Joined: 10 June 2009
I am not the kind of guy who gloats over success or gets depressed due to failures. I like staying pretty neutral. I worked quite hard for the film and that has paid off. It's a great feeling that my choice of film has worked once again.
"I don't have a wish list of directors or heroines to work with"
Heightened emotions, intense and melancholic dialogues, extreme close-ups and excessive consumption of glycerin, from all this to a raw, subtle and serious portrayal of real life situations and characters, Rajeev Khandelwal has rubbished pre-conceived notions that television actors don't make for good cinema actors. In fact, he has emerged as a dependable actor whose gritty and intriguing performances have won him many accolades for his on screen acts. In his tete-a-tete with Stardust, the ambitious actor, who's ecstatic with the response that Shaitan has garnered, chats about his next release Soundtrack and reveals his desire to become an indispensible part of youth centric new age cinema.
H is gritty debut, Aamir, made filmmakers sit up and take notice of telly world's then very hot and happening, young and talented lead actor, Rajeev Khandelwal. In cinema, he may not have been the quintessential hero material but his extraordinary choice of scripts did bring him an edge over other hero aspirants. Once again, in yet another unconventional film, Shaitan, Rajeev's performance has this time stood out amidst a crowd of no less talented 'looker' actors. Fresh from the film's success, Rajeev is ecstatic over the response garnered by the film, "I feel overwhelmed and extremely happy that my second film has also done well. I am not the kind of guy who gloats over success or gets depressed due to failures. I like staying pretty neutral. I worked quite hard for the film and that has paid off. It's a great feeling that my choice of film has worked once again. I had really not expected such a tremendous response but I am humbled with all the positive feedback that I have been getting from everyone."
So what's the Shaitan (evil aspect) in Rajeev Khandelwal like? "I sweet talk all my friends whenever they plan to go out, and instead call them over to my place. I like staying at home and eating home cooked food. Even though I promise my friends to visit them, I always end up calling them home. I am a sweet talker and I end up fooling them," he quips. "But there is nothing constantly evil in me. The evil side of mine comes in different forms on different days, like there are times when I am really naughty, or when I am really angry or frustrated. But I am able to identify my shaitan and nib the evil in the bud itself."
With Shaitan, he returns to the silver screen almost after three years. Talking about the long hiatus post Aamir, he says, "I don't know how to answer these whys, I work at my own pace, that's how I follow my career. I like doing things my way. This break wasn't really intended but it just happened. It never bothered me because I was busy doing many other things in life. I had also shot for a film Peter Gaya Kaam Se. I wanted it to be my second release. But due to some reasons it was canned. That's why I hadn't taken any other project. So once I realised that the film is not happening, even though I had shot for it, I decided to work ahead. I started reading scripts, meeting people and that is when I signed my other films."
Some actors sign many projects in a year and are seen in multiple films, whereas Rajeev believes otherwise. He avers that it is more important to concentrate on delivering great performances and regaling the audience with quality films. But much to my amusement, Rajeev informs that he had actually first declined the offer to act in Shaitan. To an extent, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap's backing the project had affirmed his faith in the script and only then did he sign the film. "Anurag came into the project much later. I had declined (director) Bejoy's script when he had come to me about a year and a half back because then I had felt that he needed to work more on the script and also there wasn't any producer on board. He however, kept coming back to me and chasing me. But when he came with his final draft I was mighty impressed with the script. I liked his focus and passion. But I wanted a producer who would believe in the film. So when Anurag called me up saying 'Shaitan karte hain,' I thought that at least the film will be made with the right intent. He has done justice to the project. There couldn't have been a better producer than Anurag Kashyap for Shaitan." All praise for the nonconformist director, he continues, "In any case I wouldn't have said no to him. I look up to that man. He is a super intelligent guy and a wonderful human being. He was the creative producer for Aamir. So he holds a special place in my heart."
Though having the maverick filmmaker Anurag on board, can assure an actor of being in a challenging space, on the flip side, his films however cater only to a certain audience. Moreover, Rajeev's too is a shared and limited screen space in the film. Considering the bickering, actors often resort to over the length of their screen timing, Rajeev however is far from any apprehensions or insecurities. "I wouldn't have done the film if I had any kind of doubts. I don't say yes to any film without reading its script. I have my interactions with my director. I know exactly what I do. If I pick up something then I am sure of myself. A film is not about an actor, it is about the director. We are all a part of the film. A film belongs to the director. Shaitan is Bejoy Nambiar's film and I am very happy to be associated with it."
Point noted, but does he feel left out in the mainstream arena, "I am seeking everything that an actor would want, from money, respect and appreciation to 'hot' women admiring me." (Laughs). "What more does one want? I haven't understood the whys; I am getting what I want. I want to do films where I believe in the subject. I like doing films that break new grounds. I am very happy that I was a part of films like Aamir, Shaitan and now Soundtrack."
Divulging about his next Bollywood release, Soundtrack, he reveals, "It's about a popular DJ who loses his hearing power. The film is about this guy going deaf and then how he faces the world. He wasn't born with this disability but turns deaf over the years."
To get the nuances of his physically challenged character right, Rajeev underwent a few training and workshop sessions. He elaborates, "I had to do a workshop with Nirav Ghosh, the director. Then I also underwent a crash course in DJing. Since music plays a crucial part in the film, we had all its musicians on the sets. Some of them are also playing characters in the film, so they were all a great support to us. Also, the director is musically inclined and was a part of a group earlier. They all used to jam up on the sets and I got a lot of inputs from these guys, also my workshop was of great help."
In Soundtrack, the actor will be sharing screen space with Soha Ali Khan. He recollects, "The experience of shooting with Soha was fantastic. Soha is my senior; she has done lot many films than I have. Her dedication was so engrossing that it seemed like she was doing her first film. In terms of the hard work and sincerity she puts in, it was contagious. Even I like working hard on my films. She is a wonderful person and a great co-star to work with. We share a lovely chemistry on screen."
Aamir, Shaitan and now Soundtrack, his engaging repertoire of films have also achieved a valuable showcase of his acting skills. But Rajeev doesn't believe in projecting any particular image or getting type casted, he asserts, "I didn't come to this industry thinking about anything. I did not know where I would be heading after doing Aamir. I also don't know where I would be heading after doing Shaitan or Soundtrack."
Other films in his kitty include, Will You Marry Me, "a romcom with a multi-star cast" and Raakh. "Raakh is a Tanuja Chandra film. Vir Das and Raima Sen are in the film too. It's a romantic-suspense drama. I am playing a small town shayar who steals shayaris to impress girls," he informs adding, "For the rest you will have to wait and watch."
Fair enough, but doesn't he ever bother about none of his films being in the hardcore masala or commercial cinema space? It could be a limitation to his popularity perception. "For me, a commercial film is one that has you glued to your seats while watching it and you come out of the theatre loving it. For me, Aamir is the most commercial film. A commercial film provides entertainment, makes money and the audience should return with the feeling that they have seen a good film. I feel I am doing the most commercial films in the real sense because they are making money. Aamir made enough money and so did Shaitan. I am a part of such films which can be seen even after ten years with the same amount of curiosity. So what can be more commercial than that? I am a part of new age cinema," he asserts.
Before foraying into films, he was the poster boy of Balaji Telefilms. Ekta Kapoor who's known to have launched many new faces, had given Rajeev his big break on TV. But the two had a showdown, following which he quit his popular show Kahin Toh Hoga. Now that Balaji Motion Pictures is experimenting with newer subjects and films like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Ragini MMS, et al which have set the cash registers ringing, so have they buried their hatchet and would he be open to considering a Balaji film offer? "I don't even talk to Mr. Yash Chopra. He has never spoken to me. What I mean is that there are so many producers in the industry who I haven't worked with. If I get the opportunity, I will work. I don't have any problems with any production house. I just look at the script and also the makers who believe in it. So it's the script first. I do not think negative for anybody. I don't have a wish list of directors or heroines to work with. I take every day as it comes. Tomorrow if a project comes from Yash Raj Films, Vishesh Films or Balaji Motion Pictures and if the script is good then I will take a call. I don't know what will happen tomorrow because we can't see what lies ahead. Now coming to your question, what happened in 2005 is that I just decided not to do her show and Ekta decided to not continue with me as an actor. Now, she is making wonderful films, but I am also not regretting the decisions that I have taken since," he says candidly.
A fallout of that split however had many perceive the no non-sense actor to be having a bad temper, and being a snooty and arrogant guy. In a defensive tone, Rajeev says, "I am not aware of that. I don't think there is any issue. But if someone has any then I can't help it. I won't even say, 'Be my guest.' I am living my own life. I do not like crossing anyone's path. I respect people."
On the personal front, the actor has tied the knot to his long time girl friend and now wife, Manjari Kamitkar. Has marriage brought in any changes? "Marriage has brought in some changes. Now I don't look at any pretty girl and think of asking her for a cup of coffee (Laughs). I have changed as a person. I am taking steps to become a better human being. When I say better I mean I have started accepting her opinion. Also, I have started believing that it's not me who's right all the time. I was alone before and it was fine for me to believe that I was always right. Now I share my emotional, mental and physical space with somebody. Marriage has made me a more balanced person. But I don't feel married, I just feel committed."
Often, the spouse not being a part of the glamour world does bring about insecurities and unwanted possessiveness from the partner in a married actor's life. Rajeev however speaks otherwise, "My personal and professional lives are totally different. I don't think Manjari is the type who would interfere or give her opinion about my work. She is an extremely secure and super-confident woman. I don't discuss any project with her before taking it up. I am glad that I have a partner like her in my life." He adds, "If there is a role that demands me to kick somebody, kiss someone or shoot somebody, I will do it because these are all part of human emotions. So let's not make it sensational by segregating and talking only about kissing scenes. I would love to portray any human emotion. If I believe in a character then there aren't any dos and don'ts for me," the ambitious actor signs off on a positive note.
*By Pooja Sharma
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