“I always knew I was not meant for a desk job” – Rukshar Dhillon

Anish Mohanty

Rukshar Dhillon participated in a reality show when she was in high school but contrary to what one would expect, she decided to stay away from show business and focus on her studies. A few years later, after completing her graduation studies, she finally made her film debut with the Kannada film ‘Run Antony’. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her debut Hindi feature film ‘Bhangra Paa Le’, the delay in the release of the film, going through intensive dance-based training for the film, her journey from being a teenager on a reality show to becoming a star in Telugu cinema, desire to become a chef and more.

Did you audition for Bhangra Paa Le?

Yes, I did. I was shooting for ‘ABCD’; we had a schedule break in between and I came back home during that time. The casting team of ‘Bhangra Paa Le’ got in touch with me and asked me to do a self-test. They had given me a scene, and two songs – one was a bhangra number and the other was a hip-hop track. A week later, I got a call from them. They told me I have been shortlisted and I need to come down to Mumbai for a meeting.

A while back, there were rumours about the film being directly released on a streaming platform. This, being your first Hindi film, were you upset with the rumours?

Honestly, as actors we do not get involved with these things. All we try is to do our best in front of the camera. The makers decided to delay the film a bit as they just wanted it to be in the best possible form and get the maximum visibility possible. I am not thinking about what happened in the past. I am just looking at what is ahead. I hope the film is received well by the audience.

This is an out-and-out dance based film. Did you have to train hard for it?

Yes, we had to work very hard as we are not just actors who are dancing in the film. We are playing professional dancers and had to come across as ones in the film. We underwent intensive training.  The film is actually very rooted. We knew very little about bhangra when we started out. Most people in India are familiar with bhangra but they are not aware of the finer nuances of it. Under bhangra, there are various sub-categories which we have tried to bring to the forefront in the film. In the film, we are also showing how it is connected to people’s emotions and culture.

Being a trained dancer must have helped.

I have done a few workshops and short courses. I always enjoyed dancing but bhangra or hip-hop were never my forte. Most of the dance classes teach you Bollywood style dance at best but they do not conduct specialised bhangra classes.

Your journey in showbiz started with MTV Teen Diva. You participated in the show when you were very young. Were you always inclined towards acting or creative arts?

I always wanted to do something creative. I always knew I was not meant for a desk job. I never took part in MTV Teen Diva hoping to become an actor or a model. I was a big fan of the first season and when they were auditioning for the second season, I shifted to Bangalore from Goa and decided to audition for it. I was in higher secondary at that time. I did some little work here and there after the show but back then, my focus was on my studies. After I graduated, I got my first Kannada film. That is when I realised that acting is what I enjoyed doing the most.

What are the major differences you see between the Southern and the Hindi film industry?

Honestly, I do not see any major difference. By the time, I got into the Kannada or the Telugu industry, people had started  making realistic films. The people I worked with had new-age sensibilities and were very aware of the kind of cinema which was being made across the globe. I had to struggle with the language initially as I could not speak Telugu or Kannada as well as my Hindi. In fact, when I was shooting for ‘Bhangra Paa Le’, there were people on the set who had worked with me in my Telugu film. So, I guess the lines between the different industries are blurring.

You live in Bangalore with your family. Is it difficult to work across different industries?

Initially, my goal was to get into Hindi cinema as I was a big Bollywood buff. I ended up making my debut with a Kannada film and then, did a couple of Telugu films. South industry became a major acting school for me as I did not know much about acting then. Finding a house in Mumbai was the most difficult part. It was difficult to struggle for a while but now when I think about that phase, I have a big smile on my face.

You have studied fashion designing. Would you like to take that interest forward – maybe open a label of your own someday?

I have studied fashion designing but I actually wanted to become a chef. My ideal retirement plan would be to open a restaurant or to open an auditorium where people can come and perform.

After ‘Bhangra Paa Le’, do you plan to continue working in the south?

I do not differentiate between industries or languages. I just look for a good script and a good role.

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