Rajkummar Rao talks to Shama Bhagat about his latest release, Monica, O My Darling, and his plans to venture into production and direction.
You apparently agreed to do Monica, O My Darling, a quirky dark comedy, in one go. What made you do so?
Who would say no to a project in which Sriram Raghavan (who chose Keigo Higashino’s Japanese novel Burutasu No Shinzou that the film is based) is involved? Plus, it was produced by Netflix and directed by Vasan Bala. There was no reason not to do the film. The moment I read the story, I said yes.
This is the first time you have worked with both Radhika Apte and Huma Qureshi. What were your takeaways?
I was waiting to work with them. They’re both phenomenal actors. I hope I can do more films with the two.
You have never shied away from working with young or new directors, be it Amar Kaushik for Stree, Amit V Masurkar for Newton, or Shelly Chopra Dhar for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Weren’t you ever worried that working with an inexperienced director might be a risk?
When I came to Mumbai with the dreams of becoming an actor, I had already risked my life in terms of my career. I struggled in the hope that someone would cast me in their film, and what happened over the years has been remarkable. I got to work with the best and most talented lot and they have been kind to me. Looking back, it was never really a risk, because it has given me tremendous results and I have no reason to complain.
You have earlier said that now you want to do films with interesting roles, rather than choosing them just for emotional reasons. What do you mean by that?
In the past, I did certain films just because a friend was involved. I was new and would let emotions get the best of me. Not anymore. I think one must take up work wholeheartedly. If I do not truly believe in the project, it will harm the film as well as my career. For every film I take up, I need to give my hundred per cent because people are investing so much time, money and energy into it.
There have been reports about you hiking your remuneration. Has money ever been a reason to reject a part that you liked?
My remuneration depends on the budget of the film, who is making it, and the intention behind making the film. We all need money, but I have never refused a role because of it. I have always believed that one must keep working hard and money will follow. Don’t chase or run after it.
Several young actors are also dabbling in production. Is that something you are looking to explore?
I do want to produce films someday. I have some ideas that I would like to turn into scripts. That, however, requires patience. I have to sit with a writer and draft stories. It takes time. I have narrated
a few stories to my writer- friends and while they love my ideas, it will take a while to process everything.
Is film direction something that you are interested in?
I try to involve myself in every aspect of filmmaking. I turn a ghost assistant director on most of my film sets and everyone who has worked with me has said I would be a good director. I, however, have not made any plans yet. For now, I want to act, especially because I am getting interesting roles and I am hungry for more.
You have been married to Patralekha Paul for over a year now. How do you make time for each other with such a busy schedule?
Considering both of us are actors, we always knew our schedules would be busy, and were prepared for the journey. But now we live together and, luckily, both of us are shooting in Mumbai now.
Tell us about your upcoming movies.
There’s Raj and DK’s Netflix series Guns & Gulab and Anubhav Sinha’s Bheed, both of which are expected to release later this year. I am also doing Mr & Mrs Mahi, based on the story of cricketer and former team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with Janhvi Kapoor. It’s a Dharma Production film directed by Sharan Saxena.
Rajkummar Rao: ‘If I do not truly believe in the project, it will harm the film as well as my career. For every film I take up, I need to give my hundred per cent because people are investing so much time, money and energy into it.’