I Had to Shave Half My Head for ‘Bose’: Rajkummar Rao

He is the man of the moment. Riding high on the success of Bareilly ki Barfi and Newton, National Award-winning actor Rajkummar Rao is back with the web series Bose: Dear/ Alive. The Quint caught up with the actor to talk about his delightfully varied roles, the Padmavati controversy and working with Hansal Mehta and partner Patralekhaa.

Tune right in!

What all did your transformation into playing Bose entail? Also, you must have based your interpretation of Bose on video footage that exists of him, what is the most striking aspect of his personality?

Rajkummar Rao: Well, my transformation mainly started physically. I started with gaining weight, I gained almost 12 Kgs and then I shaved my head half to get the physicality right. There was an internal transformation also which included reading a lot of books on his life, then I also read his autobiography. I watched a lot of videos available on the net which helped me get the looks and the body language absolutely on point. The script I was given was very well researched, it gave me a sense of the character. I felt how fearless he was by nature - he chose his own path and stood by his ideologies, he never gave up on anything.

Your recent characters have been quite varied like in Bareily ki Barfi, Newton, Trapped and now Bose - how demanding is it of you as an actor to keep doing different avatars?

Rajkummar Rao: It totally depends on the character I am playing. I don’t like playing a character just for the heck of it. If my character demands something, it is my responsibility to do it. I make all the efforts to fulfill the need and demands of my character. If my character demands a weight gain, I will gain it, if it demands to lose weight, I will lose it. That is my job, though it is very challenging at a point. Like for Bose, I had to shave half of my head. I couldn’t do anything for six to seven months, but I chose to do it because that was what was needed. This is the basic process. There is no other alternative.

There was a time when a film actor doing a web series was looked down upon. Do you think that attitude is changing- since known directors are making web series and there’s a Saif Ali Khan doing a Netflix show and so on?

Rajkummar Rao: I don’t think this is the perception, at least I don’t look at it this way. An actor should always be looking at stories. There is a digital trend and its power is immense. In the West, this trend is being followed for years now -the biggest actors have done web series. Though for India it is a new concept, but I am sure we all know the power of the digital platform today. Now India has a very wide audience who consume web series. If it is a great story and the content is great, I don’t see any harm in working on a web series. If I talk about Bose, it is grand. Plus, the people who have worked on it are all from film world like Ekta Kapoor, and then Patralekhaa.

This is the second time you are working with Patralekhaa. What are the pros and cons according to you of working together with a partner?

Rajkummar Rao: We try to maintain a relation as professional actors on sets when we are doing a scene together. At that time it is only about the character. When we are together on sets of course it is fun. She is one of the most brilliant actors I have worked with. The coordination with her makes my job easy as an actor. We both get to spend some time together, which normally we don’t because we both are busy with work. So, we do get the benefit of hanging out together. There are times when we see certain rumors making headlines but we don’t look at them, we keep on working.

Rajkummar and Patralekhaa all smiles on a vacation.

How difficult has been the struggle to make the industry aware that you can shoulder a film yourself?

Rajkummar Rao: I wouldn’t call it a struggle. I will say I have been constantly working. I don’t have a plan, I don’t have any target to achieve. I just want to work the way I have been working and produce good work. I want to grow as an actor.

After the Harvey Weinstein case in Hollywood, several Hindi film actors have spoken about being propositioned by film-makers or producers. What are your thoughts about sexual harassment in the film industry?

Rajkummar Rao: I am very sure it exists everywhere - not only the film industry. I feel, it is very important to voice out your opinion if you are a victim because silence will only empower such predators.

Filming stories around a historical character is a tough job in India. What is your take on what is happening with Padmavati?

Rajkummar Rao: I feel state authorities should definitely stand up against such people. If we as an industry are making something and we are abiding by the laws, the states should definitely stand by us. We do expect support from them.

After working with Hansal Mehta in critically appreciated films like City Lights and Shahid, again you are working with him. How is he able to extract such good work out of you?

Rajkummar Rao: Hansal and I are not just working together, he is more like family. He always offers me such amazing roles, they are full of challenges and I as an actor love taking challenges. He understands me really well as an actor. It has been seven years, so we know what the other wants. I understand him and he understands me. There is definitely understanding and a trust factor that we share. There is a way of storytelling and there are certain stories we do believe in and we believe in telling them together to the world. He is one of the finest person to work with in the industry, and I am fortunate to work with him.

Rajkummar strikes a pose with director Hansal Mehta. 

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