I Never Had A Plan B. Act­ing Was The Only Thing I Fell In Love With And The Only Thing I Dreamt Of!

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY -

As an ac­tor, this rank out­sider has ne­tuned his act­ing skills to the point that his per­for­mances are slick, sharp and at times, spon­ta­neous yet su­perbly con­trolled. No won­der, this pow­er­house per­former has won the pres­ti­gious Na­tional Film Award and his lms have made a huge im­pact at the Os­cars and even at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. A su­perla­tive per­former who has

Heis like a chameleon - give him any role or char­ac­ter, and this per­former par ex­cel­lence trans­forms into that per­sona al­most in­stantly. Ar­guably, one of the best ac­tors amongst the NewAge stars, he has raised the bar with each per­for­mance of his. And, how! That’s right, he is Ra­jkum­mar Rao… unas­sum­ing, grounded, hum­ble… in fact, you may just fail to think of him as a star… un­til he slaps you on the face with a won­der­fully tuned per­for­mance, so edgy and clear-cut that you can’t just help but marvel at his su­perbly honed skills. His reper­toire of films have been amaz­ingly var­ied yet com­pletely multi-hued. From Ragini MMS, Love Sex Aur Dhokha (LSD), Gangs of Wassey­pur, Kai Po Che, Queen, New­ton, 5 Wed­dings, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Trapped to play­ing Ne­taji Sub­hash Chan­dra Bose in a web­series to now Men­tal Hain Kya, his films have grabbed eye­balls, won awards galore in In­dia as well

erased the de­mar­ca­tion be­tween art and com­mer­cial lms to just con­tent rich lms, RA­JKUM­MAR RAO is in­deed the ‘nd’ of the decade for the lm in­dus­try. In con­ver­sa­tion with Su­mita Chakraborty, Ra­jkum­mar Rao can­didly talks about the chal­lenges that changed his life as an ac­tor, his thoda different lms, girl­friend Pa­tralekhaa and much more…

as in­ter­na­tion­ally and have proved that this ver­sa­tile ac­tor is in­deed a per­former in a league by him­self. … Pre­sent­ing the very can­did Ra­jkum­mar Rao as he talks about his life, films, chal­lenges, love life and more. Read on…

You are an in­dus­try out­sider who stormed Bol­ly­wood with path-break­ing roles and fab­u­lous per­for­mances. How would you de­scribe your jour­ney? My jour­ney has been long, chal­leng­ing yet ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing. Hon­estly, I feel very blessed that I’m a part of this in­dus­try. Per­haps it’s be­cause of my fam­ily’s love and bless­ings, and of course, the hard work that I’ve put in - be it in Delhi, film school days or in Mum­bai… what­ever it is, it has re­ally worked for me. Some­times I won­der, why me? … Be­cause we all know that there are so many peo­ple who come to the city with the

same dream, but some go back with bro­ken dreams and bro­ken hearts. So that way I feel very blessed that I have been ac­cepted by the in­dus­try de­spite be­ing an in­dus­try out­sider. In that way, my jour­ney has been so won­der­ful. It’s been a learn­ing curve, ac­tu­ally. I got a chance to work with some re­ally amaz­ing peo­ple and some mar­vel­lous film­mak­ers. I’ve learnt such a lot and def­i­nitely, I feel like I have grown as an ac­tor. Since my first film to now, be­cause of the kind of peo­ple that I’ve worked with, I’ve picked up so much es­pe­cially from my team and my film friends. It has en­riched me as an ac­tor. Of course, I still have a long, long way to go but yes, the jour­ney up­til now has been in­ter­est­ing.

There must have been a lot of chal­lenges that you’ve faced. Could you talk about them? There were huge chal­lenges then and of course, there still are chal­lenges and there are different ways in which I faced those chal­lenges. When I was start­ing out, I re­ally strug­gled. I had to look for work for al­most one-and-a half to two years. There were nu­mer­ous re­jec­tions, and there were times when I felt down and out, but dur­ing th­ese try­ing times, it was very necessary to keep my­self mo­ti­vated, to keep my­self in­spired and to keep go­ing. Fail­ure can make you slip down yet you have to pick up your­self. In life, of course, there will be re­jec­tions, there will be neg­a­tiv­ity around you. But you can’t let th­ese things ham­per your ded­i­ca­tion or your love for what you are do­ing. So dur­ing my strug­gle, I made sure that I stayed

When I was start­ing out, I re­ally strug­gled. I had to look for work for al­most one-and-a half to two years.”

mo­ti­vated. I would try and learn new things. I would look at other ac­tors, and I would try and learn from them, learn more about the art. I would get my­self en­rolled into some good act­ing work­shops, hone my skills. And more im­por­tantly, I made sure that the chal­lenges weren’t get­ting the better of me. De­spite the re­jec­tions, I would keep go­ing for au­di­tions etc. In life, it is necessary not to let any­thing pull you down.

You know Ra­jkum­mar, when you say ‘strug­gle’, I’ve spo­ken to Ran­veer Singh about his jour­ney and he had told me about a lot of cast­ing couch in­ci­dences that hap­pen even for men. Have you by any chance faced the cast­ing couch? No, that way I feel I am very lucky as I never had to face any kind of cast­ing couch. I’m sure it hap­pens with boys as well but in my case, I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced it.

It has been a slow and steady ride for you, at any point did you ever think of giv­ing it up? No, be­cause I never had a plan B. Act­ing was the only thing I fell in love with and the only thing I dreamt of. My dream was to be a film ac­tor and there was no chance that I could give it up. I knew noth­ing but act­ing. So I kept on… and here, I am!

You’ve done all kinds of shades as an ac­tor. But in Omerta, you’re play­ing an out and out anti-hero. So what made you pick this film? The rea­son is that most of the films I have played, have me in ei­ther good char­ac­ters or with shades of grey - be it Ragini MMS, LSD or Queen, but I have never got a chance to play some­body who is an out­right vil­lain and Omerta gave me that op­por­tu­nity. And also an­other rea­son is that Hansal (Me­hta) sir was mak­ing it, and that was enough rea­son for me to say ‘yes’. Omerta is a very im­por­tant story to be told and I thought it was very rel­e­vant es­pe­cially in th­ese times. So th­ese were my rea­sons to say ‘yes’ to Omerta.

At any point did you feel that you wouldn’t be ac­cepted in this kind of a role? I can’t over­think whether I’ll be ac­cepted or not! I can’t work like that hon­estly. As an ac­tor I want to push my lim­its. I want to ex­plore all kinds of

After sev­eral hours of au­di­tion, I got the most im­por­tant phone call of my life con­vey­ing that I’ve got the film.”

gen­res, I want to do different char­ac­ters. I don’t want to re­strict my­self think­ing that I should not be do­ing this or prob­a­bly be do­ing only a par­tic­u­lar role and then would be ac­cepted. You have to take your chances, keep push­ing your bound­aries and that’s ex­actly what I do.

2017 was a re­mark­able year for you. You had so many films lined up, so many rave re­views, so many hits... Do you feel that you’ve fi­nally got your due in the film in­dus­try? I was very lucky the day I got my first film more so as an out­sider I know how tough it can be for an out­sider to ac­tu­ally break into the in­dus­try. So I never had any com­plaints but of course, 2017 was a very ex­cit­ing year for me, and it has def­i­nitely added a lot in my ca­reer. The kind of films which re­leased in 2017 and the kind of love I got for them was amaz­ing and yes, a bit hum­bling too. So yes, I am happy to be in the place that I am in right now, but as I said, there is still a long way to go.

You talk about be­ing an out­sider and break­ing into the in­dus­try. How did you get your first film? My first film was LSD ( Love Sex Aur Dhoka), it re­leased in 200910. And that hap­pened purely only on the ba­sis of au­di­tions. I was wait­ing at the cast­ing di­rec­tor’s ta­ble, try­ing to look for my first break and there it­self, I got to know that Dibakar Ban­er­jee was plan­ning his first film and cast­ing for it. The process was slow but even­tu­ally, the cast­ing di­rec­tor Atul Mon­gia called me for the au­di­tions and fi­nally after sev­eral hours of au­di­tion, I got the most im­por­tant phone call of my life con­vey­ing that I’ve got the film.

And your par­ents…. What about their re­ac­tions? They were ex­tremely happy, of course, more so be­cause they had wit­nessed the kind of love I have for act­ing and how badly I wanted to be a film ac­tor. So when they got to know that I’ve fi­nally got my first break, they were ex­tremely happy. But they have al­ways been sup­port­ive of what­ever I did in life. As an one-time in­dus­try out­sider, what is your take on the in­dus­try? Well, for one, the in­dus­try is a great place to work in. Here, tal­ent sur­vives no mat­ter what. The au­di­ence de­cides who they want to see on­screen. And per­haps that’s why some of the not-so-tal­ented ac­tors – no one wants to see them any­more. As for me, I’m still that cu­ri­ous kid from Gur­gaon who looks at Bol­ly­wood from a dis­tance.

You nor­mally do con­tent rich scripts. Would you be agree­able to do a to­tal masala com­mer­cial film? Yes, I don’t mind do­ing any film. I want to do ev­ery kind of genre. But then films too need to have a story. It just can’t be a pot­boiler. Of course, the au­di­ence too have de­cided that the con­cept of masala films is great but it still needs con­tent, and that’s why the def­i­ni­tion of com­mer­cial cinema is chang­ing so we can’t re­ally go with­out con­tent now. Con­tent, for me, is the top­most pri­or­ity.

Your films Shahid, Ali­garh, New­ton and Omerta, they all have had a po­lit­i­cal colour. Do you in real life too have po­lit­i­cal lean­ings? Are you vo­cal about your po­lit­i­cal views? I am po­lit­i­cally aware, and I tend to speak when­ever I am re­quired on is­sues that are close to my heart. I tend to put my heart out on Twit­ter. But oth­er­wise I am very caught up with work - ei­ther I’m shoot­ing or pro­mot­ing my film. So I don’t get enough time to re­ally talk about things but when­ever I get an op­por­tu­nity, I def­i­nitely speak my heart out. If I feel strongly about some­thing, then I do make a point. And when I feel very strongly about some­thing, I def­i­nitely talk about it.

I want to do ev­ery kind of genre. But then masala films too need to have a story. It just can’t be a pot­boiler.”

You come across as a very in­tel­lec­tual ac­tor. Are you like that or do you have a goofy side too? (Laughs) Well, I don’t know if I’m an in­tel­lec­tual ac­tor or not but I do read a lot. So all I can say is that I am not un­aware of things and I can have a deep con­ver­sa­tion, too. But on the other side, I can be a lot of fun too. Ask my friends… I am a very funlov­ing guy. Of course, that’s a very different side of me. I am not at all like what peo­ple tend to see in films.

You’ve done this won­der­ful web­series Bose:Dead/Alive. For one, how was it work­ing for this web­series? Se­condly, if you look at your reper­toire, it’s fab­u­lous. How do you pick your films – do you take a long look at the script or what? No, the cri­te­ria for choos­ing a script is quite in­tu­itive, quite im­pul­sive. When I like a script, then and there, I just say ‘yes’ to it. But when it came to Bose, I took it as a chal­lenge. Be­cause I could never re­ally imag­ine my­self play­ing Sub­hash Chan­dra Bose be­cause the role is so different and so real. You know when Ekta (Kapoor) told me that she thought that I could play Bose in the se­ries, I thought why not, it would be re­ally ex­cit­ing. But I re­ally had to push my­self out of my lim­its to play the role. But it was fun. And I am re­ally so glad that I did that. Be­cause just to ex­pe­ri­ence his life on­screen and to learn about him dur­ing my re­search, was very in­ter­est­ing to say the least.

Any par­tic­u­lar out­stand­ing mo­ment dur­ing this web­series that you re­mem­ber? The en­tire thing… not just one mo­ment. What­ever Ne­taji stood for and the kind of ide­olo­gies he had - thoughts of self­less love for his mother coun­try etc… ev­ery­thing about him was very fas­ci­nat­ing.

Ra­jkum­mar, you said that you want to work with Deepika Padukone. Has any­thing been fi­nal­ized or are there any of­fers? Well, noth­ing has been fi­nal­ized as yet but let’s see… hope­fully very soon.

Un­like other ac­tors, you have been very trans­par­ent about your re­la­tion­ship sta­tus. Do you think as the mind­set is amongst ac­tors, do you think be­ing open about your re­la­tion­ship sta­tus will cost you your fe­male fan fol­low­ing? No, no not at all. The love you get from your au­di­ence, it’s re­ally pure. It is a very beau­ti­ful re­la­tion­ship that we share with our au­di­ence. And we all are what­ever we are be­cause of their love and purely, for their love. But what I am off­screen, I don’t think both­ers our au­di­ence. My per­sonal re­la­tion­ship has no im­pact on the au­di­ence as my reel and real life are very different al­to­gether.

You are work­ing in Men­talHai Kya with Kan­gana Ra­naut. First of all, how was it work­ing with her? We ac­tu­ally haven’t started shoot­ing for the film as yet. We’re go­ing to start it this month. But of course, we have had some in­ter­ac­tive ses­sions about the script and a cou­ple of read­ings. I’ve al­ways liked Kan­gana. I think she is a very fine ac­tor and a very fine tal­ent and that’s what I want. I want to work with re­ally amaz­ing co-ac­tors – like-minded teams work re­ally well and then the films work re­ally well.

Ear­lier New­ton and now 5Wed­dings is pre­mier­ing at Cannes. You’re go­ing in­ter­na­tional. Any plans of go­ing global too? Do­ing Hol­ly­wood films or world cinema? There are no of­fers as such but I would love to ex­plore the West­ern cinema. I would like to pur­sue it if there is an ex­cit­ing part for me. Right now, my In­dian plate is re­ally full of work com­mit­ments and if there’s some­thing that re­ally ex­cites me and if that means to go there, I would def­i­nitely jump at it.

What are you look­ing for­ward to now cur­rently? Is there any par­tic­u­lar film or any pin­na­cle of suc­cess? Right now, I am wait­ing for

My per­sonal re­la­tion­ship has no im­pact on the au­di­ence as my reel and real life are very different al­to­gether.”

Omerta’s re­lease and then what­ever is com­ing in, be it Fan­ney Khan or Stree, which is a desi hor­ror com­edy or Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh or Men­tal Hai Kya, the year’s look­ing ex­cit­ing.

You spoke about Stree. You’re do­ing this with Shrad­dha Kapoor. Have you started shoot­ing for this film? How is it go­ing? We are ac­tu­ally al­most done with the shoot­ing. It is ac­tu­ally go­ing re­ally good. I am very, very ex­cited about it, per­haps be­cause it is the first of its kind, a very unique genre, it’s a desi hor­ror com­edy and we are re­ally hav­ing a great time mak­ing the film and I re­ally hope our au­di­ence will also have the same amount of fun that we’re hav­ing.

Are you to­tally work ori­ented? Is it to­tal work, no play, I mean we don’t hear any ru­mours about you, no stray gos­sip, no af­fairs… Are you like this or are you good at hid­ing things? No, I am not good at hid­ing things. I am ex­tremely busy work­ing and when I am not work­ing, I love spend­ing time with my loved ones or travel. Th­ese are the only three things that I do. I am ei­ther work­ing or at home with friends and loved ones or oth­er­wise I’m trav­el­ing. So there’s no time to give fod­der to gos­sip. (laughs)

How do you man­age to bal­ance your per­sonal and pro­fes­sional life? I try main­tain­ing that bal­ance. But

I never had to face any kind of cast­ing couch. I’m sure it hap­pens with boys as well but in my case, I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced it.”

I think it is easy if there is un­der­stand­ing be­tween two peo­ple and thanks to tech­nol­ogy, you al­ways are con­nected be­cause of phones and Facetime.

Do we get to see you and your girl­friend ac­tor Pa­tralekhaa on screen any day soon? Umm…yes, you might see us prob­a­bly this year or next year. The de­tails, I can’t tell you be­cause it is very, very early to tell.

What is your Bol­ly­wood wish­list? My wish­list is the same as when I had started my ca­reer. …To be a part of re­ally good films and to keep chal­leng­ing my­self as an ac­tor and to grow with ev­ery film.

What about biopics? They are the cur­rent fla­vor in the film in­dus­try. Would you like to do an­other biopic soon? I’ve done a cou­ple of biopics like Shahid, Ali­garh, Bose. Hon­estly, I love do­ing biopics and I love play­ing real life char­ac­ters. So if any­thing ex­cit­ing comes my way - not this year as my sched­ule is full - but if there’s some­thing ex­cit­ing I would love to ex­plore it.

Which part of be­ing an ac­tor you don’t like? I like ev­ery­thing about be­ing an ac­tor. In fact, I would want to ask God to make me an ac­tor in ev­ery birth.

As an ac­tor, do you have a prob­lem with me­dia in­tru­sion or al­ways be­ing scru­ti­nized? No, that way I am very blessed. I get so much love from my me­dia fra­ter­nity so there are no com­plains as such.

Any mes­sage for our Star­dust read­ers? I just want to thank each and every­body for all the love that I’ve got through th­ese years and I can just say that I will keep try­ing hard and do some­thing new ev­ery time.

My wish­list is the same as when I had started my ca­reer. …To be a part of re­ally good films and to keep chal­leng­ing my­self as an ac­tor.”



With Pa­tralekha

Love Sex Aur Dhoka



With Kan­gana Ra­naut



Bose: Dead/Alive


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