The Rajkummar of Bollywood
The commercial Bollywood film audience is often skeptical about new faces. It’s still a rarity to witness an outsider making it big and climbing the popularity charts. But when talent speaks loudest over everything else, the conformity takes a backseat and an actor such as Rajkummar Rao emerges only to rise up. The man who started with the ‘voyeuristic’ anthology Love, Sex aur Dhoka (2010), is now playing the formidable role of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in the yet-to-be-released web series, Bose Dead or Alive.
With 19 released and successful films in last seven years, Rajkummar has not only come a long way, but has also established himself as the pin-up boy of realistic Indian cinema. With his recent release Bareilly Ki Barfi running successfully, Rajkummar has once again touched the pinnacle of success. “It’s all about the hard work I put into my roles,” says the actor nonchalantly. “It doesn’t come easy. When I started, I was ready for anything. As an outsider you don’t really have any choice. I had no reservations that I would do only such kind of a film or a role. I waited for that first film to happen — Love, Sex Aur Dokha (LSD), a completely content-driven film and of course, a great start,” says the actor who then went on to play the character of a ‘creepy boyfriend’ once again in Ragini MMS. “After LSD and Ragini MMS it crossed my mind that I should not do too many similar films (playing similar characters). But then Kai Po Che and Queen worked out. When I read Queen’s script, there was no question of me refusing the role. I could connect with Vijay’s character because I have known people like Vijay all my life in Delhi — the male chauvinists who would treat their girlfriends in a certain way. I thought this was a realistic film — it was my kind of space. After Queen, I started getting different roles, not just ‘boyfriend’ roles and that was good. I didn’t get typecast, but I do fear being typecast,” admits Rajkummar.
Trapped in the limelight
2017 seems to be Rajkummar’s year. With the impressive Trapped earlier this year, now Bareilly Ki Barfi, the upcoming September-release Newton and ALT Balaji’s web series, Bose Dead or Alive, the actor is on a roll. But unlike popular perception that he is taking on all that is being offered, Rajkummar says he has been selective. “I need to connect with the story and characters I play. There needs to be a human element to it. If the story is about the real world and with a realistic setup, the character can’t be so fantastical that people say, arrey aise kaun karta hai (who does such a thing).”
Of all the roles he has played so far, Rajkummar admits that two characters resonate with him, “The titular roles of Newton and Shahid are closest to my personality. I am also very idealistic by nature. I have my own ideologies and I really believe in them.” One of his ideologies is perhaps, being true to his art as proven in the way he put himself through gruelling preparation for Trapped. “It was my responsibility towards my character. I had to go through the process and pain Shaurya (my character) was going through. I was surviving on a carrot and a cup of black coffee. For the upcoming Netaji role, I shaved half my head and gained 12 kilos. I didn’t want to look like Rajkummar when I would look into the mirror. It’s one of the most challenging roles I have ever played. It’s very surreal,” he says.
With such focus, Rajkummar validates the point that success comes with utmost discipline and colossal ambition. “I think actors must be disciplined. I don’t really like late nights. After an entire day of shooting, there’s not much energy left. I’d rather take rest and come back fresh the next day.” Such determination comes with undying passion for the craft, something that the actor discovered and developed in his younger days when he was an ardent fan of Shahrukh Khan, Manoj Bajpayee and Aamir Khan. “They influenced me a lot. But I clearly remember watching Satya and Shool. I was blown away looking at Manoj. I used to mimic him when I started doing theatre. These were my icons who inspired me,” he signs off.