An ode to Bollywood’s Crown Prince | Rajkummar Rao | by Vibhor Chadha

A few years ago, I had read a book called “The Secret”. Throughout the book, the author repeatedly stressed on the power of belief; in yourself, in your dreams and in your courage to overcome what obstacles may come in your way. She called it the Law of Attraction: When you put your whole being into achieving a dream and you have absolute and irrevocable faith in it, then even the universe will put it in all its effort to make sure you get it. The life of Rajkummar Rao, at its core, is a tremendous evidence of this theory. Rajkummar Rao, or Rajkumar Yadav as he was known prior to his film career taking off, was born and brought up in a lower middle class joint family in old Gurgaon. His father, a Government employee in the Revenue department, had to support Rajkummar and two more children. Suffice it to say, since a young age, Rajkummar has been accustomed to hardships in his day to day life.

In an industry wrought with Nepotism, Rao knew he had to stay grounded and persevere

Bitten by the acting bug at the age of fifteen, Rao realised that only through grit and hard-work would he be able to pursue his dream. Post schooling, he took up commerce at a Delhi University college, and simultaneously did theatre. Once formal education was over, he started focusing entirely on acting, and fortunately for him (or as I like to think of it, the universe’s doing), in 2008, the Film and Television Institute of India opened its, hitherto closed down for 25 years , course in “Method Acting”. Rajkummar had found his calling in life! Two years down the line, he was ready to take on the world. As is natural, a lot of obstacles came in his way: average looks, a thin body type, no prior connections to the industry whatsoever. He struggled for a good part of two years post coming to Mumbai to make a career in films, being rejected at multiple auditions. But here is what differentiated him from the rest of the pack. He believed in himself. He had faith. He persevered and never lost sight of his dream. As he puts it – “There were many moments of doubt in those times of struggle. But that doubt was never in my skills or if I didn’t have it in me. It was if the industry will ever truly understand what I wanted to offer”. He did not have a lot of time on his hands though, as he had his parents and younger siblings back home to support. Despite that, he has maintained that if films hadn’t worked out, he would have shifted to theatre, as he loved acting too much to let it go.

As he puts it – “There were many moments of doubt in those times of struggle. But that doubt was never in my skills or if I didn’t have it in me. It was if the industry will ever truly understand what I wanted to offer”.

Fortune smiled upon him soon though, in the form of Dibakar Banerjee and Love, Sex and Dhokha. Rajkummar finally landed a meaty role and gave his heart and soul to it, receiving praises for his performance from critics and industry watchers alike. He was then selected for a major role in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2, but a large part of his role was left out in the final script. However, Rao couldn’t say no to the chance to work with a Master like Anurag Kashyap so early in his career. And soon, Shahid happened. This was the true turning point in Rao’s career. The entire industry was forced to look up and take stock of the young National Award Winner and acknowledge that a powerhouse of enormous talent had entered their fold.

Rao in in the National Award winning film Shahid

Rao, then, tasted commercial success with Kai Po Che, turning him into a bankable crowd puller and on whom the producers could stake their money. The actor attributes his acting finesse to the extensive preparation he does for every role. He swears by Method Acting and tries to imbibe the perfection of Marlon Brando and Daniel Day Lewis in his style. Not many know that as part of preparation for his role in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped, Rao survived on a diet of one coffee and one carrot for 21 days, just to get in the mindset of the person who has no resources at his disposal. He lost 7 kgs in that time span. Reminds one of Heath Ledger during his preparation for The Dark Knight. He has recently gained 11 kgs for his role as Subhash Chandra Bose in Ekta Kapoor’s upcoming Web Series. Looking at the roles Rao has taken up over the past few years, it seems that he is keen to do roles that challenge his acting prowess and help him to grow not only as an actor but also as a human being. Each and every character he has played, has been unconventional in itself be it in Shahid, Citylights, Aligarh, Newton or the upcoming Bengali movie Ami Saira Bano, where he plays a transgender. He has his heart in the right place and through this medium he is avidly trying to bring about awareness on multiple issues plaguing the country.

Last, but surely not the least, many congratulations to him and the entire team of Newton for the Oscar Nomination. This in itself speaks volumes about this fantastic actor’s work. Much love!


About the writer

Vibhor Chadha is an off-the-cuff movie-watcher. It should just strike a chord with the person that he is, and with his pysché. Watching movies is not just a hobby anymore. It’s a way to kick back and de-stress at the end of a hectic office day. Even as we speak he is watching The light between oceans ( starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander). The movies he chooses to watch should resonate within and it should feel like he has watched something which has added value to his life. For him, it never was and will never be just entertainment.

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