RA­JKUM­MAR OFHIS DREAMS

CAN AN AC­TOR BE­COME MORE SUC­CESS­FUL THAN THE SUC­CESS­FUL STAR HE ONCE DREAMT OF BE­ING?

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - #Ra­jkum­marCharm­ing

W hen you’ve de­liv­ered two sleeper hits at the box office in a sin­gle year, when you are the toast of fawn­ing cin­ema crit­ics, fanzines and a me­dia des­per­ate to stay rel­e­vant in the age of In­sta sto­ries, chances are that you have be­come a neu­rotic, tantrum-throw­ing diva. The kind of ac­tor peo­ple de­scribe as ‘starry’.

Ex­cept that Ra­jkum­mar Rao is none of the above. Not yet, any­way. “Hon­estly yaar, I want to just focus on my work,” he says with reg­u­lar, boy-next-door ease. “There are a lot of things peo­ple are call­ing me, and I’m over­whelmed. I have a lot of grat­i­tude, but I just want to keep do­ing what I’m in love with, which is act­ing. I chased my dream, worked hard for it, and now I am ac­tu­ally liv­ing that dream. This doesn’t hap­pen to ev­ery­one.”

QUAL­ITY MAT­TERS

With­out any fan­fare, he has breezed into pho­tog­ra­pher Subi Samuel’s Versova stu­dio. His en­tourage (“What en­tourage?” Ra­jkum­mar rolls his eyes) con­sists of his PR man­ager and spot boy/driver.

Then, some­thing gives. He has fixed an­other meet­ing. Be­fore we can be­gin our in­ter­view, his sec­ond ap­point­ment turns up, a group of babus want­ing him to do a PSA video for their ‘cause’, at­tempt­ing to steal him for their shoot.

Ra­jkum­mar calmly dis­arms the sit­u­a­tion. He per­suades the pub­lic ser­vants to wait. “Some­times I try to jug­gle meet­ings but I end up mak­ing one person wait! Re­lax, yaar,” laughs the 33-year-old Na­tional Award­win­ner.

In 2010, Ra­jkum­mar made his Bol­ly­wood de­but with a small

“WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT

NEW­TON (2017) WOULD HAVE BEEN SUCH A BIG SUC­CESS? IT PROVED A POINT. NOW, THERE WILL BE 10 MORE NEWTONS”

char­ac­ter role in the film LSD (2010), for which he was fa­mously paid ~ 11,000. Eight years later, he is a box office phe­nom. Yet, he wants to stay grounded.

Dubbed by Forbes In­dia as ‘one of the most bank­able stars of neo-In­dian cin­ema,’ he has risen through the ranks slowly and surely, cap­ti­vat­ing us with the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters he trans­formed him­self into for his movies.

It helps that he’s at the right place at the right time: this is a dis­rup­tive phase in cin­ema in In­dia. Con­tent is king and we want to see qual­ity movies and act­ing. But there’s some­thing about this guy. Omerta failed at the box office, but the me­dia con­tin­ues to laud his ad­vent. And let’s be clear – with him, there is no syco­phancy. “What is this starry thing? Why do you have to do it? Just be your­self, man,” Ra­jkum­mar says. A starry at­ti­tude, he is re­minded, hap­pens when peo­ple take them­selves too se­ri­ously. “I take my work very se­ri­ously but I don’t take my­self se­ri­ously,” he says with a grin.

AC­TOR OR STAR?

Fa­mous last words? Surely he must en­joy the adu­la­tion and the fact that the world now seems to re­volve around him? “That’s not true. The world is re­volv­ing around many other im­por­tant things. We’re just ac­tors, man, just part of things, we’re just do­ing our jobs, like ev­ery­one else does their jobs,” he says. “The adu­la­tion for us is much more be­cause we are al­ways in the pub­lic eye. But I never be­came an ac­tor be­cause I wanted peo­ple to scream out my name.”

Surely he throws some tantrums, we in­sist. Ra­jkum­mar guf­faws. “Do I throw tantrums?” he asks his staff. They laugh and vouch he doesn’t. And they don’t just say that be­cause he is in the room. When he walked into the stu­dio, he com­plied with Subi’s vi­sion for the shoot, do­ing more than was asked of him.

The fu­ture, he be­lieves will be­long not to stars or ac­tors. “The fu­ture be­longs to sto­ries, hon­estly. Even­tu­ally, peo­ple will con­nect to sto­ries and they will want to watch a film be­cause they like the story. There will be ac­tors, there will be stars, some­times there will be non-ac­tors too. But, cin­ema will be about the sto­ries,” he says. “That line of art and commercial cin­ema has blurred. Now, a film is ei­ther good or bad. Who would have thought New­ton (2017) would have been such a big suc­cess? It proved a point. Now, there will be 10 more Newtons. That’s how it works.”

There’s no suc­cess for­mula for an ac­tor to­day, he be­lieves. “First of all, you have to ask your-

“THE DAY I FEEL THIS PAR­TIC­U­LAR ACT IS WHAT I SHOULD KEEP DO­ING BE­CAUSE IT SELLS, I WILL BE SCARED. THAT IS THE DEATH OF AN AC­TOR”

Jacket, shirt and pants, Jack & Jones; loafers, Tommy Hil­figer

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