IN GOOD BOOKS
Rajkummar Rao reveals how his acting has been shaped by the books that he has loved
H e didn’t shy away from playing the non-glamorous role of a humanrights lawyer in Shahid (2013), the fledgling government clerk who was hell-bent against communist rebels in Newton (2017) or a homosexual man during pre-377 India with his film
Aligarh (2016). A feted and talented Bollywood actor who also has a love for the written word, so busy that the word ‘busy’ seems an understatement, Rajkummar Rao, the National Award-winning actor and the poster boy for alt-cinema, has still made time to answer my burning questions on all things books! He is, in his own words, a voracious reader, and he claims that his acting has been shaped by the books that he has loved.
Do you remember the first book that shaped your identity?
Rajkummar: Yes, it was Robert De Niro’s biography. I wasn’t a voracious reader before that but that book gave me a new perception towards acting.
If your house was on fire and you had to save three books, which ones would you choose?
Rajkummar: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, The Godfather by Mario Puzo and The Bhagavad Gita.
“ROBERT DE NIRO’S BIOGRAPHY IS THE BOOK THAT GAVE ME A NEW PERCEPTION TOWARDS ACTING”
“WILD SEED BY OCTAVIA BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED BOOK”
What fictional character do you most identify with?
Rajkummar: Howard Roark from The Fountainhead.
What’s a classic you haven’t read?
Rajkummar: The Odyssey by Homer.
Name your top three favourite authors.
Rajkummar: Saadat Hasan Manto, Ayn Rand and Walter Isaacson.
What non-fiction book would you recommend?
Rajkummar: My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin.
What book that hasn’t been made into a film would you want to see a film adaptation of ?
Rajkummar: There are so many amazing stories by Premchand or Harishankar Parsai. Those might make good films.
Do you judge people on the basis of their book choice?
Rajkummar: No, I don’t judge people for anything.
What’s the most underrated book or book series?
Rajkummar: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.
What’s your favourite reading spot?
Rajkummar: Flights, my vanity van and my balcony. Coffee, too, is a great companion! [laughs]
Kindle or hard copy?
Rajkummar: Both have their own advantages, but I am totally in love with the smell of a new book.
Which fictional character would you like to cosplay as?
Rajkummar: I know I’m being repetitive, but Howard Roark from The Fountainhead.
What’s your favourite book-toscreen adaptation?
Rajkummar: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Which movie of yours would make the best book?
Rajkummar There are many, but, to name a few – Shahid (2013), Trapped (2017) and Newton (2017).
Rajkummar Rao appeared on the cover of HTBrunch on June 10, 2018