I’m still the same boy from Gurugram, says Rajkummar Rao on staying grounded
Rajkummar Rao says he has a ‘lot of gratitude for everyone’ but he is ‘still the same guy from Gurugram’ that he always was.Updated: Jun 19, 2018 09:53 IST
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
He made his big screen debut with Love Sex Aur Dhokha (LSD; 2010), and ever since, Rajkummar Rao has been – slowly but steadily – making his way towards success and stardom. 2017, in fact, turned out to be a breakthrough year for the Gurugram boy with movies such as Trapped (2017), the National Award-winning Newton (2017) and Bareilly Ki Barfi (BKB; 2017), for all of which, he received immense appreciation from critics and audiences alike. He also bagged the Best Actor trophy at the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Newton last year. We caught up with the actor about life, career and more.
Many feel 2017 was a landmark year for you and it could be a turning point in your career…
In a way, it was, because people suddenly took notice of me, and that too in very different avatars. Look at BKB; nobody had ever seen me play a part like Pritam Vidrohi in such a light-hearted, commercial entertainer. Somewhere, it gave me a lot of recognition amongst the masses also due to what I did with my part. That really helped, and then the kind of box-office success and appreciation we got for Newton, Trapped and even Bose: Dead/Alive was amazing. I think those three-four projects really changed a lot of things for me. So, 2017 was a very exciting year when it comes to my career. I feel most of the work that I am doing right now is because of what I did last year.
So, has Rajkummar Rao finally arrived?
Actually, I arrived [in the world] in 1984 when I was born (laughs). On a serious note, I have been continuously working since my first film, LSD (2010). And probably, there was a small group of people – amongst the film-loving audiences – that noticed my work. In the industry too, people liked me but at the end of day, it’s business. People will invest in you only if they see some kind of return and that’s the dark truth. I feel since people have started noticing me and enjoying my performance and considering the kind of love I’ve got in 2017-18, many feel that I have arrived because there’s a belief that I can probably carry a film on my shoulders now.
Do you sometimes feel that you should have got the success and fame a lot earlier?
You know, I had thoroughly enjoyed working in Ragini MMS, and it was a big success too. But for some reason, not many people saw it in the industry thinking it was a sex film. I did that film with a lot of honesty and I think it’s one of the best horror films we have made. So, I was always present, but probably hidden somewhere. It’s as if there was an eclipse and finally, that grahan has moved away and now people are like, ‘wow, he is really bright (laughs).’
But you always stuck to your guns.
Yes, because I feel eventually, that’s what pays off. You have to listen to your gut and follow your heart because I am here for a marathon, not a sprint. I want to keep running. I don’t ever want this journey to finish. And for that to happen, you can’t put too much of your brain in doing things, and can’t connect too many dots because anyway there is no guarantee of anything. Nobody knows what’s going to work on a Friday. The only thing that I know is that if I like a particular script, I want to be as honest to my character as possible. That’s the only thing I can control. I have made a lot of decisions on an impulse, and I am going to continue that.
Were you disappointed about not winning the National Award for Newton last year?
It only motivates me to work harder, but of course, it’s very encouraging when I win an award. As for the National Award, I’m sure there were better performances than mine and that’s why I didn’t get it. But I can’t feel low especially with the kind of love I got in 2017. As an actor, I just want to keep challenging myself with every film. If I get an award, it makes me happy but if I don’t, I will work even harder.
Right now, a number of young actors are working actively in the industry. Do you feel a sense of competition or pressure due to your contemporaries?
To be honest, I feel very happy when I see my contemporaries attempt different work, as that’s very good for our cinema, and that’s also imperative for the kind of recognition we will eventually get on the international level. It’s very encouraging. I don’t feel insecure at all, as I have no insecurities, especially when it comes to my work and acting. I am an actor not because I wanted to prove a point but because I genuinely fell in love with cinema. There was never a plan B for me as this was the only thing I always knew how to do.
Varun Dhawan recently said that his father, David Dhawan wants to do a serious film with you…
With David sir, I would actually love to work on anything. I feel he will make a kick*** serious film and of course, we all know he is a genius with comedies. But it will be a lovely change. I will do whatever he wants me to do. But comedy is serious business. It looks like a lot of fun but you have to take it seriously. I have just wrapped up a horror comedy and of course, we were having fun, but all of us were pretty serious as it’s a serious business.
Do you feel things have changed for you after 2017?
I do. I met a couple of film-makers, who told me that they always wanted to work with me but something was stopping them, which could be financial issues or producers [objecting to my casting] but now they are happy that they can go ahead and make a film with me. I think that’s definitely changed, and it is definitely a happy change. I have a lot of gratitude for everyone, who have helped and supported me throughout this journey but I am still the same person. For me, nothing has changed. It’s not as if now, I will take on some kind of pressure and my performance style will change. I am sure I will never give anyone a chance to say, ‘something is wrong with this guy and he is not the same’. My love for my work will remain the same.
Now, are you more mindful of being grounded?
I think with success, you become more humble, as you are aware that people are judging your every step, and that if you take one wrong step, they will be like, ‘dekha, dimag kharab ho gaya hai iska’ (See, he has lost his mind). That’s a very humane thing but honestly, I am making a conscious effort to avoid it. That’s how I have always been. I haven’t changed except for maybe some of my materialistic things, but apart from that, I am still the same boy from Gurugram.
Would you call this your dream phase?
Actually, my dreams change every 5-10 years. When I was in Delhi and had just started doing theatre, my dreams were different. Then, when I went to film school, I wanted to be a very dedicated actor. Now, I am here, so my dreams have changed again. I just want to keep pushing myself as an actor and keep challenging myself with different work. My only constant dream was to be a film actor and I am living that dream every day.
You had mentioned to us sometime back that you aren’t very good with PR and marketing. Are things still the same?
For starters, I feel I still can’t go for any and every event. I am always working constantly and when I am not, I really want to spend that time with myself and my loved ones. I may watch something amazing on Netflix or Amazon or I could go to a theatre or on a holiday. Plus, I feel very lazy about getting ready and going for something that I feel like going for. So, I am still lagging [when it comes to PR] and I am not really covered up. I still think a lot vis-à-vis my PR. I can be very adamant about it, so people have to convince me. I’m still learning this part of the game. I won’t say I am already a pro.
Do you like any of your performances?
Personally, one performance that I thought was really honest and came straight from my heart was CityLights (2014). It’s a much underrated film. I changed after that film and then, I had the same experience with Omertà (2017) wherein I changed internally. I was being honest in my other films too, but in these two films, something happened. I am talking about only those films that I have already seen. Even Trapped was a very good, as it’s unique and not very easy to think and conceptualise.
A few days back, Patralekhaa opened her heart out in an interview that made lots of news. Were you surprised?
Not really! I thought it was really heartfelt and straight from the heart. There was no corruption involved and very honest as that’s what she felt and that’s what she went through. It’s not easy to speak your heart out. She is a fighter, and is equally excited about acting and she has been working really hard. After CityLights, there was a lull in her career, and we all were shocked about that, especially since it was coming after such a great debut and very few female actors get this kind of appreciation for their work. But now, she is going to start work on a couple of things very soon. She is not going to let it go; she is going to be here.
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First Published: Jun 18, 2018 15:36 IST