It’s always great to be a part of a good film than do a lead part in a bad film: Rajkummar Rao


Rajkummar Rao made his film debut with Dibakar Banerjee's 'Love Sex Aur Dhokha' seven years ago and right from his first film, he proved that he is here for the long haul. Post that, he continued to deliver a spade of incredible performances in films like 'Shahid', 'Kai Po Che!', 'Queen', 'Aligarh' and 'Trapped'. Hailing from Gurgaon and having no 'contacts' in the film industry, he managed to prove his mettle and versatility in a world that tends to favour style over substance. Speaking of the National Award-winning actor, Hansal Mehta once said, "Raj surrenders himself to a role without any kind of baggage." Rajkummar's thoughts have no baggage either. "A lot of things don't go in your favour but that doesn't make life unfair. Life is good," he says ahead of the release of his upcoming film, 'Bareilly Ki Barfi', produced by Junglee Pictures and BR Studios, directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and written by Nitesh Tiwari (director of the blockbuster 'Dangal'). In a candid chat, he also speaks on the nepotism debate, marriage plans and how people should stop misusing the word 'method acting'. Read on...
You are fast gaining the reputation of being an actor who chooses diverse roles...
My process of being an actor has always been the same. It's just that people are now giving me varied roles and noticing me. I am getting films like 'Omerta', 'Trapped' and 'Bareilly Ki Barfi', where I get to portray a multi-shaded character, who looks, sounds and behaves differently. That's what I look for as an actor — roles that can push and challenge my limits.
Was a quirky entertainer like 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' a welcome change after doing intense films like 'Trapped' and 'Omerta'?
Some roles take a toll on your mental and physical health. Trapped was a tough and gruelling shoot and 'Omerta' was explosive. Yes, 'Bareilly'... is a lighter film, but it was a tough role for me as I had to portray a character with diverse shades without going overboard. In one scene itself I had to show two different sides to my character and that was difficult. Ashwiny's film is quirky and the characters are so rooted that you can smell India in it.
You have Ayushmann Khurrana and Kriti Sanon sharing screen space with you in 'Bareilly Ki Barfi'. Is it challenging to be a part of multi-starrers? Is there an inner desire to outshine your co-actors?
If there's a crying scene, you can't think, 'Let me cry better than the others'. You can't compete with your co-star because he is in the same frame with you. Acting is reacting to someone in a scene. Insecure and selfish co-stars, who only think about their camera angle and their lines, put me off. I really can't work like that. I wouldn't be honest with my work then. However, I had a blast working with Ayushmann and Kriti in the film. They are cool co-stars to work with.
A lot of actors use the term method acting quite liberally these days, don't they?
Gaining weight, losing weight and growing a beard is not method acting. That's just being true to your character. I lost nine kilos for 'Trapped' and gained 12 kilos for a biopic in a span of six months. Method acting is a training module. Any actor who undergoes that training is a method actor. Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri can be called method actors.
You are one of the few actors not crippled by the 'Am-I-the-lead-actor' mentality. 'Aligarh' was essentially a Manoj Bajpayee film, while 'Queen' was a Kangana Ranaut movie...
I choose a film by looking at the story as a whole. For instance, I knew right from the beginning that 'Queen' is a special and different story. No matter what your role is, it's always great to be part of a good film than do a lead part in a bad film. Also, so many people know me today because of that film. I knew that Vijay (his character) was not the lead actor and that people won't like him, but without Vijay, there won't be a 'Queen'. He's an integral part of the story.
You don't necessarily fit into the so-called 'Bollywood hero' template. How did you overcome the odds? Nawazuddin Siddiqui spoke about the alleged racism he faced recently...
Thankfully that's changing now, but I have faced it a couple of times. I once heard a story from a certain director and I told him I'd like to audition for it. Sadly, I was told, 'You can't audition for the main guy (hero) but you can for his friend's role.' I argued, 'Why not? I can do justice to the lead role.' They didn't say why I couldn't do it but I got the hint. It has happened to me a couple of times.
So this kind of discrimination does exist...
I understand where they are coming from. It's a very sensitive profession and people are highly insecure. Their minds are conditioned in a certain way about what sells and what doesn't. Someone has put in a lot of money and they want to be secure about it. Nobody wants to take risks, so hats off to people who do so and do well. Filmmakers like Hansal Mehta and Ekta Kapoor, who gave me my first two films — 'Ragini MMS' and 'Love, Sex Aur Dhokha'... also Anurag Kashyap and Mukesh Chhabra, who suggested my name to Hansal sir for 'Shahid'.

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