Over the past two decades, actor Rahul Dev has portrayed some of the meanest and the toughest baddies that we have come across in Hindi movies. The bad guy, with a linear image. Ironically his father was a celebrated cop. But Dev’s career trajectory has pivoted in the last few years, thanks to the diverse roles OTT dares to give actors, breaking the mould. In the comedy-drama series Who’s Your Daddy, he plays a retired soldier. Just as you get used to the image of the man in camouflage, he plays the suave dean in the medical thriller show LSD - Love, Scandal & Doctors.
While he is a sharp-witted cop investigating a murder in Avinash Das’ thriller Raat Baaki Hai, Dev returns to his element in Girish Malik’s action spine-chiller Torbaaz, essaying the role of the leader of a fundamentalist group. Dev is indeed elated to be bombarded with exciting roles. At the turn of the century when he migrated from the world of modelling like many of his peers to the silver screen, it was as the villain with a lean mean look in his hungry eyes. While the others fell by the wayside, Dev kept going from villainy to more villainy.
“When I started acting in the early 2000s, movies were all about the heroes and villains. You had to stick to tried-and-tested formulae to achieve success,” recollects Dev. “Today, the content has become a lot more diverse, and also there is a wider audience available that’s exposed to international shows. So the scope that the web offers is tremendous,” he adds.
Dev feels that things are changing for the better for everyone. “Just like the audiences are a lot more evolved now, so are the new generation of actors. Vicky Kaushal is my favourite. Then there is Ayushmann (Khurrana) and Rajkummar (Rao). The industry is giving an opportunity to actors to play challenging roles.” He believes that casting agents are pivotal to this change. “Sometimes, casting agents are more adventurous. They help you get close to a part that you want even though you may not fit the bill. How else has a Punjabi like me been able to do so many films in various south Indian languages? If you can convince people as a Tamilian or a Malayali, then you have done your job well as an actor,” explains Dev.
Dev’s most recent outing is the period epic series The Empire wherein he plays the part of the Mughal Emperor Babur’s confidant Wazir Khan. Interestingly, he took up a similar part, that of Princess Kaurwaki’s protector Bheema, in Santosh Sivan’s period epic Asoka exactly 20 years ago. “The two are, of course, separated by two decades and so we are talking about two decades of technological advancements in the filmmaking process. Back then we used to shoot on film and that came with its own set of challenges in comparison. The film stock, processing, and transfer cost used to be quite high,” recollects Dev. Not to mention that the scope for special effects back then was nowhere near what we have today, thanks to the digital shooting equipment. “A lot of the things which nowadays can be easily achieved in the studio using a green screen had to be shot the hard way back then.”
The veteran actor got severely injured during one of the training sessions for The Empire. As a result, he had to shoot a major battle scene with broken ribs. “My eighth and the ninth ribs were broken after I fell from a horse,” reveals Dev who was advised two months of bed rest by his doctor. Needless to say, the actor was in great pain throughout the scene. “When you have a rib injury you are severely restricted. But when you are shooting a war scene then you have to move around a lot. I am grateful that it all went well in the end.” If versatility defines an actor, you don’t have to look further than Rahul Dev. In a long-time relationship with actress Mugdha Godse, there is no sign of the villain he would play in the softspoken actor.
The Empire, 2021: Emperor confidant Wazir Khan (left)
Raat Baaki, 2021: Cop
Who’s Your Daddy, 2020: Retired army personnel
Torbaaz, 2020: Leader of a fundamentalist group
LSD-Love, Scandal and Doctors, 2020: Hospital Dean