INTERVIEW | ‘Best PR is word of mouth’: Rajkummar Rao

INTERVIEW | ‘Best PR is word of mouth’: Rajkummar Rao

Rajkummar Rao speaks to Puja Talwar about his packed year with four releases, playing a brilliant blind man in Srikanth, and what determines his film choices

With four releases, 2024 seems like a Rajkummar Rao film festival. There’s Srikanth, Mr and Mrs Mahi, Vicky Vidya Ka Woh Wala Video and Stree 2. Does that feel pressurising?

I am currently tired of all the promotions, but it also helps me stay connected to everyone. So, I would always choose this moment where I can offer the audience four diverse films in terms of genre and treatment.

I don’t calculate or strategise too much, about whether I should balance a comedy with an action film. If I read a script and like it, I go ahead. Sometimes, the filmmaker and their vision could be a catalyst. The externals don’t bother me;

I love my work, being on set, and the process of playing my characters. The response towards Srikanth has been overwhelming, and audience feedback is imperative for me.

Srikanth, which is inspired by the true story of industrialist Srikanth Bolla, who was not only the first visually impaired international student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but also went on to set up a successful business. What was it about his story that struck a chord with you, and what was the prep like?

His journey inspired me, as well as his joie de vivre and the determination to succeed. He came from humble beginnings and I was moved by how he overcame the challenges. His accomplishments were not easy to achieve, and being visually impaired made it even tougher. His is the classic underdog story, one of perseverance and defying all odds. Not many people know of him and I thought it would be exciting for me to bring Srikanth’s story to the world. I was nervous, but that’s where the fun is.

Lately, low to mid-budget films such as 12th Fail and Laapata Ladies have been achieving phenomenal success at the box office, even as mega-budget productions are failing to make a mark. Your thoughts.

If it is a good film, it will find its audience irrespective of budget. Also, I feel the best PR today is a strong word of mouth. It was apparent in the case of 12th Fail and Laapata Ladies, as well as southern films such as Manjummel Boys and Premalu. People celebrated these films for content, performances and everything that makes good, and engaging cinema.

I received the National Award for Shahid, but it was made on a budget of only Rs 65 lac. Although Hansal sir and I were proud of it, we had no idea how it would be received. The recognition it got only reaffirmed that honest content will always touch a chord. It is a great time for those of us who love telling these stories and am glad that the audience wants to watch them on the big screen.

Rajkummar Rao as Srikanth
Rajkummar Rao as Srikanth

You have completed 14 years in the industry. How has your approach towards work evolved over time?

My attitude is the same—I go on the set with the excitement and wonderment of a child.

I don’t take things for granted, nor do I get complacent.

I continue to be nervous and scared as soon as I sign a film, thinking about whether I will be able to pull off a character. That is something that will never change. Of course, I have grown as an actor, which also comes with an understanding of life and the experience of working with directors like Hansal Mehta, Amar Kaushik, Tushar Hiranandani and Sharan Sharma. My film choices are instinctive, but also driven by working with filmmakers who I know will push my limits and urge me to step out of my comfort zone.

Your next film is Mr and Mrs Mahi with Janhvi Kapoor, followed by Vicky Vidya ka Woh Wala Video with Tripti Dimri. What can you tell us about these projects?

Mr and Mrs Mahi is a relationship drama with a big heart. It is a truly inspiring story of aspirations, dreams and egos. It has something to offer to every couple. This would be followed by Stree 2, which comes with yet another strong message. Vicky aur Vidya Ka Woh Wala Video is perhaps one of the funniest films I have done. It also has a bunch of talented actors such as Vijay Raaz and Rakesh Bedi.

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