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Interview Hindi

The day I get over-exposed I'll know it: Rajkummar Rao

In an exclusive chat, we asked the actor what he thinks he is doing right, his winning streak with onscreen comedy and working on a rare horror comedy in the form of Stree.

Suparna Thombare

Actor Rajkummar Rao recently wooed the audience with his heartwarming performance as Adhir in Fanney Khan (2018), and he is all set to tickle the audience's funny bone with his upcoming horror comedy, Stree. We have seen a lot of Rajkummar in the last couple of years. He starred in five films last year (excluding his cameo in Raabta) and one web series, Bose: Dead/Alive, and he has already appeared in films like Omerta and Fanney Khan this year. With Stree up for release on 31 August, and films like Made In China and Mental Hai Kya already in the pipeline, Rajkummar is one of the busiest actors in town. 

And it's not just the quantity that counts. The actor has also received praise and acclaim for almost every outing of his. With first-time director Amar Kaushik's Stree, the actor, who has proven time and again that he can ace comedy with ease, steps into the rare genre of horror-comedy. 

In an exclusive conversation with the actor, we try to dig into what is making Rajkummar tick and how he gets his comic timing right. 

There is no doubt you have done some amazing work in the last couple of years, but do you think over exposure could hurt you because you have a release every few months?

I think I will get that feeling. And the day that I feel it's [over-exposure] happening... and also people around me will tell me. Also, as long as I get to play different characters in all my films and if I can bring in something new to the characters, and they are different stories... I think people see it as a different story and different characters. As long as I am not doing the same thing in the same kind of film, it won’t get tiring [for the audience]. If I do the same thing, the same kind of acting, same language, same look for every film I will also get bored of myself. And that’s not what I want to do.

You have won people over with your humour in several films, including Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and your last release Fanney Khan. Stree is also a horror comedy. Seems like you really enjoy comedy...

If the character allows me to bring in some kind of relief and humour I do that. I love improvising. It depends on what kind of a film it is. Like with Fanney Khan and that character I had, that scope and space to bring in some humour to my character was there. The situation itself was such. A small time guy gets to meet this diva of the country. How will he react? I saw a lot of comedy in that.

A horror-comedy is a rare genre. How is the treatment of humour in this one?

It’s very rare and very relatable and situational. It is not forced and goes very well with my character. Nobody is actually trying to do comedy. We are just doing our thing, but the circumstances that we are in and the way we are reacting to them, the comedy comes from that.

Stree has been written by Raj and DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK) who are known for their quirky writing (Go Goa Gone, Happy Ending). What do you think of the way Stree has been written?

I totally loved it. Raj and DK narrated it to me October last year. I heard it, took the script and instantly I fell in love with it. It was so funny, and scary also in parts. It's a great combination of two elements — the horror and comedy genres — that we don’t see much of in our country. Like you said, I am a big fan of their writing and also them as people. They are very fascinating. There is always an edginess and quirky humour in their story. This script was a fine example of that. And there was no way [I wouldn't have done it]. And then Amar [director Amar Kaushik], Dinu [producer Dinesh Vijan] got on board. I had seen Amar’s short films and the people he has worked with and Dinu is so passionate about what he does. If he believes in something, he puts in everything. And he believed in Stree. And he backed it so well. You see the kind of response we are getting for the trailer and the song 'Milegi Milegi'. That’s his belief I guess. It was a great team and a wonderful story, and there was no reason for me to not do this film.

Your scenes with Pankaj Tripathi in the trailer are hilarious. You’ve worked with him before. How is it enacting those sequences with him?

He brings in something new to his character and he adds a lot to the film. Of course, he has this straight-faced humour, which is what makes it funnier. He has his own timing, which is unique. I don’t know if he is gifted or has worked on it. It's a very nuanced performance. So it is fun to work with him because he brings in something new to the scene. For me, also when I work with good actors, it definitely improves my performance.

Did the film add something new to you as an actor?

It’s a very different performance. I have never tried something like this before. It is a diferent note that I have taken and I am happy to see it has connected with people, at least in the trailer. I am waiting for the film to release. But I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the funny side of me. We were having so much fun making this film. Every day was a joy ride.

Your next film Made In China is also a comedy, right?

It’s again a film with Maddock Films. Preparations are on for that film. I am playing a struggling Gujarati businessman, born and raised in Ahmedabad. It’s again a comedy, but a different tone from Stree.

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What is it that Rajkummar is doing right at the moment?

I am just trying to be sincere in what I do. May be, the sincerity is something that is translating. I genuinely love what I do. I don't do it for any corrupt reasons. I do it because I love it. There is nothing else in the world that I can do. May be it just generates from there. I don't think I have any other reasons. I didn't become an actor because I wanted to make money or fame. I wanted to become an actor because I wanted to act.

Here's an interview from April this year with Rajkummar: