A lot of hard work goes into the making of an effortless performance, says National Award winning actor Rajkummar Rao
Rajkummar Rao and his co-star Patralekha were among the Citylights team that spent a few days in a small hamlet near Sadri in Pali district, 150km from Udaipur in Rajasthan, observing the lifestyles of people in the area. “That’s my job. It’s necessary that I do enough groundwork so that my character, that of a migrant from Rajasthan, looks believable on screen. I observed people, their traits and tried to understand what they do and how they live,” he says.
Citylights is Rajkummar’s first release after he was conferred with the National Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the slain human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi in Shahid. The mention of the National Award brings a hearty smile but he doesn’t want the award to weigh on his shoulders. “I’ve been choosing films going by scripts I can connect to. That’s how I want it to be. I don’t want to select a film thinking I am a National Award winning actor,” he says.
People hated me in ‘Queen’, which is great. My character was not supposed to be likeable.
Rajkummar can play a solo lead, like in Shahid and Citylights, be a part of ensemble casts like in Shaitan, Chittagong and Kai Po Che and quietly shine in supporting roles like he did in Talaash and Queen. His filmography reveals an astute mind at work, trusting his instincts and choosing films that won’t be forgotten easily. “Nothing has come easy to me, since my days in Delhi. There’s a lot of hard work behind what appears like an effortless performance. I like to understand the context of a film and my character, but I don’t rehearse much. I prefer an organic method of work,” he says. The organic method of acting, he feels, makes the character appear spontaneous on screen.
As he basked in all the positive reviews to Shahid, he followed it up with a chauvinistic character in Queen. “The feedback was fabulous. People hated me in the film, which is great. My character was not supposed to be likeable,” he laughs.
Speaking about Citylights, he confesses he hasn’t watched the original British-Filipino film on which it is based. Like Hansal Mehta, he didn’t want to be influenced by the original. “I went by the script given to me and felt it would be better to approach the character from my perspective,” he says.
Citylights was initially to be directed by Ajay Bahl. Once he stepped aside, Rajkummar suggested Hansal Mehta’s name. “It was a co-incidence that the Bhatts had watched Shahid a couple of days ago, were impressed and keen to have Hansal Mehta on board,” says Rajkummar.
Short and impactful
The actor’s repertoire includes a three-minute short film titled Mumbai Mirror, directed by Shlok Sharma. “The film is four years old, but is being discussed in social media now,” he says.
Mumbai Mirror is a forceful short that shows how a secular person can turn communal in minutes. “We shot the film in two to three hours,” says Rajkummar, adding, “Whichever project I take up, I make an effort to relate to the characters. Citylights, for instance, is a story anyone can connect with. We see our cities teeming with lakhs of migrants. The story could happen anywhere.”