For TV's perfect lover boy Rajeev Khandelwal, a proper Bollywood debut should have been a romantic role. Instead, he makes his appearance on the big screen as an average, middle class boy fighting for his survival against all odds.
If everything had gone according to plan, Rajeev would have made his Bollywood debut with a romantic film. A film with a role that would have made the most of his existing on-screen image: that of the classic Mills & Boon kind of hero. But there are plans and there are plans.
One day Rajeev (better known to TV buffs as
Kahiin To Hoga's
Sujal) was offered a role in a very different kind of movie. No screen test required. The script was narrated to him and the role was his if he chose to accept it. And, much to his own much less his fans' - surprise, he accepted it.
"It isn't the kind of film you get to do every day" says Rajeev simply. For an actor who made his mark as a romantic hero, it's certainly off the beaten career path.
Why off the beaten path? Well, for one, the hero doesn't have a love interest and has no songs to sing. For another, the hero isn't even a hero in the established sense of the word.
Instead, the film, titled
, produced by Anurag Kashyap and UTV and directed by first timer Rajkumar Gupta, is about an average, middle class Muslim boy who, on his way to a job abroad, drops by Mumbai to meet relatives and sees his life change - and how!
"The best part about the film is that there are no heroes," says Rajeev. "There are only characters - the script is the hero. And my character Aamir is not heroic either. That's why it's the story of an average middle class guy, and that's why I feel the audience will relate to the film."
It's a risk and Rajeev acknowledges that. But since he wasn't particularly certain what he wanted to do on the big screen - though he was clear that was where he wanted to be - he took the offer and ran with it.
"To be honest, I had no clue what might be a 'safe' Bollywood debut for me," he says. "And while a film like Aamir is a risk, I don't think it's a huge one, given that so much experimentation is happening in the world of movies. It isn't just the Bollywood producers trying something new, even filmgoers want to watch something different. The big films have been flopping of late, while small films do wonders. It's the script that makes the difference, andAamir has a great script"
Whatever his reasoning, the fact remains that Rajeev flew in the face of convention when he agreed to do Aamir - just as he's always done things his own way. For instance, in spite of pressure from his family to pursue "a proper career", he insisted on becoming an actor.
Next, though his role as Sujal turned him into every teenage female TV-viewer's idea of the perfhet lover, he didn't play the character in the timeworn brooding manner And finally, he proved once and for all that he has a mind of his own when he not only walked out of
Kahiin To Hoga
the serial that made him what he is but also publicly accused its producer, Ektaa Kapoor of Balaji Films, of giving her actors no creative licence.
This led to what amounted to a media brawl, but Rajeev stuck to his guns and, to this day refuses to return to the hit-producing Balaji fold. "Ekta and I do not exist for each other," he says firmly What about the other Balaji woman in his life - Aamna Sharif, who played his love interest in
Kahiin To Hoga
, and with whom he was romantically linked?
"What about her?" he retorts. "I am not seeing her She's a great friend and that's it. I would love to fall in love. I am a commited sort of guy I really wish to be in a relationship that's for keeps. So till I find her, I am single," he laughs.
But he's not averse to filmi romance. Like most young actors with an eye on stardom, he's more than open to the idea of filmi hero roles. "I'd love to play the typical lover boy" he confesses. "In fact, that's the role I have in my second film, which is also with UTV and I am very happy I love masala flicks and I woo women very well." We believe him.