Rajkumar Yadav is soaring high post ‘Kai Po Che’. We talk to the actor whose most definitive work ‘Shahid’ is yet to release
Kai Po Che would have been just another buddy film but for Abhishek Kapoor’s compelling narrative of three friends torn between their dream and their loyalties in strife-torn Gujarat. The critical and commercial success of the film has lent wings to the careers of its protagonists. Not that Rajkumar Yadav needed another stamp of approval. His work in LSD, Shaitaan, Talaash, Gangs of Wasseypur 2 and Chittagong have done that for him. But nothing works like a blockbuster hit and Rajkumar has bagged some plum projects.
Rajkumar is the actor to watch out for this year, with his most definitive work till date, Shahid directed by Hansal Mehta, poised to release in India later this year.
“I choose my scripts very carefully, because if I go wrong and do two bad movies, there will be no one to back me,” says this Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, alumnus. The Gurgaon-bred Rajkumar did what a lot of children do — danced on stage in primary classes and took part in school dramas in IX and X standard. “I really loved being part of those dramas and continued to do theatre during graduation. I thought I should pursue it wholeheartedly and joined FTII,” says Rajkumar.
The journey from FTII to Mumbai’s film industry wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. But there was Facebook for help. “FTII gave me a lot of confidence. There’s a huge alumni family,” he laughs. Through Facebook, he connected with casting director Atul Mongia. “We had one mutual friend — Arindam, who was in the editing division of FTII,” says Rajkumar.
Through Atul Mongia, he auditioned for Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex Aur Dhoka. His work was noticed and appreciated by Ekta Kapoor and Ragini MMS came his way. Ardent film lovers nodded in approval of this intense actor who was quietly making his mark with Shaitaan, Chittagong and stood strong in presence of Aamir Khan in Talaash. “I am a huge fan of Aamir sir and that in itself was a big reason for me to do Talaash,” he says. A huge believer in destiny, he says, “I think Shahid, Talaash and Kai Po Che came to me at the right time of my career.”
Incidentally, he wasn’t the first choice for the role of Govind in Kai Po Che. He was rejected after the first round of auditioning. Later, casting director Mukesh Chabra came on board, went through the list of rejected names, found Rajkumar’s name on it and called him back. “Maybe the first time around, it wasn’t my day. Maybe I wasn’t my usual self and didn’t give it my best. But Mukesh sir was convinced I could do that role. By then, I was clear about how I had to portray Govind on screen,” says Rajkumar.
With the success of Kai Po Che, the prospects for Shahid, a hard-hitting tale of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, look brighter. “I grew as an actor with Shahid,” says Rajkumar. “When you play a real-life character, there’s a lot of responsibility. You cannot go wrong; you cannot afford to. Once I got in touch with Shahid Azmi’s emotional journey, I knew how to take it further.”
Shahid was screened in a number of international film festivals and received a roaring response in Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image festival. Tied down with his commitments, Rajkumar didn’t get to attend any of the international screenings. “Shahid is expected to release this June. I am looking forward to see how our audience responds to the film,” he says.
He has finished shooting for Mira Nair’s short film God Room, has signed Hansal Mehta’s next, Navdeep Singh’s NH10 co-starring Freida Pinto and Vikas Bahl’s Queen with Kangana Ranaut apart from two other big projects, details of which he will not disclose now. “I believed Kai Po Che was a good film but frankly, I didn’t know it would fetch me this kind of response. My responsibility has increased,” he says.