Sometimes Shamshad of Gangs of Wasseypur, sometimes Pritam Vidrohi of Bareilly Ki Barfi or Newton Kumar of Newton, Rajkumar Rao, who gave life in every character, has made his own identity in Bollywood.
Rajkumar Rao had dreamed of reaching this point in his childhood. The series of plays which started from school itself continues till theatre in college, studying cinema at FTII and then becoming a lead actor in films. Rajkummar Rao also gives credit to Shahrukh Khan for this.
Nayandeep Rakshit has an exclusive conversation with Rajkumar Rao for BBC Hindi.
Rajkumar Rao wanted to become an actor since childhood
Rajkumar says that his motive was clear since childhood, he only wanted to become an actor. He says, “The school was decided from time itself. Never thought or tried for anything else. Started playing in school itself, did theater in college, then went to film school.
Rajkumar explains that even though it was difficult for a middle-class family to consider acting as a profession at that time, his family helped him a lot in fulfilling his dream, never stopped for anything and the reason for this was also Shahrukh Khan.
Rajkumar goes on to say, “Shahrukh Khan… a Delhi boy, went to Mumbai and became such a big star. We have grown up watching his movies. It felt that they can do it, so there is hope. After that things changed and the attitude changed.
Rajkummar Rao believes that being from a middle-class family helps him stay grounded. He says that he has seen many difficult situations and has understood that if everyone is happy then one can get rid of any difficult situation.
He tells a similar anecdote related to his father when his father’s salary had stopped. “My father’s salary had stopped coming. We were three siblings, all three went to the same school. The teachers used to think that these three were always involved in some extracurricular activity, so they used to love us. Teachers supported us a lot, they taught us for 2 years, gave us our school fees. It gets along well with good people.
Rajkumar came to Mumbai for the first time to audition for ‘Boogie Woogie’
Now Rajkumar Rao, who has made his mark in Mumbai, came to Mumbai for the first time at the age of about 16-17 years. At that time he had reached Mumbai with his younger brother to audition for the dance reality show ‘Boogie Woogie’.
While narrating this anecdote, Rajkumar says, “The audition of Boogie-Woogie was going on, nothing was known, suddenly it was planned. I had to come to Mumbai, I wanted to see this city. The shots we used to see in the 90s and not the ones zoomed out in front of the church gate, a man crosses the road and calls a taxi. But we could not go to the church gate because we had no money at all.
During this, Rajkumar also tells that after reaching Mumbai for the first time, he used to sit outside Shahrukh Khan’s house “Mannat”, “I used to sit near Mannat to see Shahrukh Khan sir, he is not there. Gauri ma’am seen was once seen going in the car.
Reached Mumbai in 2008 in search of work
Rajkumar Rao is a passout of Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. After his studies, he reached Mumbai in the year 2008.
Rajkumar Rao says, “At that time I used to have a bike in Pune, on which I brought my belongings. We three people lived together in a small house. It was a very small house, I had a mattress, next to it was a small table on which I used to keep my belongings.
Between 2008 and 2010, there was a period of struggle for Rajkumar Rao, about that period he says, “Once I had 18 rupees in my account, I had 27 rupees in my account, then I thought how to eat food. I am fortunate that I am from FTII, very strong community, so I called a friend and said that I am coming to eat. Then called the family to send some money.
He further says, “For the first time when I got a job in an ad, it was said that I would get 5 thousand days, then I was very happy that I get 5 thousand rupees for working 8 hours.”
‘Your body is not meant to be a hero’
Rajkummar Rao says that at the beginning of his career, when he was looking for work, he had heard many types of comments. “Many people commented on many things. Somebody said that your physical appearance is not such that you can become a hero, I used to think that I do not want the tag of hero and I want to become an actor. But this is all part of the journey, I have no regrets in my heart.
Rajkummar Rao says that later some makers also came to work together who had made such comments earlier, but Rajkumar considers it a part of the journey and says that there is no regret.
‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ and ‘Stree’ special for Rajkummar Rao?
Rajkumar Rao had always decided that it was important to keep working, so in the beginning he did small roles too. He calls Bareilly Ki Barfi and Stree such films, due to which his popularity has increased further.
Regarding his film career, he says, “I knew that LSD is such a film that will not earn 100 crores, but I knew that if it is Dibakar Banerjee’s film then the director will see and it happened. Anurag Kashyap took me in Gangs of Wasseypur then I got Shahid film. After Bareilly Ki Barfi and Stree, I saw that the perception has changed on my side. Earlier, I was doing more drama genre, doing intense and biopic roles. Bareilly and the woman took me to the people.
The prince is sorry about this…
Rajkummar Rao’s parents are no longer in this world. He says that every day he regrets that the mother is not with him.
Rajkumar says, “This regret remains everyday, it does not go away. I am happy that she was applauding when I was receiving the National Award. But alas, I wish she had lived now, I would have brought her to Mumbai. But I agree that she is still watching me.