Content is King: Rajkummar Rao

With popular flicks like Behan Hogi Teri, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton, and Shaadi Me Zaroor Aana, Bollywood actor Rajkummar Rao has been in the limelight all year. An outspoken feminist, the Gurgaon lad believes it’s a person’s character that is important, not their gender.

The Aligarh actor goes on to speak about how Indian writers and filmmaker are getting back to their roots and telling small-town stories. Here’s what he had to say.

You’ve been part of Behan Hogi Teri, Bareilly Ki Barfi, and now Shaadi Me Zaroor Aana, all of which are based in Uttar Pradesh. Do you agree that real stories are coming from small towns nowadays?
Oh yes, absolutely. I think because a large part of our population has lived in small towns, and continues to do so, our writers are going back to their own roots to find stories from our own land, which is amazing.  

I really like the connection that we have with small-town India. The stories there are very relatable to us because we all have lived those lives; we all have seen those characters. So I think somewhere that’s the reason we could relate to all these stories. There is a mass connect when it comes to small towns.

What was it like to shoot in Lucknow?
Shooting in Lucknow is always wonderful; it’s a great city. Moreover, I think it is a great combination of that old-world charm and a modern city that is absolutely mesmerising. It’s a great place to shoot and people out there are wonderful; they are very supportive and cooperative. And of course, the food is amazing too.

What’s the best thing about Kriti Kharbanda as a co-actor?
Kriti is very supportive and I had a great time working with her. She has all the qualities you look for in a co-actor – somebody who is helpful, who would stand for your cues.

Can you share any interesting incidents that took place on the sets of SMZA?
No, honestly there were no incidents as such. Filmmaking is a serious business, and it requires a lot of hard work. So all our energies, were really channeled towards making the film. I really can’t point out any single incident; the whole journey was wonderful.

What’s the one character that was the hardest for you to play on-screen?
I think it was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, which is my upcoming web series. That was indeed a tough role.

Would you agree that web series have become so popular nowadays because they are censorship-free?
Well, I don’t know if it’s just because of the censors, and I won’t say that they are gaining popularity for being censor-free. The making of a web series requires as much hard word as making a feature film. For example, when you see Bose – the kind of money we have spent, the production design, and the performance – it is not second to a feature film. The kind of effects we are putting in it are on par with a feature film. So, it’s not true that just because they’re censorship-free there are more web series coming out. Everything is going digital these days, and probably that’s the reason people are more interested in exploring this platform.

What do you feel about feminism in today’s times?
Well, I think every man should be a feminist. I am very much a feminist myself and I feel that equality is a must. You can’t look down upon any gender, be it a man or woman. For me it’s your character sketch, your karma, which is more important than your gender.

What’s the one thing about Bollywood that you like the most?
I feel grateful to be here. Coming from Gurgaon and dreaming of being a film actor, I feel wonderful that the industry has accepted me and given me so many amazing opportunities to work. So I can’t complain, and I am very grateful for everything.

How do you select a film?
I read all my scripts and sometimes I feel impulsively excited for a story and want to do it no matter what, without thinking about too many things. When that happens I absolutely take that story. And I think it remains more or less the same for every film. If I like something, I just say yes to it. Content is king for me.

Can we call 2017 lucky for you?
Yes, I can say that 2017 has definitely been one of the most important years of my career. I can’t say lucky or unlucky, but I just hope it continues. I want to grow with every film; I want to explore new territories, genres, and characters.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how tech-savvy are you?
I think five.

What are your favourite gadgets?
My iPhone, smart TV, and all digital platforms. 

– as told to Jaideep
(Connect with him on #Twitter: @PandeyJaideep)