Mr India Rohit Khandelwal
Hyderabad boy Rohit Khandelwal is the new name to reckon with in the fashion and television industry. His hard work, determination and rugged looks were key reasons for him being chosen Mr India at the 2015 pageant. This week, You & I spoke to him about his journey, ups and downs and off-screen interests.
First things first: How does it feel to have won the title of Mr. India 2015?
It was an amazing journey that took a lot of hard work, conviction and a ‘never-give-up’ attitude. It all started when I was shooting for a Channel V show that went off the air in April, after which I did a mock shoot for a show on a leading channel and was signed as their lead actor. Things changed a few days later when they informed me that they had replaced me with an experienced actor. This left me very low for a long time. In June I came across an article in the newspaper about the auditions for Mr India 2015, and something told me that I could do it. I had exactly one month to prepare for the competition, and had to really work hard toning my body and brushing up on my soft skills for the talent round. I started working out twice a day, took music classes from a friend, spent time watching past pageants and prepared myself for the challenge. I had to cut myself off from the rest of the world to concentrate on winning the title. It feels great to see all my efforts paying off.
Apart from winning the main title, I also won other subtitles and the most important for me were Mr Active and Best Actor. The icing on the cake, however, was receiving the awards from Kareena Kapoor. All this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my brother Rahul who always believed in my work and gave me the courage to go to Mumbai to try my luck; my father who is my biggest strength today; and my best friends Nilesh, Raafe and Roi, who have always been sources of encouragement. My journey has just begun.
Did things change after the win?
Of course! Life took a 360° turn after winning the title, and I must admit it’s been great! People have started to recognise me as Mr India, and many look up to my journey as inspirational. For me, the most important aspect of the win was that it proved to my parents that my decision to move to Mumbai was right. I have been getting many offers since; however, I have been a bit selective about what I choose.
How did you get into modelling?
I moved to Mumbai to be an actor, but I soon realised that because of my looks and my height I was getting more opportunities for ramp shows, and for print and television commercials. So I took on what came my way.
What was your first ad with Kareena Kapoor like?
It was one of those tough auditions in Mumbai with over 100 guys standing in line. My turn came after about three hours, and since I had seen a lot of good talent before me, I did not expect much from the audition. As luck would have it, I received a call from the production team saying I had been selected for the Malabar Jewellery advertisement as the lead opposite Kareena. I was elated and felt on top of the world during the shoot!
How did the foray into television happen?
The main purpose of coming to Mumbai was to become an actor… an extremely talented one! I don’t have any formal training in acting but I have done theatre and a few short films in Hyderabad. I auditioned for whatever came my way, from whichever source. I have sometimes given an audition over 20 times for the same production house too, but I was finally selected for the Channel V show for Million Dollar Girl.
How is life in Mumbai when compared to Hyderabad?
There is absolutely no comparison! When I first visited Mumbai I thought this was not the place for me, as life was too fast. People are all busy in their own lives and I had no one to confide in or be with! It is difficult to make friends here and work has to be your only priority. As time passed I started to fall in love with the energy of this city and the wonders it can do if you are hardworking and patient. The city has a lot to offer, but you have to work hard for it. I have become a workaholic and now realise that this is where I am going to spend the rest of my life, if all goes as planned.
Are films in the pipeline?
I am open to films as well as television, but I’m a bit choosy. Lots of things are happening and are in the pipeline, but I would rather wait for a good banner movie with a ‘heart-touching story’ that would ensure a good debut, rather than doing something just for the sake of entering the film industry.
Rohit on the ramp or on screen – what’s your pick?
I see myself as a good actor, and hence Rohit on the big screen! I want to live an actor’s life. However, if the ramp happens simultaneously, it would be great too.
How do you stay in shape?
Being born in a Marwadi family, my childhood was mostly spent eating rich Marwadi food where everything is prepared with butter as the main ingredient. When I realised that my heart’s desire was to be an actor, I started working on myself. I cut down on everything that was unhealthy. Being a vegetarian, my biggest source of protein was paneer, tofu, chickpeas, etc. Now I have a very strict diet plan, and I’m very particular about what goes into my body. I also do weight training four days a week, cardio on two days and give myself a day’s rest every week. My workout has become a passion and that keeps me motivated.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to read non-fiction and am currently reading a biography of Dilip Kumar written by Uday Tara Nayar. Besides this, I like going on long drives to unwind and spend some ‘me time’. I love watching movies and can do so all day. This helps me learn the nuances of acting from different perspectives. Meeting up with friends and spending quality time with them relaxes me.
What’s in store for the future?
The immediate focus is to be a good actor and make a name for myself in Bollywood. The long-term plan is to write a book on my journey. I believe in working hard and staying focused on achieving what I have always dreamt of being! I am confident that I am giving my best... whatever else has to happen will happen.
--- as told to Niharika