Exclusive: Harshvardhan Rane on Paltan: Don't know about talent but I'm very persistent
Harshvardhan Rane, who will be seen in an ensemble cast war-film Paltan by JP Dutta, gets candid in an exclusive conversation with mid-day online. The film releases on September 7
A film old in Bollywood and with a few films to his credit in the Telugu film industry, actor Harshvardhan Rane has created a humungous fan base for himself. After Sanam Teri Kasam, the actor has geared up for his second outing in Bollywood, with scion JP Dutta's war film Paltan, which is based on the 1967 Indo-China war. In an exclusive interaction with mid-day online, Harshvardhan Rane unleashed himself, his emotions, and made us meet the real person within him, who has been his backbone throughout.
From being ridiculed for wearing Rs 500 shoes and walking at an event in casuals to disclosing about his live-in relationships, the 34-year old takes all this in his stride and returns to his comfort zone – his jeep, bike, and freedom.
Your first film Sanam Teri Kasam was a romantic one. You earned massive female fan-following. Your second outing is drastically different. How did your fans and near and dear ones react to this decision of transforming from a chocolate boy to the rugged man in Paltan?
I don't have a lot of near and dear ones because I ran away from my house when I was 16 (2001). I work for myself and do things that I as an audience would go and watch. That is my benchmark. I always got inspired by cinema, the dialogues they mouthed, especially Amitabh Bachchan sir's dialogue, 'Main aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahin uthata,' and then I said to myself, 'If he doesn't pick up (money) then why should I?' For me, money was symbolic of an advice. So, I never took any advice that was thrown towards me and hasn't heard from anyone in my life. Many people have many opinions. If you start doing something new, they'll (people) say, 'You are doing the wrong thing.' Therefore, one should live life according to its own terms. For Sanam Teri Kasam, I asked myself, 'Do I connect with the film?' I loved the script when I read it. I saw my father, his youth and my own emotions in it. Even this film's casting was already done; they had locked on a Kashmiri boy. I reached on the sets of the film just two days prior to its poster shoot. I was, however, adamant that the director sees my work at least once, and I was obliged. After a half hour, they came out and said, 'We want you now.' So, that's how this film (Paltan) also happened. I was the last one to be cast in the film. There was someone else (Abhishek Bachchan) before me. I do not go by the societal norms. I just believe in what my gut feeling says. I heard 156 scripts after Sanam… Whatever you do in life, there will always be a flipside story. I listen to my own heart, there's a voice inside all of us. I have left that voice in me and I let it speak. There are many who say that it took two years for him to sign his second film. I say I took 15 years to reach here, so these two years are nothing in this comparison. I'm very happy with all the decisions that I have been able to make.
You mentioned that you eloped at the age of 16 from your house; did you have anyone besides you to share your grief, happiness?
I always believed in being your own hero, and being your own Santa Claus. You should be able to celebrate Christmas by yourself. It's indeed true that you need someone to share your feelings with. But, what if you never get any shoulder? So, you look towards your feet, which means you have to stand all by yourself. More than shoulders, your own legs will support you. I have done a number of odd jobs – I've worked in a PCO, cyber café, I've been a delivery boy, courier boy, have served food to people in a small restaurant. I've been assistants to DJ players. So, I have done every kind of work on this planet. But, I always wanted to reach here (Film industry). I believe that to do something new, you always have to do something difficult. If I had followed my dad's profession, I wouldn't have gone through these hardships. I have gone through every single detail of my life. I did not know how to speak English. When I was job-hunting, I was thrown away saying, 'You don't know English, how will you work?' The entire process of learning was to reinvent and upgrade yourself with each passing day. Today, I also see my make-up artist upgrading himself with the industry standards. And, anyone who upgrades himself every day, I respect them a lot. That's exactly what I have tried to do, there's no end to the way I have groomed myself, and it's a never-ending process. Your hair, skin, teeth, make your body, follow a diet... I never made many friends and did not fall in the party culture here. What happened by doing this, you ask? I can still wear these 500 rupees' shoes (Points towards his feet). I'm not obliged to anyone. Today also, I drive the same jeep that I have always had. I go to the biggest events in the same jeep. This is what I have and there is no embarrassment in that.
Is anyone from your family in touch with you?
Not really, because my father and mother were separated when I was 10 years old. At that time, there were no mobile phones or social media. So, once a person leaves your house, there's a disconnect, and then I eloped. My father passed away in 2009 and after that everything was left behind. When I was leaving the house, I just had 100 bucks that my dad gave. He gave the money out of anger, frustration or what was it, I don't know. He said, 'Is se jo bana sakta hai apni life ka bana le' (Make whatever you want to of your life with this 100 rupee note) My friend, Tikkuu bhaiyaa also gave me 100 rupees, I came to Delhi, and that's how I started. I am very close to my sister. She and I can die for each other, and without speaking too much, we know that.
Has she been with you during film promotions?
No, I send her a lot of pictures. I sent her a photo of mine with Arjun (Rampal) sir. She (sister) get's very excited to see Arjun sir because she has a huge liking for him. She feels very nice to see me here.
Talking of promotions, we've seen you staying with the localities, cleaning cow dungs, graze cattle and so on… How was your experience doing all this?
All this was with JP Dutta sir's guidance. He always believes in spending time with the rural people and the real soldiers. If you notice, this film does not have any junior artistes. Paltan has people in the army, soldiers have played the real part. So, when I told Dutta sir that I want to spend time in the village, he was more than happy. When you go into the deeper crux of any strata or any setup, you understand the things which nobody can teach you in an acting school.
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My #valentinesday with my dateð I mark this day by going out on a date with this lovely lady in the picture, as today i pack up shooting for my second Hindi film #PALTAN with the one and only legend #JPdutta sir. @nidhiduttaofficial i hv not seen a warrior/rock star of a daughter like u in a long time. Thank you cast, crew & universe ð«
We see a lot of pictures of your jeep on social media. What makes it so special?
This jeep is really close to my heart. After my first film down South, I did not get any film for three years because they wanted me to play a villain, and I did not want to do a negative character. Heroes inspire me, not the antagonists, then why should I play somebody that won't inspire anyone? Then the producers asked me to sit at home. In this entire process, I got broke completely, had nothing to eat. The boy that I had hired for me (Laxman) in 2011, he would get food (dosa) for me to eat. I couldn't pay my team. That was the time when I started doing carpentry. I would retexture them and sell. There was one thing for sure that I would do something inspirational. In 2013, finally, the producers came back and said, 'You do the hero's role' and they gave me four films. 2014 was practically the year, where I really started working, and the jeep that I brought was from that money. Even the number of my jeep is 2014. I'm very close to it because it's my expression of freedom. There are no seats behind, no mats, no music system, it's an empty jeep but very powerful and an independent one. So, I take it for all my trips, I sleep in that. It also has 20 litres of water in it. I can also cook in it. It's like my moving house. I don't lock my jeep. So, people go inside, click pictures and send it to me. I would never buy a house. I have an irritation, and I'm allergic to the walls of houses. For me, my jeep is everything. I like staying in that. I travel in it for big parties and events. The other one is my bike. I am crazy for them. Therefore, I went and purchased a bike with my first pay cheque from JP sir. The moment I received it, I rushed to BMW's office. I handed over the cheque to them and asked to give the best model. So, they gave me an r90 scrambler. After purchasing that again people started taunting that you could have bought a house with your signing amount. I believe in fulfilling my own dreams. People also suggest that I have a girlfriend but I have been single for the last 11 years. I like this life with my jeep, bike, and freedom.
But there must have been a point in your life where you have had to gather yourself all over again after breakdowns. What do you do in such a situation?
More than we getting demotivated, it's our family and friends, who kind of puts pressure on us. I believe that we all are very courageous and can do anything. But family and friends keep on asking about your next step. And you succumb to that pressure but I never had that pressure. I never made too many friends, neither here nor down south. While I was working as a delivery boy (2004), I had gone to deliver a helmet, and the client was none other than John Abraham, and we connected instantly. He invited me to an event that night and I took my girlfriend Minnakshi Das along. She is now John sir's manager. We had broken up but we still live together, that's a different story altogether. I don't think there's any point in my life where I have lost patience. I don't have any such demands that would leave me pressurized. I don't carry any baggage in my life. Neither do I want to be overtly politically correct. I don't want to hide my feelings. As a kid, I wanted to say what I want, and that expression has got me till here.
Do you feel left out at times at certain events or Bollywood gathering?
Yeah, many times! But eventually, they all come around. I'm very objective. People make fun of my clothes that what is he wearing! He always wears the same shoes. But I have no shame in wearing casual clothes to events or repeating them because this is what I have earned. This is definitely not my father's money. This is what I can easily carry. If I feel that I am being left out, I do express myself. But that's okay. I have just started my journey. There'll be a lot of times where I will not get my due but that's okay. It's a long life, and I will make up for it with my work and persistence, definitely. I don't know about talent but I'm very persistent. Talent, maybe I'll learn with time. I believe if more than acting capabilities, I stay honest to my job, and if I consistently want to improve, I think I will do okay.
Your first film down South was a Telugu film. Any offers from there or how would you strike a balance between both the film industries?
Like I said, I never forget the person who offered me my first meal. So, Telugu film industry is the first one who gave me exposure on the big screen. I can never forget that. I am always grateful for it. In fact, just a few days ago, I went there at night, shot for four hours and came back for Paltan's promotion. Nobody is even aware of it. I haven't even uploaded any pictures because my producer will get a heart attack (laughs) thinking where is he roaming in Hyderabad? I can never even think of not doing a Telugu film. They are my school, they gave me the discipline. This is my due to them that I am always available and I will always be interested in doing Telugu films.
How did you learn the language?
When you don't have food to eat and money in the pocket, you learn everything. I come from a remote area near Chambal in Madhya Pradesh, where you would start sweating if had to speak two lines in English. Now, I have learned the language. Although, it's not fluent enough, kaam chal jaata hai (work gets done). When you are literally hungry, you'll do anything. Learning a language is a very small thing. Necessity is really the mother of an urge to learn something new.
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