Renowned actor Rajesh Tailang made his acting debut in 1995 with soap opera Shanti. After being in showbiz for nearly 25 years, he has carved his own niche on OTT platforms with series such as Delhi Crime, Selection Day, Bandish Bandits, and Mirzapur. Albeit, he doesn’t like to call his journey as one of ‘showbiz,’ rather calls it a journey for his ‘art’, which he wishes to master.
He has appeared in a slew of films like Omerta, Aiyaari and Mukkabaaz among others, but Rajesh saw a meteoric rise post his stint on web shows. Ask him if OTT platforms are bad for film actors, he says, “OTT platforms have been a great help for actors like me. In fact, for directors, writers, technicians, everyone...OTT is a great bridge between TV and films. Plus, it helped me reach the youth. But, I don’t feel it is a bad platform for film actors. I think OTT and films are not competing with each other. They have separate spaces.”
However, much to everyone’s surprise, OTT platforms will now come under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Asserting he is against any form of ‘censorship’, Rajesh says, “Any mature democracy doesn’t need censorship. Creators are not kids…Censor certificate is fine, but censorship is not correct. Any content should not hurt religious sentiments or be regressive to women, but censorship on the blanket level won’t work. There should be a criteria for films, OTT, and television separately as they all have different sensibilities. Digital platforms are mostly for solo viewing, unlike films or TV. For now, we don’t know what kind of censorship will come.”
Nonetheless, he is counted amongst the likes of ‘character actors’ like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan Khan, Pankaj Tripathi, and others. Crediting the rise of such actors to digital platforms, he says the audience is developing better judgement over the content they want to watch. He adds, “Before online platforms too, the viewers started rejecting films they did not like and rather watched films on real issues. It’s because people can access any sort of content on their mobile phones now. Be it your acting, direction, or camerawork, audience has full exposure to the best and the worst reference points. Of course, cheaper data rates have benefited actors like us.”
In Mirzapur, his act as Ramakant Pandit, a righteous lawyer, has been praised by many. Did he know that ‘Panditji’ would become so popular? “When I signed Mirzapur season one, I had no idea that the series would become so popular. Plus, OTT platforms were just coming up in 2017. The actors were also wary of taking up web shows. I did Mirzapur because I really liked the script, the makers were fantastic and everyone associated it with too. I had not anticipated that my character would be loved so much even if the show becomes a hit. But I guess, if your work is good, everyone would notice it,” he admits.
Interestingly, Amazon Prime Video has also green-lit Mirzapur 3. Claiming that he doesn’t know much right now, he assures his character will certainly have an ‘interesting arc’.
After doing some serious roles, Rajesh is also exploring the comedy genre with digital film Comedy Couple, starring Shweta Basu Prasad and Saqib Saleem. “There’s no harm in stretching your work. I am open to anything — negative roles too. And if you wish to try new characters, they are available in all genres,” he signs off. The actor has wrapped up the shooting of Pagglait, co-starring Sanya Malhotra, Ashutosh Rana and Raghubir Yadav.