With "Shahid" and "Citylights", Rajkummar Rao is being touted as one of the more talented actors of contemporary Indian cinema. He is, however, disturbed by the fact that people consider him only for "serious" roles, and says he is keen to play an action hero and a die-hard romantic too.
In a tete-a-tete, the young "Love Sex Aur Dhoka" actor has spoken about his career, his hopes and his projects.
Q. Suddenly every filmmaker wants a piece of you, so much so that you had to opt out of Rajkumar Gupta's adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's "Revolution 2020"?
A. Yes, that's very unfortunate. I am a big fan of Chetan Bhagat's writing and was looking forward to being in another screen version of his fiction after 'Kai Po Che!'. Sadly, I had to opt out because the dates clashed with Ramesh Sippy-ji's film which I was committed to do for a long time. Anyway, no regrets. I am sure there will be many more novels by Chetan Bhagat going into cinema.
Q. You are all set to dance with Malaika Arora Khan in "Dolly Ki Doli"?
A. Yes, I am really looking forward to that. Not too many people in the film industry know this. But I love to dance. They think of me as this serious actor who wouldn't be caught having fun on his feet. But friends now how I freak out when the music blares. Sajid-Wajid have composed a really wicked track. I can't wait to get into the groove.
Q. You were praised to the skies for "Citylights"?
A. Yes, the critics were kind. I take some seriously, some not so seriously. But I know the mistakes that I made in "Citylights".
Q. After "Shahid" and "Citylights", your career has gone into a different league?
A. I have to admit these two films have changed my career. There was also 'Kai Po Che!'. I think these three films gave me a commercial credibility beyond recognition. I also began to see and like myself on the posters. Yeah, I've become a poster boy.
Q. Would you consider "Shahid" a turning point in your career?
A. I think Dibaker Banerjee's "Love Sex aur Dhokha" (LSD), Hansal Mehta's "Shahid" and Abhishek Kapoor's "Kai Po Che!" ... these three were decisive.
Q. How do you regard the increased volume of recognition that you get from audiences?
A. I have to admit it has increased. That has a lot to do with "Kai Po Che!", "Queen" and the National Award for "Shahid". I accept the recognition humbly.
Q. I believe you've decided not to do supporting roles?
A. Yes, "Queen" and now "Dolly Ki Doli" would be the last of my supporting roles. I am consciously trying not to do smaller parts. I will only do leading roles now. But if someone offers me "Satya", I'd agree to play Bhiku Mhatre instead of the title role. Fortunately, no one is offering me supporting roles.
Q. Do you get time and space to be Rajkummar Rao?
A. Ha ha. The last two years I've been completely consumed by my characters in "Shahid" and "Citylights". So yes, it's been a while since I met Rajkummar. But it's okay. I am not missing him. I am just coming out of my character in "Citylights". And I'm missing him. It's like going on holiday with a friend, spending every waking hour with him and then not seeing him after the holiday ends.
Q. Do you miss being with yourself?
A. Work is more important than my own space. I am happy I am getting the kind of roles I want. I think I will take time off for myself before I start shooting for my next film.
Q. You've done so many serious films, do you want to do some hero-panti?
A. I'd love to bash up 20 people, dance and romance beautiful girls. I've no inhibitions about playing any character. But the script should make sense to me.
Q. Okay, "Citylights" or "Shahid", which is your favourite?
A. Very tough to say. I give all of myself to all my characters. Even the s***bag I played in "Ragini MMS". Both my characters in "Shahid" and "Citylights" are heroic. I am in Hindi cinema at just the right time. Five years ago, I wouldn't have got a "Shahid" or "Citylights". To me, my character, the story and then the producer -- these are the three aspects I look into before I accept an offer.