He may have a boyish persona, but actor Rajkummar Rao is quite intense when it comes to his craft. The Shahid actor is in disbelief after winning the National Award. In a candid chat, he opens up about working with Sonam Kapoor in their upcoming film, Dolly Ki Doli, what the National Award means to him, and being part of the film industry.
Q. How’s it working with Sonam (Kapoor) in Dolly Ki Doli?
A. It’s a light-hearted film, so it’s a totally new experience for me. Sonam’s a great girl and it’s fun working with her.
Q. What kind of responsibility does the National Award now place on your shoulders?
A. I don’t want to feel pressured. This award gives me the confidence that I am doing good work and selecting the right films. I just want to be a part of good stories. As an actor that’s my motto and I will stick to that. If I get a film and a role, which I feel gives me a sense of satisfaction, I will take it up. I don’t have any game plan or strategy to be successful. I have always chosen films on my gut instinct and that won’t change.
Q. What was your first reaction when you heard about the award? Your family must be on cloud nine.
A. I could not believe it. In fact, the feeling hasn’t sunk in as yet. When my friend, director Suparn Verma gave me the news, I told him to check whether it was some other Rajkummar. My parents are elated. They have been flooded with congratulatory messages from friends and well-wishers.
Q. Shahid’s director Hansal Mehta and you bonded quite well. What does this win mean to him?
A. I am glad that people are recognising Hansal’s talent and vision as a filmmaker. A story like Shahid, which talks about modern society and the common man, needs to be told more often. We are glad that this film made people sit up and take notice of these things.
Q. What matters more — box office success or critical acclaim?
A. I think you have to balance it. I want my films to make money for my producers, who invest their hard-earned money in them. At the same time, I want people to respect my work.
Q. Does an acting school background help an actor?
A. I can’t talk about the others. All I can say is that the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) helped me nurture my craft in a great environment. In the two years of acting school, I talked, breathed and lived cinema. So, it’s an enriching experience.
Q. There have been qualified actors before in Bollywood but many did not get their due. Do you feel you are in the right place at the right time?
A. Of course. A lot of that has to do with the modern audience that watches films in multiplexes. The exposure to different cinema and subjects has changed the pulse of the audience, which has benefited the new breed of actors.
Q. There are quite a few talented young actors in the industry. Do you feel the competition?
A. I really like all my contemporaries whether it’s Ranbir (Kapoor) or Ranveer (Singh). All of them are doing good work. However, my competition is only with myself.
Q. Do you see yourself doing an out-and-out masala flick?
A. Yes. If I get a script that’s engaging, entertaining and matches my sensibilities I will jump at it. I am a trained dancer and I am sure I won’t find it tough to dance. I don't want to restrict myself to a particular genre.
Q. Has Bollywood changed you as a person?
A. No… it hasn’t affected me at all. I am still what I was. I am here to work and that’s about it.
Q. Have you ever felt like an outsider in the industry?
A. Not really. I have worked with good producers, directors and production teams since my first film. Till date, everyone’s made me feel at home. I am quite lucky in that sense.
Q. Queen was a huge hit. After doing a film like Shahid, was it easy playing a part like Vijay Dhingra?
A. No role is easy. I found the character of Vijay quite tough as I am not like him at all. The only similarity was our North Indian Delhi background.
Q. What’s your take on guys like Vijay?
A. I think they’re really dumb and their girlfriends should give them a tight slap whenever needed (laughs out loud).
Q. What’s been your most memorable encounter with a fan?
A. I remember there was this lady who walked upto me with her husband and said, “I am sorry that my husband’s here but I still want to say, I love you.” It was damn cute.