People like underdog stories in life and cinema: Rajkummar Rao


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Rajkummar Rao

Aspirations, big or small, are important, says actor Rajkummar Rao and as someone who has excelled in playing the everyday man in cinema, he is confident that his latest film “Chhalaang” will resonate with people.

The actor, who plays an unmotivated PT teacher finally rising to the challenge in the upcoming movie, believes people like to see characters that they can root for or relate to.

“People like underdog stories. People want to root for underdogs in life as well as in films, especially in films. They relate to these characters and feel that in a way he or she is one of us,” Rao told PTI in an interview. “At times, there are very small things that you want to achieve and when you do that, you realise there is a bigger goal. But those small aspirations are also important,” he added.

The Haryana-set film, written by Luv Ranjan and directed by Rao’s frequent collaborator Hansal Mehta, is the actor’s sixth project with the director. While their earlier films “Shahid”, “Citylights”, “Aligarh” and “Omerta” were serious stories, “Chhalaang” is a lighthearted comedy. “It is always fun working with Hansal sir and this time it is a lighthearted film so we were not tired. Otherwise, it gets mentally taxing sometimes. We had so much fun on this one but it was not like we were not honest to the story. That’s what we always do. It is just that it is a different world this time,” he said.

Rao’s filmography also boasts of films set in small towns, including critical and commercial successes like “Newton”, “Stree” and “Bareilly Ki Barfi”.
Asked about the abundance of small-town stories in Hindi cinema today, the 35-year-old actor said it was not necessarily a bad thing.

“Yes, we are making many small-town films but India is a big country. We are a population of 1.3 billion plus people and there are so many stories in each and every village and town of this country. So we have a lot of stories to tell.

“We have great literature and we will make stories as long as the audiences like them. But yes, in between, the time will change and something else will come along and we will start making those stories. But I think small towns are going to be there for some time,” the National Award winner added.

“Chhalaang” is not just a reunion for Rao and Mehta but it also gave the actor a chance to work with Nushrratt Bharuccha, his co-star in the actor’s debut film “Love Sex Aur Dhokha” and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who played his older brother in “Shahid”. “I don’t know why nobody took us in a film together. I think it was supposed to happen with ‘Chhalaang’,” Rao said about finally working with Bharuccha.

Unlike “Shahid”, Zeeshan and his characters are pitted against each other in the sports drama but they always have a great time together, Rao said. “He is a close friend and it is fun to work with friends. He has evolved so much as an actor. He has made his own identity. He has been doing such fantastic work. I am very happy and for his journey”.
After “Chhalaang”, the actor is eagerly awaiting the release of “Ludo”, Anurag Basu’s much anticipated ensemble drama. “I am huge fan of dada (Basu). He is an amazing guy,” Rao said.

The actor is also set to star in “Badhaai Do”, the next film in the “Badhaai Ho!” franchise, and said the shoot for the project will begin early next year.
“It is not a sequel. It is a great franchise. We are taking it forward with a different story and characters,” he added.

“Badhaai Ho!”, directed by Amit Sharma, is 2018 a comedy drama about a middle age couple, played by Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao, facing unexpected pregnancy. The film also starred Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra and Surekha Sikri. Meanwhile, “Chhalaang” is releasing on November 13 on Amazon Prime Video. It also stars Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik, Ila Arun and Jatin Sharma in pivotal roles. PTI BK RDS RDS

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Sagar Biswas

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