Few actors in the Hindi film industry have actually bridged the gap between being a thinking man’s actor and a star with instant crowd connect. Rajkummar Rao is one of them who have taken the happy cocktail of stardom a few notches higher while remaining true to his craft. With Chhalaang and Ludo, the actor has proved once again that acting needn’t be about mindless hero-worshipping…
You’ve played the small-town guy before. But Chhalaang seems to be in a different space and has a different vibe...
Yes, a physical education teacher plays an important part in our lives and for me this film was very close as it is based in my home state, Haryana. I have seen the life there and come across teachers like Montu and Neelema on a daily basis. We all have had that one PT teacher in our lives who has had an impact in more ways than one. But nobody knows what happens in the lives of those teachers. The film has comedy, sports and love. It is a complete entertainer!
Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao have worked on many films before. What makes this particular film unique?
It is the right film for the current environment. People want to see something light-hearted, people want to laugh and they want to be happy. With Chhalaang people will get inspired and motivated. I feel this is the happiest film that Hansal Sir and I have made together. We go back a long way and it was more like going back to your parent.
Did you and Nushrratt take off from where you had left in Love Sex Aur Dhokha a decade ago?
Nushrratt and I have been friends from a very long time and have always believed in her talent.
How do you approach so many small-town characters, most of which are set in the same milieu, and make them look different. Are you scared of getting stereotyped?
I think it is my responsibility as an actor because I have been playing a couple of small-town characters in my last few films. I can’t make them look and sound similar because it will get very boring both for me and for the viewers as well. So I always try and get something new with these characters, whether it is the accent or the body language. The stories and circumstances are also different in every film.
How do you prepare for your role?
For every character the preparation is different. Like for Shahid, to prepare for the role, I met Azmi’s family and spent time with them to understand the man and his personality. I also studied the Quran and attended courtrooms to understand how lawyers behave. I was emotionally drained as the character was challenging and complex. For Trapped, I was having a cup of black coffee and two carrots a day to survive. It is a survival drama. I wanted to feel the hunger and desperation that one goes through, if placed in such extreme conditions.
What is the trick behind looking so effortless on screen?
The audience today wants to see more realistic films which they can connect to and I feel blessed to represent that kind of cinema. We are working in a film industry that is definitely changing everyday… the shift has happened… and the audience knows that we aren’t selling them dreams! We’re now showing them reality!