Edging out the ordinary

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Edging out the ordinary

Saturday, 20 July 2019 | Team Viva

Edging out the ordinary

Actor RAJKUMMAR RAO has extended the boundaries of his craft with Judgementall Hai Kya, says Team Viva

Actor Rajkummar Rao now embodies the aspirational youth of middle India, complete with their flaws and daredevilry. And this realism is what the actor cherishes as it has given him an unparalleled connect. He says, “People are resonating with characters like Vicky (Stree) as they can see the glimpse of a real Indian in them. When I did Stree, a lot of people from small towns kept repeating my dialogues, pleej kar de yaar, pleej (Please do it). They believe such stories. Even personally, I like such cinema which is relatable. Such movies don’t sell dreams, they sell realities,” and in some way shows you how to tackle them.

For his role in Judgementall Hai Kya, his forthcoming film, which has already been mired in a lot of controversies, he says, “It is the most edgy character that I have played till date. I have never done such a script in my career.” Rao has two shades to his character, one being the simple and perfect gentleman, while the other is the wild version who is suspected to be a murderer. However, this is not the first time that he has delved into a character with shades of grey. There is Omerta, based on the life of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a terrorist or even Hamari Adhuri Kahani where he played a character on the edge of the society.

As is obvious from the trailers, the comedy-thriller revolves around two flawed characters, Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) and Keshav (Rajkummar Rao), whose lives pivot between reality and illusions. Both are accused of murder but they try to blame each other. The film unfolds with twists and turns revealing the culprit. Rao says, “It’s a thriller with the right amount of humour and entertainment. I found it pretty interesting. It is amazing how everything shapes up towards the end of the film. In the trailer, you can guess who is lying but it’s fun to watch it that way. No one can make out what Kangana and I are actually thinking. The whole film is about the cat and mouse game. Nobody knows who is telling the truth.”

Rajkummar is known to embody every character that he plays, so much so that all traces of the actual person disappears on screen. Giving an insight into his role, for which he pushed himself to the limits, the actor says, “I thought I was getting a chance to do something new and it is exciting to play two different personalities of the same person in one film. I accepted every challenge this role offered. It shaped my learning curve.”

Of course, often it is the director who fleshes out the story while the actors are expected to add more layers to the characters. About this particular role, he says, “Prakash (Kovelamudi), our director, was very clear how he wanted the characters to be. We had a discussion over the two different looks where one should appear a little raw with a beard, piercings and pumped-up while the other would be more gentlemanly.”

Since it is a “never seen before avatar” in an unusual film, he says, “In a thriller you can’t really reveal the entire plot to the audience in one go. It has to unfold gradually. For the suspense to work, you have to feel it first. Moreover, since the suspense element in such a film is stretched to the end, the audience does not really get what the actor is upto. So yes, the role carries its own nitty-gritties and challenges.”

The genesis of an unusual concept is initiated by a writer who decides to push the limit and go beyond the usual plots. About Kanika Dhillon, who has written sleeper hits like Manmarziyaan with well fleshed-out characters, the actor says, “The way she has shaped all the  characters,  whether it is Amayra Dastur’s or Satish Sir’s, I really liked it. The script was extremely detailed and included everything. She had imagined everything and tried to portray it in the same way.”

Rajkummar tries to avoid questions about his co-star Kangana being banned by the Entertainment Journalists’ Guild after a spat with a journalist during the film’s promotion. He says, “That’s her point of view, I am nobody to talk on her behalf. It is already out there. I don’t see a need to talk about it. We are here to promote our film and we want to do well.”

However, this is not the first film where the duo has shared screen space. He feels they have come a long way since Queen by walking their own paths and experiencing life differently. “Kangana and I have shared a rapport since Queen. And now after almost five years of working in the industry, we have evolved as actors. That is the only difference as our rapport remains the same,” says he.

As a professional, Rajkummar has nothing but praise for her. He says, “I have always admired her as she is one of the finest talents that we have in the industry. Even in Queen she was phenomenal and the National Award validated that.”

When an actor takes on a role that has an everyday ordinariness and yet is different, it of course leaves an impact on him. Talking about how his roles shape him and add to his journey, the actor says contemplatively (with a pause), “When I play a character like Newton, it teaches me to be responsible and truthful to your job. When I play the terrorist Umar Sheikh, I get to know what these boys go through, what goes on in their mind. There is so much darkness inside. Characters in films teach you a lot about life. My films Shahid and Trapped taught me a lot. In fact, Shahid taught me the most.”

Recalling his film Trapped, an urban thriller, which is said to be one of his most challenging roles, both physically and mentally, the actor says, “I was kicked with the idea that the film offered. To add to it, Vikramaditya Motwane, someone who I really like and admire, was directing it. Nothing could have been better. It was all that I wanted at that very moment.”

Since the actor has stretched his arc wide with a plethora of roles from thriller to comedy to political satire, there is the obvious question as to how he manages to cast his net out so wide? He smiles before saying, “I don’t really try to maintain a balance, I just listen to my heart and trust my instinct. I read so many scripts and then say yes to the one that touches me the most. I don’t like connecting too many dots. I don’t really think that I should do a comedy now because I have done two serious films. Whatever script comes my way, if I like it, I just say yes. I then try and make it interesting by bringing some originality and distinctive element to my character.”

One commonality that most films of Rajkummar share is a stellar script. The actor chooses them on impulse, “If it connects to my heart, if it does something to me, it’s a yes. If it offers something new to me, then of course it is better.” He further says, “I only focus on my work without anticipating much about the results. I follow my gut feeling and act accordingly.” The actor is glad that he ended up being a part of good films and stories. “Now is a great time to be in the industry, there is such exciting work happening all around, all new makers are coming and telling wonderful stories of real India,” he adds.

Born and brought up in Gurugram, the actor says that coming back to his roots feels special, with a grin, “Delhi is always so much fun, it is my city. Though I am here only for a couple of hours but it always feels great to see these roads and buildings.” One can clearly see how his expressions and words are in sync.

(The film releases on July 26.)

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