Rajkummar Rao: People earlier told me, ‘We can’t cast you for the lead role’
The Bareilly Ki Barfi actor, who has done a range of roles in his seven years in Bollywood — and won a National Film Award for his work — outlines how the industry has become more diverse now.bollywood Updated: Aug 23, 2017 18:00 IST
Rajkummar Rao was never the quintessential Bollywood hero, but he is a force to reckon with, winning audience appreciation, awards, and box office success. His latest film, Bareilly Ki Barfi, has got people talking — yet again — about his performance.
But for all his talent, the path to the centre-stage was once blocked by the barb wire of rejection. “Going back four or five years, I can definitely recall a couple of incidents where people told me, ‘We can’t cast you for the lead role; we’d rather take you for some other part.’ I think that’s because they all try and play safe and be secure, because the [financial] risk is really big when it comes to filmmaking,” says Rajkummar, who has been in Bollywood for seven years now.
In these seven years, Rajkummar has played a range of roles — he was part of an ensemble cast in Kai Po Che (2013); carried an arthouse film, Shahid (2013), as the solo lead, with a performance that won him a National Film Award; had strong supporting roles in the big hit Queen (2014) and the critically acclaimed Aligarh (2014); and played a quirky character in this year’s Behen Hogi Teri.
The 32-year-old actor says that he’s glad things have changed in recent years. “It’s a pretty different scenario that we see in the industry today. Audiences want to see more of [real] characters on screen now. They want to see more mainstream actors playing characters first, no matter [if it is] the lead or a supporting role. That outlook has brought about a lot of change,” says Rajkummar, giving credit for this positive change to the newer bunch of filmmakers and writers in Bollywood.
“They’re penning some amazing stories, which talk about characters. They don’t necessarily write a script thinking if [certain] actors will do a [certain] part or not. That’s why we see even superstars playing characters these days,” he adds.
Rajkummar’s fellow actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who mentioned that racial bias in Bollywood led to filmmakers not casting top female actors against some male actors. Rajkummar says that he himself has been quite lucky in that respect. “From the beginning of my career, I’ve worked with some really pretty girls — be it Kangana Ranaut, Sonam Kapoor, Shruti Haasan or Vidya Balan — so I can’t really say that,” quips the actor.
“But I can understand where Nawaz is coming from. He’s one of the finest actors and I don’t think he has anything to worry about, because his talent is bigger than anything.”
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First Published: Aug 23, 2017 18:00 IST