Rajeev Khandelwal seems to have gotten into a bad habit… that of surprising audiences with a concept-driven film every time he comes on screen. “It’s a habit that makes me think many times over before signing a film,” says the actor, whose first Rajshri production is not a band baajaa baaraat -variety dripping in Indian culture, but a slick detective flick titled Samrat & Co . releasing this Friday. “I was out of work for six months after Table No 21 and then came this call from Rajshri. I was thinking the obvious – this was my claim to be fame – my Prem! But Kavita Barjatya of Rajshri told me, ‘I know what you are thinking but this is as different from a typical Rajshri film as can be’. So that burst my bubble!” laughs the actor, adding, “What I loved was that this production house has retained the value system as handed down through the ages and even that mass appeal.”
Directed by Kaushik Ghatak, Samrat & Co is about Samrat, a detective with intuitive powers and superior intelligence who can crack cases with great ease. The story revolves around one case which puzzles even the master cracker. The film has been designed as a franchise and Rajshri has reportedly decided to go ahead with the sequels irrespective of the response to the first. “Kaushik wanted to make a true blue-detective film. It’s almost like a tribute to the genre. So even if I told him to do away with the overcoat and the hat, he’d refused, saying that he wanted it to be as authentic and out-of-the-novels as could be. I wasn’t allowed dramatizing any dialogues and he told me straight not to resort to any gimmickry! He gave me reference points for Feluda, Sherlock Holmes and even Byomkesh Bakshi, but I refused to watch anything; I only read stuff. I saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Brett’s portrayal only after I finished shooting,” he says.
The actor, who was the darling of the television audience with his portrayal of an obsessed lover in Kahin Toh Hoga , says that a romantic role in the movies has not been enticing enough. “I am not averse to romance as a genre. I would like to do it provided it’s an amazing soulful love story that is spoken about through time. Right now, all I get is stories that revolve around ‘Rajeev’s good looks’ or ‘a close up of Rajeev’s eyes’,” he laughs in exasperation. His next film, which he has finished shooting for, is Fever, directed by debutant Rajeev Zaveri. He plays multiple characters in the film and romances three beauties including Gauhar Khan, Gemma Atkinson (British pin-up model) and Ankita Makwana.