He struck the right chord with his debut on TV and then proved his acting abilities in critically acclaimed films like Aamir and Shaitan besides the recent Soundtrack. He also proved his ability to host TV shows when he helmed the eye-opening Sach Ka Saamna (and he'll be back with the second season soon). Now Rajeev Khandelwal has a new avatar - as the host of Nat Geo Super Cars for National Geographic.
Over tomato and mozzarella bruschetta and fish fingers at Aura, the Vodka Bar at the Claridges, New Delhi, the actor got into high gear about food, his wife, fitness and the cars he loves.
You don't seem much of a foodie...
I'm a very boring person as far as eating is concerned. I'm very happy to eat home cooked food. I even eat at home before I go to a party. And I love the food my cook Bhagat Singh makes.
Truthfully, I'd like to be vegetarian. Given a choice, I would eat stuff like
lauki, tinda, kaddu
. If you wanted to win my heart, the best way to do it would be to gift me a basket of fresh, organic vegetables. Since my dad was in the army, we always had a small kitchen garden wherever we lived, and I guess that's how I became so fond of fresh vegetables.
My wife Manjari, on the other hand, is a complete foodie. I love to cook, but Manjari doesn't let me cook often because I don't follow any particular recipe but do my own variations. She often doesn't find those dishes very appealing. I like all kinds of cuisines but I can't handle anything very spicy and heavy, like Rajasthani food. But I'm a practical man. It's because my father was always on the move, so I learned to adjust in all kinds of circumstances, especially during my days of struggle as an actor.
You got married rather suddenly. What's it like, being married?
My marriage wasn't all that sudden. I have known Manjari for the last three years and, in fact, I knew her older sister, Mamta, first. Mamta introduced us. She took me to a pub where Manjari was hanging out with her friends, and I liked her from the very first meeting.
We've been married for seven months now, and the going has been great. I must admit that things do change after marriage. You are not you anymore. Everything needs to be seen from a different perspective. What you do on the work front doesn't make you a very intelligent person. Home also counts.
You seem to be very fitness conscious. Is it because of the profession you are in?
I have always been very committed to good health and want to be absolutely fit to the last stage of my life. I have always led a very active and disciplined life. I ride horses, play tennis, climb mountains and indulge in various other adventure activities. I don't stick to one regime but try out new things all the time. And I think that being fit also means things like getting to the sets on time and participating in various activities.
Raunaq, the character you play in the recently released film Soundtrack, is completely over the top in every possible way. In fact, he's a big contrast to the sober guy you have played in your other films. What was it like, playing Raunaq?
I was pretty nervous. Everything about Soundtrack was so different from my other films. I had to go for a seven-week crash course in deejaying to understand the concept. My mindset needed to be very different. I even attended a workshop for the deaf. Though I'm not too much into music, I can now claim to be a good DJ. And I'm really happy that people have liked me in a role that was really intense for me.
You are now hosting a show on some of the best super cars in the world. Have you always been interested in cars?
I wouldn't say I have been crazy about cars, but like any other guy, I had posters of Ferraris and Rolls Royces in my room. But that was it. I wasn't passionate about them. In fact, I prefer SUVs and often drive up to Leh where I camp out. I also drive to Corbett when I get the chance. Last year, I bought a Scorpio 4x4 and completely customised it for camping purposes!
As far as hosting this show is concerned, honestly, I'm doing it for my own ego. Not only have I got the chance to drive some of these beauties but also to learn so many interesting and unknown facets about these cars. Each of them has a story or history behind it. I hope I'm doing a good job as an anchor.
Have you ever gone on a driving holiday with Manjari?
Yes, we recently drove to Leh in the Scorpio and it turned out to be one of the craziest trips we ever had. Our trip happened just seven days after the tragic cloudburst incident in Leh and for the first time I decided to go to Leh via Chandigarh. It took us two and a half days to get to Leh as the entire route from Rohtang was badly hit due to landslides and many vehicles were stuck in the mud and slush.
Fortunately, my Scorpio has a motorised winch in front that helped me pull other cars out of the mud. Manjari was terrified and I must say that this was one trip that I am not going to forget in a hurry!
What was it like to host a controversial show like Sach Ka Saamna?
It was a great experience. I don't know a single intelligent person who slammed the show. The show made me realise that we are all hypocrites and it takes a lot of courage to come out with the truth. I never found any of the confessions shocking. What was shocking was the courage shown by the people who came on the show. It was just amazing. In the end, the show helped make society better.
Did you witness pain and broken homes?
More than pain, I saw a sense of relief among most of the participants. For many of them, it was like a catharsis. Some wanted to challenge themselves. I remember a woman who had confessed about cheating on her husband. I met the couple a few months after the show and was delighted to know that they had had a second baby. The whole thing had actually brought the couple closer.
Would you ever participate in such a show yourself?
I would love to as long as I have Rajeev Khandelwal asking me questions!
From HT Brunch, October 16
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