In a candid chat with Shikha Jain, where he speaks about his upcoming film, Why Cheat India, our education system and more…
What is your character like?
I play a guy called Rakesh Singh, fondly called Rocky. He comes from Jhansi and he heads the cheating mafia primarily in Lucknow, but he has a nexus around Uttar Pradesh as well. It is exactly how the cheating mafia functions in all the states of our country. There are different scams where they get undeserving students seats in universities, jobs, etc. This is affecting medical students because they are not getting placements in universities or companies, and hence it has become a big problem. We have shown the point of view of the devil in this. We could have gone down to the root of having a hero who comes and tries to reform the system, but then that would have been very cliched and very impractical. So, we wanted to show it through someone who heads this nexus.
What is your take on quota-based reservation?
Well, a big chunk is being given away on the government reservations system and now it is almost gone to 60 per cent. Not that I feel that they should get a place because they don’t get the avenue nor are they on the priority list. It’s a deeper problem, it’s not just a quota system, but a lot of things that the government hasn’t done. Beginning with the minuscule GDP contribution that they have, education fluctuates between 3-4.5 per cent which is very minuscule if you want any change. You need to bring about at least 7-9 per cent or if you want to major up all the system then you will have to go up to 25 per cent. We have put in so much money in defence and we don’t go to war every year, but education is like an infrastructure for children’s brains and minds and we are not putting enough money there. And because of this quota system, merit holders are not getting placements as part of it is gone to the government quota and the rest of the students get this merit by devious means as the undeserving students go to the cheating mafia.
What other problems do you see in our Indian education system?
Where do I start from? One is the GDP that is a big concern; the financial aspect is terrible, because the money pumped in it is not adequate, so herein is a simple example that the teachers aren’t paid. So, when teachers are not paid you won’t have enough qualified teachers. The system of mugging up is terrible and we have to change that. There is no real application. The list is endless.
According to you, what are the ways to cure these problems?
There is no one magic bullet, from government reforms to bring change in the mindsets of the faculties, students and parents. Parents are also no less because the way they force their dreams on children and pressurise them to succeed is leading to a lot of problems — depression, suicide is going up. It is a pretty grim situation, but I believe there is always hope. If you shed light on the problem it might not change overtime, but baby steps towards it can do wonders.
What message does the film plan to send out?
Just that the education system needs a revolution. It is not a sugar-coated story, it is showing the brutal entirety of how the education system is and how ineffective it is; and how we need a complete evolved system. How it is should be done is another conversation, but we have to shed light on scams, paper leaks and all the other relevant factors.
This role is very different from what you have done in the past. It is like moving ahead from being the serial kisser tag. How was your experience?
My experience was fantastic and I think I am stepping in the right direction. It is a different zone for me, because I have never explored a genre or character like this before. It is scary because I am hoping I receive the acceptance from the audience. And I think that a certain image needed to be phased out and a different and unique dimension brought in. And for me, it is like building up ground again, so I am willing to start slow and build on that.
From horror to romance and thrillers, to now socially relevant films…you have now done all there is. Which genre do you personally enjoy the most?
It is a bit of everything. I don’t think it is one particular thing. I have a fascination for horror films, but I don’t think we have reached the stuff that is done abroad. I love socially-relevant films, because they are more than just commercial films as they shed light on the problems the world is going through. Thrillers are my all time favourite and I don’t understand typical romcom stories.