Yeh Khula Aasman is slated for release in theatres in May this year
From playing a subservient babu to a British officer to portraying the megalomaniac German dictator Adolf Hitler, he has essayed a variety of characters on the big screen. And now for the first time seasoned actor Raghubir Yadav is playing a senior citizen in an unconventional social drama.
In Yeh Khula Aasman slated for release in theatres across the country in May this year, Raghubir is playing a grandfather who believes in the old-world principles. He is playing Dadaji to Avinash, a docile young boy, played by Raj Tandon.
Raghubir, whose portrayal of Francis Massey in his debut film Massey Sahib won him not just critical acclaim but also countless loyal fans, says he enjoys playing characters that he has not performed before either on the big screen or television.
“Such a role challenges the actor inside me to come up with something extraordinary. To give such a performance requires a great deal of planning and deep understanding of what the director actually wants from me. Though I have played diverse characters, I have never played an old man who has a loving grandson looking for guidance,” he says.
For this role, Raghubir took a trip down memory lane when he used to visit his maternal grandfather at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. “My reel character is quite similar to my late Nanaji, who used to encourage not only me but also every child he knew in his locality. So delving into my childhood memories helped me play the role of Dadaji. Then I also interacted with elderly folks in Bhagalpur in Bihar and learnt about their perspective towards life.”
The senior actor says the film revolves round Avinash, a young boy going through an extremely depressive phase of his life due to consistent academic failures. As his busy NRI parents are unable to give him time, he feels an immense vacuum in his life. Therefore, he decides to visit his grandfather's house after several years.
The film's unique selling point is the boy's deep bonding with Dadaji (Raghubir) who imparts lessons of life using the kite as a metaphor.
“The grandfather clutches to old-values and principles of life that have become alien to today's generation. He is fond of kite-flying and patang has been intelligently used by the film-maker to tell important facts of life,” observes Raghubir.
In this journey, Avinash realises so many unexplored yet invaluable facts of life. He discovers true friendship, love and inspiration to lead a life full of hope, joy and success.
“After watching the film, one will realise that there is an Avinash inside every young boy and girl and a Dadaji inside every grandfather who because of our current social structure has been very unfortunately kept apart,” says the actor.
Asserting that Yeh Khula Aasman is not a run-of-the-mill commercial film, Raghubir says like Aamir Khan Productions' much talked about comic satire Peepli Live it is connected with problems facing the common man. “The script must appeal to the viewers. People who watched Peepli Live could emotionally relate to farmers' woes. As the film dealt with contemporary issue (concerning farmers' suicide) it did well at the box office.”
Yeh Khula Aasman has been shot in the badlands of Bhagalpur that became notorious after an ugly blinding incident was reported.
But the actor claims that he is ignorant of the issue. “Even if such an incident occurred I cannot say anything. I am not aware of it. Maybe the film's first-time director Geetanjali Sinha who hails from the same city can shed some light on it. All I can say is that this unfortunate incident has not been shown in our film.”
Though the film is Geetanjali's directorial venture, she did a lot of homework by receiving training in the art of film-making at Subhash Ghai's Whistling Woods International. “Geetanjali has articulately written the script. While reading it, I could make out that Geetanjali is a sensible and sensitive writer who would give a good treatment to the subject.”
Before landing in Bihar, Raghubir was quite apprehensive of shooting there because he feared that the Bollywood-crazy fans would become unmanageable and disrupt shooting. “Fortunately nothing of that sort happened. In fact, the locals cooperated with us and the shooting for 25 days finished peacefully without any delay by extraneous problems,” says Raghubir, who for the first time has done a film that has been shot in Bihar.
The journey from his debut film Massey Sahib to Gandhi to Hitler has been one of a constant struggle for Raghubir.
“When I started my journey in the Hindi film industry,” he recalls, “I was ready to fight all kinds of obstacles. I was clear about what kind of films I wanted to be associated with. The kind of roles I want to do are written only by select scriptwriters. But I am willing to wait till I get signed for the right film. For me a film is either good or bad. I do not categorise them as parallel or commercial cinema.”
“ Massey Sahib gave viewers a glimpse of the period when the British were ruling the country. It was a special film and I was fortunate enough to win the confidence of film-maker-cum-environmentalist Pradip Krishen who offered me a well-researched role. He saw in me an actor of tremendous potential while I was acting in a play at the National School of Drama,” he adds.
Even though he does not openly admit in so many words, Raghubir is disappointed that despite his efforts to play with conviction the controversial character of Adolf Hitler in the recently released Gandhi to Hitler , the film turned out to be a disaster at the box office. “Just like too many cooks spoil the broth, too many people associated with one project make the film move in different trajectories. That was the main reason why Gandhi to Hitler did not do well.”