt everything I know — behind and in front of the camera — on Channel V… but this ( Jhalak ) is a different ballgame altogether. I’ve never hosted a show as grand and massy as this. There’s a certain compromise in sensibilities,” he adds.
Shorey clearly seemed out of his depth during the initial weeks of the dance show, sparking rumours of his eviction. Today the show is past its halfway-mark and Shorey is still around, slowly finding his groove. He even goes so far as to say that while a film like Titli gives him creative satisfaction, it can never fetch him the reach of television. “I used to go to the park and children would recognise me from Khatron ke Khiladi ,” he says.
Alluring as TV fame might be, he still draws the line at doing a show like Bigg Boss . “For the last two years I’ve been asked. That’s like suicide. I have trouble keeping my cool when I’m free and outside. Putting me in that environment is like begging for it,” he admits. Shorey’s struggles with anger management have brought him notoriety in the past. In 2002, his then girlfriend, the actress/director Pooja Bhatt, accused him of assault. More recently, there was speculation that his marriage to actress Konkona Sen Sharma was in trouble. He says he did consider hiring a PR agency early in his career, but it didn’t help quell the rumours. “People come up to me and say, ‘Sorry to hear about your marriage.’ Here I am living happily with my family in my new house, but the general impression is that I’m a divorcee,” he says, visibly agitated.
Mention his three-year-old son Haroon and he instantly softens, happily taking on the role of a willing father . “In my 20s I used to work all day and party all night. Now I would rather be home with Haroon and just hang with him,” he says, with a smile. He and Sen Sharma take turns working, so that their son is never left alone.
After wrapping up Jhalak , he is looking forward to working on the rom-com Happy Ending alongside Saif Ali Khan, Ileana D’cruz and Kalki Koechlin. “The film is mainstream and yet has an alternative streak. Only once in a while do I get great scripts like this and it just feels so great,” he says.