Interview Hindi

Rajkummar Rao: Lot more I can do, there is so much fire inside me

Talking about his latest release Fanney Khan, the talented actor explains how he chooses his films and shares his strong views on body shaming.

Keyur Seta

Actor Rajkummar Rao played leading roles in five films and one web-series biopic last year. His latest film, Fanney Khan, has just been released and he has a series of films lined up for the latter part of this year.

Rajkummar Rao has grown by leaps and bounds after starting with LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (2010) and Ragini MMS (2011). But he believes he is capable of much more.

Also, Rajkummar Rao's love for good subjects does not deter him from playing supporting roles alongside biggies like Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Fanney Khan, as, in his own words, “the content makes you the king.”

The actor spoke to about his latest film, his career, and his choices. He also shared his strong views on body shaming. Excerpts:

It is probably the first time you are working alongside two seasoned stars, Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

It was great. The whole journey has been wonderful for me. Working with two stalwarts — Anil sir and Ash — was like a dream come true.

The most important thing was the story. It was the story that got me excited for this film; for me to say yes to it. It talks about aspirations, dreams. I could connect with my character Adhir. The film also talks about body shaming which is such a big taboo right now.

You must have come across a lot of people who have been victims of it....

Pihu, who plays Anil sir’s daughter, has experienced it in her school days. I am sure it happens to a lot of people. I have friends who are overweight, who are now being very conscious of their weight, which is such a bizarre thing.

You can’t judge people on their physical appearance. What matters is the kind of a person you are; your karma, talent. Appearance is just a thing. It really doesn’t matter. Sometimes it can be medical [or] it can be any other reason. So, we have no right to pass comments on anybody’s physical appearance. 

The film is a remake of the Belgian film Everybody’s Famous (2000). Have you seen it?

I haven’t really seen it.

Was that intentional?

Yes, I don’t really see when I am doing such a film. I would rather go with a fresh take on it. 

With Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Fanney Khan

This is Atul Manjrekar’s directorial debut. How was it working under his direction?

He is great. I think Atul sir has done a wonderful job with the film. You won’t really feel that it is his first film. He is very sensitive towards his story and characters. He just knew his characters so well. It always helps when your director has a clear vision of what he wants. 

Do you think you are now in a position where you can pick and choose the roles you want to play?

I think you can always pick and choose. It’s not that after a point you can do that.

But now more people must be approaching you as compared to earlier.

Yes, now the times are different. Correct. That’s the only thing I would say that has changed. But you should know how to say no also.

You can’t really say yes to all films. You should do films you strongly believe in and where your heart is. Otherwise there is no point giving three months of your life to a film that you are not even excited about. It won’t do good for me or the film. 

You recently said you don’t like being called a hero. But unfortunately in our country, before deciding to watch a film, people generally ask, ‘Hero kaun hai [Who is the leading man]?’

I think to each his own. I just spoke about what I feel. I am not saying ‘change it and don’t call it and full stop’. Nothing like that. I don’t like it personally. 

Was it a conscious decision to appear in commercial or mainstream films in recent times?

It was very organic. I didn’t really make any conscious effort to choose only commercial cinema or a parallel film. I go with the story. When we made Omerta (2018), we knew it is a very niche film and meant for a very limited audience. We had a very limited release. Some films are for weeks. But some films are for life. Like when Shahid (2013) was released, it didn’t make Rs100 crore. But till date I get messages for Shahid. People are watching it every day somewhere in the world.

Earlier you did films like Shahid, which are known as parallel cinema. But now you have bridged the gap and become known even for commercial roles. Do you think until and unless this happens, actors like you do not get recognition in our country?

I think it’s happening now. Cinema is going through a beautiful change. Thanks to all the multiplexes we have, through which you get a proper release of whatever film you make. There is definitely an audience for all kinds of films. That is why even a film like Newton (2017) does so well at the box office, or Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017). I think content is finally getting its due respect.

People want to see content on screen more than anything else. If they feel excited about a story or trailer, it doesn’t matter to them who is starring in the film. If there is a bigger star, of course it helps on Day 1. But eventually it’s the content that keeps it going. 

Do you think Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) in some way helped Newton to get more recognition?

I am sure it did. It helped me reach a larger audience. They felt we like this actor and his work, so let’s go watch his next film also. I think it’s a chain reaction that happens. 

You are doing a film called Made In China. Is it a satirical take on the current situation between India and China?

Not really. There is a lot more to it actually. It’s very funny. It’s a hilarious film, I think. I would say it’s one step ahead of Stree (2018), although it’s not a horror comedy. 

You had five films and a web-series last year. You have quite a few lined up this year as well. Do you think it is important for an actor to have these many films a year?

I didn’t plan it this way, that I am going to have four films releasing every year. It just happened. It was very organic. These scripts came to me, I liked them and said yes to them. Now too I tell myself again and again that I am going to do probably two or three films a year. But then you have Anurag Basu offering you Imli and you can’t say no to working with him. I feel, okay, I am not going to take that break; I am going to work on these scripts.

It’s my greed as an actor that I want to work with these phenomenal filmmakers rather than sitting at home because I want to take a break. As long as I get great scripts and as long as you guys are happy to see me, I will keep working. 

A still from Fanney Khan

There is a lot of positive stuff being written about you. You might be reading it, too. Does it make you more confident or does it add to the pressure?

It doesn’t make me more confident. Nor does it add any pressure. Honestly, I read all these amazing things and there is a lot of gratitude about all this. But I don’t let these things be in my mind because I know there is a lot more I can do. There is so much fire inside me as an actor; so much hunger. I just want to push myself as an actor. I am very glad when people like Bareilly [Ki Barfi] or Newton or Trapped (2017).