If there's a name that resonates with reinvention, it's Rajkummar Rao. The actor chats to Khush about determination, Box Office success, and why he doesn't surround himself with "Yes men"...
What means more to you - critical acclamation or box office success?
It’s a tough one! Box office success means that producers will invest more time and money in the interesting stories I want to tell, but at the end of the day it’s also a business. Whereas, critical acclaim helps me with the kind of validation that will empower me to continue working on my art. It’s difficult to pick one over the other, but when a film like Stree comes along, which is both, it surely does make me feel jubilant!
You are such a versatile actor, from drama to comedy you bring the character to life with ease. How do you prepare for your roles?
I think it’s very important to understand the background of the character. Why a character is who they are. So, I spend a lot of time researching. Then, I try to adapt the character and present it in the most real way possible. I try to forget my own identity and focus on the character’s. After a film is made, I try and enjoy it like an audience would. Getting an outside perspective is important as you tend to get too bias towards a project, which is why I don’t surround myself with “yes men”.
So, has Rajkummar Rao finally arrived?
You know, I never understood what people exactly meant when they said that to me. There is so much to learn and so much to deliver. I don’t think at any point in an artist’s life, they can say that they have arrived. It makes it sound like the work is done. But no, there are miles to go, and so much to experience.
Do you keep a close eye on your contemporaries and what films they are in?
It would be foolish to say in a world which is highly influenced by social media that you don’t know what your contemporaries are doing. I do watch their films, but not really with the intention of ‘keeping a close eye’. I watch the scripts which are coming in, and how I can learn from their performances. To lean from others is the truest form of evolution and my greatest competitor is the man in the mirror.
What’s been your most challenging role?
Playing Subhash Chandra Bose in Bose Dead/Alive, Shaurya in Trapped, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in Omertà. All these characters demanded a great deal of physical change and mental exhaustion.
With the audience now rooting for actors who make it on their own, in a world were nepotism is thriving, do you feel the pressure has shifted on to star kids to prove their mettle?
At the end of everything, it is about hard work. I don’t think either a star-kid or a non-star-kid have any less to prove themselves. If you work hard and give your best to the performance, it works for everyone. You need to be passionate, nothing else matters.
Would you jump ship to Hollywood if an opportunity came along?
There’s an American Netflix film called The White Tiger I’m starring in with Priyanka Chopra Jonas. It’s directed by Ramin Bahrani and is based on an award-winning book. I’m very excited about it! My priority has been focusing on good stories. I haven’t thought about Hollywood per say...but if a good script came along, why not.
We have to ask - you’ve been with your girlfriend, Patralekha for 8 years, what’s the secret to a happy relationship?
I think honesty and understanding are very important pillars in every relationship. You can’t build a strong relationship on mistrust. Giving each other enough space is very important too, as well as respecting each other’s decisions. My advice for couples is to be understanding, honest, and to respect your relationship.
What would your dream wedding be?
It would be a very small affair with those close to us. Right now, we’re focused on our careers, so marriage isn’t something we are thinking of. It will happen when it happens...
Editor-in-Chief: Sonia Ullah
Photography: Rohan Shrestha
Production: Niharika Singh
Styling: Who Wore What When
Hair: Vijay Pandurang Raskar
Makeup: Nitin Purohit
As seen in Khush Wedding Groom Edition KW23. Download your free copy here