Mar 142018

In a very short time, 7 years in Bollywood, Rajkummar has created a niche for himself. A method actor who has officially studied method acting (at Film and Television Institute of India), Rajkummar Rao has worked his way in the industry with the quiet brilliance of an underdog. He is no Greek god, he has no godfathers in the industry, he is as middle class as the characters he plays; but he has one thing that’s most required but least emphasised – a knack for mastering the characters he plays.  

He can be as convincing as the middle class immigrant desperate to find a livelihood in a new city (in ‘City Lights’) as he can be as the young journalist Deepu Sebastian troubled by the tragic case of Prof Siras (in ‘Aligarh’). 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood© Instagram/Rajkummar Rao

Rajkummar Rao, who was born as Rajkummar Yadav in Gurgaon, Haryana, doesn’t try to overpower the role. He is the perfect catalyst to a well-written part. Rao has a grounded understanding of the roles he plays, an understanding that is free of the vanity and narcissism that often come naturally to an actor in the industry. He doesn’t try to overshadow everything else in the frame – he can merge in the background seamlessly enough but not without delivering the weight of reality to the frame. 

Rao knew from a young age acting was his calling, and he was prepared for the struggle that would come his way. That’s probably one of the reasons why he never shied away from stretching his limits for a role. While he starved himself to lose weight for his first film ‘Love, Sex and Dhokha’, he had no qualms doing it again for ‘Trapped’ where he nearly stopped eating. 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood© Relaince Entertainment

Only 7 years in the industry and he has already been through more than a handful of transformations for roles. To play Netaji Subash Chandra Bose in ‘Bose’, he gained an excess of 10-12 kilos, which he had to shed for a leaner look in ‘Fanney Khan’ for which he put himself on a diet of one bowl of dal in a day for 2 weeks. When you are living your dream, food is but a mere distraction. He is the industry outsider who has done the ritualistic struggler life in Mumbai – hustling for the big break, running out of money to eat in trying to stay afloat in tinsel town. 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood © Instagram/Rajkummar Rao

Rajkummar Rao doesn’t crave stardom, he craves excellence. He works more on each role than on his image as an actor. Perhaps that is why he worked in the industry without a PR or a management firm to handle his engagements so far. This is also one reason why he has chosen roles for their merit rather than their star value. 

“It will happen when it happens. Of course, I wouldn’t mind my films to become blockbusters. But I’m not really aiming for that. I can’t work thinking that, ‘let this film be a blockbuster’. And how can I make this film into one,” he said. 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood © Instagram/Rajkummar Rao

An intelligent choice of roles has worked a long way in keeping his talent relevant. A choice that was born out of a conviction for the work he was doing – Rao was clear from the beginning that he wouldn’t compromise on the quality of work he’d do. Even when he took on roles in mainstream entertainment movies, like that of the shallow boyfriend in ‘Queen’ or Vidrohi in ‘Bareily Ki Barfi’, it were roles that had meat enough to deliver a nuanced performance. 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood© Junglee Pictures

‘Newton’, the film Rajkummar Rao carried solely on his shoulders, besides the brilliant sketch by Amit V. Masurkar, was selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars. Though it did not win an Academy Award, it sent out a clear message that Rajkummar Rao had arrived. Rao has established his name with the likes of Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the industry, a feat that’s even more commendable at his age. 

The characters he has played have been diverse, just like a cross-section of the urban Indian population. He has been the government official desperately trying to do his job (Newton), he has been the small town simpleton easily bullied by the more street smart local boys and in the same movie he has played the over-smart opportunist who beats the hero at his own game. Every character finds a real and tangible reflection in reality. There’s something for everyone.  

It’s easy to relate to him, but it is also easy to dissociate with him when the character is too dark for our middle class sensibilities, just like we detach ourselves from the petty criminal killed in an encounter we read about in the newspaper. 

How Rajkummar Rao Carved A Niche For Himself In Bollywood© Swiss Entertainment

The trailer of Rajkummar Rao-starrer ‘Omerta’ has done well to tell us this could be another masterpiece by the actor. Rao said the role was easily the most difficult roles of his career. Considering he has aced roles like that of the lawyer-activist Shahid or the uptight government official in ‘Newton’, audiences will expect nothing less than brilliant from him. 

And once again, he will not disappoint.

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