‘I didn’t want to take Hrithik Roshan’s help in making the film’: Vinod Rawat

The writer-producer reflects on being Hrithik Roshan’s acting coach, casting his own family for his debut film Pushtaini, and how Rajkummar Rao helped him get into FTII
‘I didn’t want to take Hrithik Roshan’s help in making the film’: Vinod Rawat

A way from the glamour and the spotlight, much of filmmaking is coping with everyday challenges. More so, when you set out to make an independent film, like Vinod Rawat, the writer, director, producer and lead actor of Pushtaini, presented by Hrithik Roshan. Vinod has earlier worked as the star’s acting coach on films like Kaabil (2017), War (2019), Super 30 (2019) and Vikram Vedha (2022).

So, when he was shooting for Pushtaini during the pandemic and facing multiple difficulties due to budget constraints, Hrithik offered his support. However, Vinod wanted to make the film on his own. “I think we pahadis have a strong sense of self-respect,” he smiles. “Besides, I didn’t want to take money from Hrithik. He is presenting the film on its merit; not because I am his acting coach.”

Vinod worked with Hrithik to come up with different variations of performing the same scene. “Hrithik behaves as if he is still a student. He likes to explore and doesn’t want to settle down,” says the filmmaker.

During the prep for Super 30, where Hrithik played a mathematician from Bihar, Vinod reveals how a certain style of walking made him get into the mind of his character. “We started doing random stuff initially. And one day, he found a walk,” Vinod says. “Whenever he thought that he was losing the character, he just kept doing the walk and it gave him something more.”

Vinod’s experience as an acting coach was put to the test on Pushtaini, as it mostly featured non-actors and that too, from his own family. The cast includes his accountant sister, his LIC agent brother-in-law, his niece, and his paternal aunt, who lives in the village of Bageshwar in Uttarakhand. “Somewhere, I felt that if I use their energy and words in this story then it will be a win-win situation,” he says. “Acting is all about what energies you carry within yourself. I believe that magic can only happen if you have a strong background with someone."

Casting his own family members also helped, as the film told a story that was deeply personal to Vinod. It features him as a struggling actor, Bhuppi, who dreams of making it big in the film industry but realises that he is not good enough. Soon, an MMS scandal threatens to jeopardize his career and he goes back to his hometown in order to fetch some money to silence his blackmailers.

However, all is not well at home. “I wanted to say something about a father-son relationship because I also had a tough time with my dad,” Vinod reveals. “When you are in your early 20s, you think your father is not understanding and that’s where the conflict begins. However, over time, I have begun to understand him better.”

Along with his family, his long-time friend, Rajkummar Rao also makes a special appearance in the film. Vinod credits Rajkummar for making him enrol in the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). “He got into FTII before me and he used to show me films,” Vinod reveals. “Later, he filled my form, got me into the institute, and helped me settle down there.

Even when I came to Mumbai for the first time, he supported me in many ways.” The two regularly read each other’s scripts and discussed acting, among other things. “When I wrote the first draft of Pushtaini, I just went to Rajkummar for his creative inputs,” Vinod says. “I don’t know what calculations he made, but he told me that he is doing a role in it. I said I don’t have the budget. He was like, ‘Do one thing, hug me 4-5 times. I think it’s more than enough.’ So that is Rajkummar Rao.”

After everything, Pushtaini released in theatres last week, a rarity for independent films in India, which usually don’t find a release owing to lack of relevant distribution channels. Vinod feels that it is important not to give in to popular perception and keep telling stories that are deeply personal to you. “I know the path is tough, but it’s not impossible,” he says. “People enjoy watching big-budget mainstream films. But then there are some other heartfelt films that they want to watch as well. Gradually, these smaller films will become part of the mainstream,” he concludes.

This article is written by Shreyas Pande

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