Rajkummar Rao: Actors should be socially responsible. I don’t want to do films where I am spreading hatred
By: Express News Service | Published: December 29, 2017 12:28 am The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta in conversation with actor Rajkummar Rao at the Express Adda in Mumbai last week.
This edition of Express Adda, held at Tote on the Turf in Mumbai, hosted actor Rajkummar Rao. In a discussion moderated by The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta, Rao talked about being drawn to characters with many shades, censorship and creating a dialogue, and why it’s a good time to be in films.
On starting out
I was born and raised in Gurgaon. I grew up in a joint family, in a typical middle-class north Indian family. I went into martial arts when I was in Class III or IV. Then dance came into my life. But we had a ritual; every weekend, the whole family would sit together and watch two or three films every night on VHS. And I was madly in love with films and that world. For some reason, I used to think as a kid that these actors are not from this planet. It’s a surreal world and they must be living this amazing glamorous life but at that time I didn’t think of becoming an actor. I remember watching Agneepath and crying my eyes out and sitting with my head in the pillow saying, ‘God please Amitabh Bachchan ko zinda kar do. Woh mar nahi sakta, woh Amitabh Bachchan hai. So, I was a very filmi kid. I did my first play in Class XI, where I played Oedipus. I really enjoyed being someone else on stage. After Class XII, I joined Shri Ram Centre. From Class XI, my life just changed. My focus was only on acting. For three years, I was totally into it. There was never a plan B.
On his FTII days
I got through the acting course at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune). FTII absolutely changed my life. I started watching movies of Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and others. Before that acting was about looking good and saying your lines. After FTII, it became very meditative. Whatever I am today, I would give major credit to FTII and actually to Rajat Kapoor. He once visited FTII and a classmate and I acted for him. I was doing something and he was like, ‘Why are you working so hard. Just get up, go there, take your glass, come back. It’s very simple.’ And that just changed it for me. I (realised I) don’t have to put in so much effort. That day, I tasted real acting and said I am going to keep my characters very real so that the effort can’t be seen.
On getting his break in Love Sex Aur Dhoka
I came to Mumbai in 2008 after passing out from FTII. You know the usual struggle but I don’t have too many emotional stories to share that I slept on footpaths and all. That didn’t happen; my family really supported me. In 2010, I was visiting FTII and I saw an ad that said Dibakar Banerjee is planning his first digital film and he wants to cast newcomers. I was a huge Dibakar fan and I knew his characters were mostly from Delhi. I thought this was my golden opportunity, I can’t let it go. I kept calling up the casting director Atul Mongia till he asked me to meet his assistant, Neha
Chauhan. I gave a test which Banerjee liked but he asked me to lose some weight. I used to eat a lot of gulab jamuns. I started running since that day and I am still running. After a few rounds of auditions, I got that one phone call that everyone in the city was waiting for. That changed my life. And since LSD, I am still working. In Ragini MMS, I was hesitant to play a character with grey shades. Since Ekta (producer Ekta Kapoor) was keen to cast me, I thought of taking it up as a challenge because I love the horror genre.