In Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal — a new Netflix India Original film released on November 30 — veteran actor Rishi Kapoor plays a widowed father who uses social media to bond with his emotionally distant son, portrayed by debutant Anirudh Tanwar.
The comedy-drama explores the role of technology in both widening and lessening the generational gap between parents and children, as Kapoor repurposes the defunct Facebook profile of a young girl (played by Amyra Dastur) to strike up a friendship with his inward and resentful son. Rajma Chawal had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October followed by a screening at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
“Nothing compares to the reach and popularity of Netflix (190 countries, around 130 million viewers). Initially, I too had fantasies of watching my debut on the big screen with people coming and hugging me outside theatres. However, when I see the response Rajma Chawal is racking up on social media, I feel very fortunate and overwhelmed to have debuted in the digital space,” the actor told us in an interview in Mumbai.
Bollywood is finally sitting up and acknowledging the power of streaming platforms. How empowering is this change for a debutant?
In the theatrical space, there’s a lot of hungama and noise for the first two-three days but everything dies down really quickly — at least in the case of films with new actors. On Netflix, however, a film is allowed to grow. Once Rajma Chawal began streaming, I got messages from everyone I’d ever known in my life — including teachers and friends from my school days — who told me they had seen and loved the film. Moreover, the timing was lucky for us since Netflix doesn’t have too many Indian Originals at the moment.
Will you be willing to return to the digital space for your second film?
I won’t have second thoughts about returning to digital. I am just looking for two things. I want people to see my work and notice me. I want to push myself to the next level by doing more challenging work.
As a newcomer, is it important to build a certain credibility with the kind of films you do in the future?
I’ve strongly believed in this since the beginning. There’s a lot of hard work and time that gets invested in making a movie, so if you really want to commit to a project — it better be something you truly believe in.
Before Rajma Chawal, I was offered two to three films which were very run-of-the-mill stories, with characters who were rock-stars with bikes and went to college. But it really did not appeal to me. When i read the script of Rajma Chawal, I realized it had genuine emotional elements to play with.
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