Actor Aditya Rawal Is Truly A Daddy's Boy And Nobody's Complaining
Actor Aditya Rawal Is A Daddy’s Boy And Nobody’s Complaining

Bambai Meri Jaan actor Aditya Rawal is following in his dad, Paresh Rawal’s footsteps but the young actor is carving a niche of his own

When I first came across Aditya Rawal, he was Nibras Islam, the Monash University student commanding the gang of young militants and orchestrating a daring terror attack in Hansal Mehta’s 2023 film based on the real incident that unfolded in Bangladesh’s Holey Artisan Bakery in July 2016 that left 20 civilians and two policemen dead. Hansal Mehta’s Faraaz essentially follows Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain’s last day and the hours leading to his tragic but heroic end where he bravely stands up against the terrorists as the last bulwark of humanity against religious extremism. The way Aditya, as Nibras, transitions from a freshly shattered sensitive but brainwashed youth to a violent and heartless trigger-happy monster before taking the final fatal decision showcases his range as an actor. It was one of the most memorable performances of 2023, a year replete with some fantastic performances by a slew of young actors.


Aditya, who had made his debut as a leading man in the 2020 film Bamfaad, was just getting started.  A few months later, he again grabs the attention of the audience with yet another power-packed performance. His Chhota Babban in Shujaat Saudagar’s Bambai Meri Jaan provides tough competition to his Nibras as the top breakthrough performances of the year. If Nibras was an erudite youth driven by warped ideologies, Chhota Babban, who makes his entry in the last quarter of the 10-episode series based on S Hussain Zaidi’s book, Dongri To Dubai, is an audacious ruffian hailing from Mumbai underbelly who becomes the right-hand man of Mumbai’s most dreaded gangster of all time. With the commanding screen presence of a star and the acting talent showing sparks of being at par with the best in the business, Aditya lives and breathes both characters with equal ease and gusto. Although in the Excel Entertainment web series he doesn’t get as much screen space as the other actors, he gets the audience hooked to the character—so much so that the audience is already looking forward to his character taking centre stage in the second season.


“The credit goes to the writers for creating these characters. But at the same time, I think screen time doesn’t really matter for an actor to shine — aapme dum hona chahiye to even get noticed and create an impact in a smaller role. But yes, in our times we didn’t have so much support from the writers. Today, you have some terrific writers, and there is a gamut of them, who are coming up with great stories and nuanced characters. And you have talented directors and highly skilled actors,” says Paresh Rawal plonking himself on the couch next to his son Aditya as we settle down for a freewheeling interview at their sprawling Juhu house.


Elaborating on how different things are today for young actors than the days when he had started his career in the movies, he points out: “Today the OTTs are a big boon for actors, especially the ones who are starting off. When we started off, there were just theatre and movies, it was much later that television also became an option, but good shows and opportunities were few and far between. I opted for movies and there were lousy roles all around; I tried to make the most out of what I got — my exercise as an actor was to make what was not fathomable, palatable. I had my theatre to satisfy my creative urges and movies gave me the money. So, I was riding on two horses…but fortunately I have managed to keep my balance and not fallen from either of the two horses,” quips the national award-winning actor adding that now with the OTT platforms, which got a huge boost during the lockdown, and with local Indian stories getting the audiences hooked, there is no need for the two separate horses. “Now you can do a good film and you can make good money doing it. The opportunities are far more, and they are varied.”



Aditya agrees and he adds: “It is definitely easier now. Not only are there better scripts, more nuanced characters, and newer platforms, but technology—the shift from films to digital—has also made certain things possible now. You can now shoot as much as you want and have as many takes as it requires to get the scene spot on.


“Also, earlier, if you had to play the leading man, you had to fit into certain categories—you would have action heroes, romantic heroes etc. Those are still there, but those are not the only kind of leading men you see today. And it is very motivating to get those opportunities. Imagine a young Paresh Rawal in today’s day and age. He would have managed to do so much more.”


Although his turns in mainstream cinema, especially in the ’90s, saw him create some iconic and diverse characters on screen such as Tikku (Tamanna), Baburao (Hera Pheri), Teja (Andaz Apna Apna), Lambodar Chacha (Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?), Radheshyam Tiwari (Hungama), Kanji Lal Mehta (OMG), Dr Ghungroo (Welcome), Veljibhai (Sir), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Sardar), Lucky’s Father / Gogi Arora / Dr. B. D. Handa (Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!), Hashmat (Road to Sangam) and his National Award-winning Lalit Ramji (Woh Chokri), he seldom had the luxury of author-backed roles like his son is enjoying today.  “Turning down roles was not an option–first there was money involved. Secondly, for me these were acting exercises, these were the challenges I took up as an actor. I would get idiotic characters, nobody would ever get scared by those villains, and nobody would even take them seriously. But my job was to make them amusing and interesting. I was learning a lot as an actor from doing these movies, I could try out different things, and I was earning good money. So, it was a win-win for me. Also, I was still doing theatre, so I was not afraid to take up these roles. Also, we are often dismissive of things, we run down a performance because we are afraid that we will not be able to pull off. In the second Himmatwala (2013), I was offered the role played by Mr Kader Khan in the first one. My thought process was ‘karke dikhao aur Kader Khan ke jaisa effective banake dikhao’. It is also a category of performance. You can’t say ke yeh bakwaas hai. That was the only reason I took up that part. It was a challenge I threw to myself. Embrace what is out of your comfort zone… take the plunge and do it,” says the senior actor who is all set to return to two of his most popular franchises — Hera Pheri and Welcome.


And Aditya has only respect and awe for his dad’s works. “What he has done in the ’90s is a lesson to any actor today who expects fertile fields to play in. He has taken nothing and not only created something out of it but also made it memorable. That should be considered a category of acting in itself. I enjoy improvising as well, but the scale at which he has done it and the number of years he has done it for, is extraordinary. It takes a special kind of actor to sustain and succeed in those genres of films the way he has,” points out Aditya. 


Ask Rawal Sr about the gangster act that has made his son the current talk of the town, and he refuses to indulge in a gush fest. “I thought he was good, it was exciting… but I am very guarded about such things. I don’t want to praise him too much…I feel it is too early and he has so much to do. But he has the right head on his shoulders, and he is a very balanced person; I think he will sail through. Jab humne kar liya toh yeh bhi kar lega,” says the veteran actor visibly every bit proud of his son. The current chairperson of the National School of Drama also has a few tips for his son: “I was never a dancer, but it helps in your acting in a big way, especially in the body language. I want him to do that. I want him to learn music as well. He is a voracious reader — a good command over language, control over speech and diction like Naseerbhai [Naseeruddin Shah] takes you a long way.”


“I always seek guidance from him but my questions are mostly about how to be an actor and how to navigate this professional space, rather than about acting,” smiles Aditya. However, he adds that while doing a character he prefers to work with the writers and the directors and service them a 100 per cent.


“But once it is done, we all sit down as a family, watch it, and discuss everything in detail. After Bamfaad, we spoke for a good two hours analysing the film and my work,” says Aditya insisting however that it is always an actor-to-actor conversation and not a father-to-son one. “It will not help him if I talk to him as a father then,” adds the veteran actor. “But then he is my dad and being an actor is an intrinsic part of his identity – he can’t possibly separate the two. Even if it comes from a fatherly concern the advice comes from his experiences as an actor,” Aditya quips.


Aditya, the son of actor couple Swaroop Sampat and Paresh Rawal, is also the grandson of Gujarati theatre producer Bachu Sampat. This makes him a third-generation actor. And much like his maternal grandfather and father, Aditya too started his career in theatre. However, he didn’t make his debut as an actor; instead, he started off as a playwright. His debut play, The Queen, which was part of the recently concluded Prithvi Theatre Festival, premiered in New York City in 2016 and had received the Best Original Script prize at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.



“I thought he was a very good writer but then he surprised me with acting skills in Bamfaad, Aar Ya Paar, Faraaz, and then this. In fact, one fine day he came and told me that he is going for an outdoor shoot. I wondered kaun writer ko shoot pe leke jata hai! Then he told me that he is acting in a film. I was pleasantly surprised, but I thought the experience would help him in his journey as a writer—in fact no experience goes to waste. I think the writer in him complements the actor he is. But I’m very happy that he started with theatre. Theatre is a great place to learn. I would love that he continues with theatre both as an actor and as a writer. The other day, he was telling me that he would not act in a play unless it is written by him. I don’t think he should restrict himself. There are times when as an actor you might not be able to align with a character, but that is fine too. Even if you fail, it is a huge learning experience,” says the 68-year-old.


For Aditya, who has earned his MFA in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York after studying devised theatre and performance at the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA), his love for theatre is rooted in his love for the craft, both as an actor and as a writer. “It is sad in a way that theatre is not a financially viable profession but then the beauty of theatre is that everyone is doing it for the love of it. It is the passion and not the paycheque that drives them. The energy on a movie set and inside a rehearsal room is very different. I see that in dad also, when he is doing theatre, there is joy and love for the medium,” says Aditya, who was seen in Akarsh Khurrana’s adaptation of Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees in Honey Drown in 2023. As a playwright, he has also got much critical acclaim for his play Siachen, which had its premiere at the Prithvi Theatre earlier this year.


Aditya’s love for theatre and acting started while he was still a child, and it was through watching his father perform on stage. “My first memories of my dad as an actor were of travelling with him for his plays. We didn’t go to his sets very often because sets can be boring for kids, whereas rehearsals are always more engaging. But when he would prepare for his characters for movies like a Tamanna or a Hera Pheri, he would often practise his accents and mannerisms at home. Since he is quite funny in real life, those would be rather entertaining episodes of their own,” reminisces the 29-year-old adding that he was also exposed to great movies from a very early age. “My grandfather [Bachu Sampat] was the founder producer of the Indian National Theatre and was a huge movie buff. I have watched the entire filmography of Hitchcock, Coen Brothers, Robert De-Niro etc with him. Then my mother is a multitalented artiste, and we were into painting, clay modelling, and all of those things while growing up. I used to also participate in school plays.”


But strangely enough, his main focus was sports. “I played professional football till the age of 21. As a footballer, I was training five to six hours a day and with the extra time I had in hand, I would write plays. I enjoyed writing. Then came a crossroad where I had to choose between theatre-making and filmmaking, and football. I chose the former. Then acting happened by chance. Although I have done a lot of acting workshops, I am more formally trained in writing.”


He claims that his biggest acting school has been the audition rooms. “My biggest acting school has been the 100 plus auditions I have done in the last 5 years. What happens at auditions is that you prepare for those characters and then you perform in front of the casting director, we have some amazing ones in the city who are pretty good directors or actors as well. You are learning how to act and take directions there and the stakes are super low — the worst that can happen to you that room is that you leave without landing the part. And that is ok. In the interim you get to explore a new character with a different person. Auditions are like mini workshops.”


Even Paresh had started pretty young, but his route could not have been any more different than that of his son’s. “I was drawn to it from a very early stage at well — it started with cooking up stories and playing pranks in school which I would do to get attention. There used to be an open ground in front of our building where they would hold one-act play competition, and I would participate in those. But I was really fortunate that my teachers and my parents realised my potential and were always supportive. I had no actors or artistes even in my extended family. But my father understood my calling. When my friend and I produced our first play, it was 1971, I was 16, and the budget was Rs 700. My father gave me Rs 300 for it. In those days, it was a huge amount, and his monthly salary was hardly Rs 120,” reminisces Paresh adding that unlike his son, he has no formal training in theatre/acting. “My training was entirely different. I was doing theatre and that was my entry point and my education. I had no knowledge of how to get a formal training. I had a lot of questions, but I would go and sit in the rehearsals and get my answers from there. I would then try those things out. It was a lovely process. Both Gujarati and Marathi theatre used to be very big in those days and I was fortunate to watch some of the stalwarts on stage,” he reveals.


But when did he decide to take it up as a profession, especially since theatre hardly pays? “I was getting about Rs 15 per show in 1971/72.  That was a lot for a single person in those days. I was staying with my parents and there was no such pressing need for money. So, initially, the financial aspect of it was not really that much of a concern. However, there was no concept of pocket money in those days. Then, I had friends who would help out if needed,” he says adding that his dad was a huge fan of actors like Balraj Sahni, Dilip Kumar, and Motilal and they would often go to the cinemas to watch their movies. “But movies were not my calling. I never wanted to be a ‘hero’. My interest in films and film acting grew after I started watching movies of Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Pankaj Kapur, and the likes. “Tabhi laga ki haan, yeh acting hai”. I wanted to do the kind of movies they were doing at that time. Between 1978 and 1981 I tried getting into those films, I met many people, but even that world had its own star system. Then eventually I got tired and returned to theatre. Then someone saw one of my plays and suggested my name to Rahul Rawail and I got a part in Arjun (1985). But my first film was Lorie (1984) directed by Vijay Talwar. It had Naseer, Shabana, Farooq [Shaikh] and Sampat [his wife, Swaroop Sampat] and I had a bit role in that. I also did Holi(1984). But Arjun got me recognition aur fir gadi nikal padi!”


Indeed, gadi nikal padi and how! Apart from serving as an inspiration, does his father’s illustrious career in the movies and theatre ever make him apprehensive of embarking on his own? How conscious and scared he is of the comparisons he might face with the stalwart? “I was doing a show of Bombay Talkies, my first play as an actor. It was in Delhi. Till that point, I never thought of the possibility of a comparison with him or that I need to carry on his legacy etc. But that day something compelled me to call him up and ask him how much the tickets of his plays cost. And the price was 5 times more than that of my play—that was a reality check; I got a distinct understanding of where we both stand. I can’t ape him. I am not at all concerned about people comparing me with him. He has done over 350 plus movies. I am just starting off. There can be no comparison.  But yes, there is one pressure that one puts on oneself and that is to do well in this field. This is simply because you have the best guidance, you have the talent, you have the access that most people don’t have—and if you have so much going for you, you better succeed,” says the young actor.


And by the looks of it, he is off to a great start! One hopes to soon see this father-son duo together on screen. However, they have already collaborated in two projects. “We have turned his play Dear Father, into a Gujarati movie which is on Prime Video and I have contributed to writing the screenplay. Also, there is a film that will drop soon on one of the OTT platforms. It is called Jo Tera Hai Woh Mera Hai. I have written it and he has acted in it,” reveals Aditya. And how was it collaborating with his son? “Mazza aaya. I got to know his mind!” guffaws Paresh. “That’s the only place he can’t have his say!” laughs Aditya.

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