Give Rajkummar Rao any role and he will make it his own with his signature style – real, effortless, and unhurried. An actor who doesn’t need a big part or a great film to own a character, he can simply elevate the story with his impeccable performance.
At a time when it seems that an edgy restlessness is the new calling card of performers and the hallmark of their performances, the wide array of roles Rajkummar Rao has played in Bollywood in the last 12 years stands out for the simplicity, spontaneity, and distinct calmness that marks his approach. He makes acting look so easy and natural.
With his latest film Badhaai Do, directed by Harshvarshan Kulkarni, now playing, Rajkummar Rao opens up about his character, doing out-of-the-box roles, his journey, struggles, first day in Mumbai, and much more. Excerpts from the interview:
Badhaai Do speaks about things that usually make people uncomfortable. What made you say yes to the script?
We wanted to make people comfortable. We are not telling them what’s right or wrong. We are talking about the choices and the journey of the characters making those choices. We didn’t want people to empathize with the characters, but wanted to go deep into it and ensure that people turn into an ally. I am glad that people are appreciating it.
How did you prepare yourself? Did you do any research to make it look relatable and real?
My preparation was mostly physical – I had to grow a mustache and be in a certain shape. The internal process is very personal and the script helped me a lot. I couldn’t question anything written in it. It was well researched. Harsh and I used to discuss a lot about the internal journey of the character.
The film is not just talking about the LGBTQ community but it also throws light on lavender marriage, middle-aged marriage, the pressure to conceive. How did the idea shape up?
We didn’t have any criteria or agenda to cover these topics. It was an organic process and when we researched and put ourselves into the shoes of these two characters, we understood what might have possibly happened in a real-world scenario. It was all because of family pressure that the duo decided to get into a lavender marriage and other things followed that.
We’ve watched films around homosexuality or those representing the LGBTQ community. How according to you is Badhaai Do different from those?
You are right but Badhaai Do will touch your heart. I have been a part of Aligarh and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga and they also spoke about homosexuality. With Badhaai Do people questioned their judgmental behavior and learned something. We’ve been getting so many positive messages. The reach is way more.
Another striking aspect of Badhaai Do is the cinematography. It is simple, seamless, and unobtrusive. It is almost like there is no camera. How did you achieve this?
I never take the pressure of having cameras around. When I am in front of the camera, I just want to live the moment. I act according to the circumstances and scenes.
From Kai Po Che, Shahid, Aligarh, Shimla Mirch, Ludo, Roohi, Hum Do Hamare Do to Badhaai Do. You’ve given us some really good films, how has your journey been? Do you remember your first day in Mumbai?
I am grateful for my journey. God has been kind and I have been lucky to work with amazing directors. I saw a dream sitting in a small town and I feel blessed.I came to Mumbai when I was in standard 10 to give a Boogie Woogie audition. I was always fascinated with Mumbai and films. I was sure that I’ll be an actor someday. I used to look at every car thinking there will be some actor roaming around in the city.
Coming back to Badhaai Do, any BTS moments that’s special?
We had a crazy time and if we release all the behind-the-scenes moments, people will just laugh. All of us were laughing throughout the film. During the intense scenes, we used to cry together. It was a joy ride. Everyone on the team had a great sense of humor.
We cannot deny that it was a risk to opt for theatre release, but what made you think that it was important to do it?
This film was supposed to be watched in theatres and we witnessed that. Makers were sure that it would do best in theatres and I am glad we did that. As a country, we love watching films in theatres and Badhaai Do is meant to be watched with people. Cinema is memory and we wanted to create that. A lot of conversation happened because it was a theatrical release.
You never repeat roles. Is that a conscious decision?
It is a conscious choice. Pandemic changed a lot of things for me. The way I look at the cinema has changed and I want to do things that excite me, work with directors I love.
What’s next for Rajkummar Rao?
I have finished Monica, O My Darling, HIT, Bheed, shooting for Raj and DK’s series for Netflix.
(Featured Image Credits: @rajkummarrao)