Raj Kumar Yadav – a rendezvous with MAM…

Raj Kumar Yadav was born in Gurgaon. He finished his schooling in Gurgaon and graduated in Arts from Delhi University. He was simultaneously doing theatre with Kshitij Repertory and SRC in Delhi. He is an Acting graduate from Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India. Raj Kumar’s debut film was Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha in 2010. He went on to do Ragini MMS, Shaitan, Chittagong, Gangs of Wasseypur. His latest film “Shahid” which was screened at MAMI and other film festivals has been garnering a lot of positive feedback. Currently, two of his films are on the anvil – Aamir Khan starrer “Talaash” & Abhishek “Rock On” Kapoor’s “Kai Po Che!” based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling book “3 Mistakes of My Life!”

In a candid conversation with Souvik Gupta from MadAboutMoviez, the young dynamic actor discusses his films, his aspirations, past experiences and future projects.

He is the only actor from LSD (besides Nushrat who also did “Pyaar Ka Punchnama”) who has had a long run in the industry, and a wonderful one at that. Ask him what he thinks is the main reason and Raj acknowledges the compliment graciously. But, when it comes to the question, he smiles and says a brief thought, “I don’t know. May be people liked my performance. Or maybe it was God’s blessing. I think I am lucky to have sustained in the industry.”

Well, it surely cannot be just luck, for the man has backed the faith of his filmmakers with strong performance every time. But if you ask him the most favourite movie of the lot, he gets diplomatic again and says, “Actually, it’s very difficult to pick one film as favourite. Whatever I choose at that point of time, whatever I am acting in, becomes the special film.”  Pester him further for a name, and the actor says, “Love Sex Aur Dhokha. It will be very special because it’s my debut film.”

So, what happened to director Amit Chauhan’s “Boys Toh Boys Hai”, inspired by Archie comics along with LSD co-actor Anshuman Jha? Raj refuses to talk about it. “I don’t want to discuss that film,”  he asserts, “I was too new to the industry and hence unsure of how to choose my projects.”  Well, one cannot blame him for choosing a wrong film, for that’s not a phenomenon unknown to struggling actors in Bollywood.

Rather, he moved ahead and signed Balaji’s “Ragini MMS” where one saw him playing a negative role yet again. So, why did he choose a character which was almost an extension of LSD? “Yeah, I was apprehensive, primarily because the roles were so similar. But Balaji had been looking out for a guy for almost 6 months and hadn’t found anyone. And I wasn’t doing much work then. So, when Ekta suggested my name to the makers, I thought why not take it up as a challenge. If Al Pacino can play gangster characters differently in so many films, I can also try and play a similar character and make it look different. So, we did a few improvisations and modification. The character Uday was originally a production guy but I thought it would render the role more believability if he is a struggling actor.”

Around a similar time, Raj Kumar also did “Chittagong” and he is very proud of it. Well, one cannot deny that “Chittagong” is a film to be proud of. “It was a beautiful experience,” he claims, “Bedabrata is a very sweet guy. Plus, I was also getting to work with one of my favourite actors – Manoj Bajpai.”

However, his recent film “Shahid” – a biopic on Shahid Azmi, directed by Hansal Mehta, is getting a lot of positive reviews. Ask him about it and you can feel that he is all charged up. “It’s a role of a lifetime,”  he says, “it was a big opportunity.”  So, could he connect to such a controversial character like Shahid Azmi, a man who has eventually killed for defending terrorist attack accused in court? “Yes, absolutely,”  he strongly says, “I could totally connect to the character and I feel that whatever he did was right. We did our research and met his family, and I had my full faith in the character.”

So, how difficult was it to shoot the nude scene in the prison for “Shahid” – the same also features on the poster? “Aahh…”  he takes a sigh and confesses, “it was not a part of the original script. But when we were shooting the scene, we realised that going all out will enhance the character and the situation. And with motivation from everyone around, I decided to go ahead with it.”  But that’s not new to him. He had also gone naked in his debut film for the scene based on the MMS scandal. “Yeah, see it’s not that we are shooting porn. So, being nude was not the main criterion. But it was essential. Especially with LSD, it was always a part of the script.”  But the same scene was also blurred out eventually. “Yeah,”  he accepts and says, “I guess I wouldn’t have gone nude had I known it would be blurred eventually.”  But then, LSD was his debut film, had a reputable director like Dibakar Banerjee helming it and Balaji producing it too. So, would he have refused to do a “full monty” if he were a big commercial star now (like Saif had supposedly refused for Omkara)? “I can’t speak for others,”  he says, “but for me the script is for paramount importance. If I think something is really crucial, irrespective of the commercial aspect, I would do it.”

So, talking about commercial aspects, we probe him on his forthcoming release “Kai Po Che!” directed by Abhishek Kapoor, who had directed Rock On. So, was he a part of the film when it was originally going to be produced by Excel? “No, we came on board only when UTV came into picture.”  So, how was it working with the fresh team of KPC? He is ecstatic when he says, “Oh! We had a lovely time working together. Sushant, Amit & I spent a lot of time together and we were like this one big family. So, I hope the friendship reflects on screen as well.”  So, he plays Govind – the businessman who commits the 3 mistakes, while Sushant Singh Rajput plays the cricketer Ishaan and Amit Sadh plays Omi – the priest. So, Amit Sadh dies in the film? “You will have to wait for the film to figure that out,”  he laughs mischievously. Well, so we are up for a surprise? So, is Kai Po Che is his big ticket to the commercial zone? “Well, it has more possibility of becoming a commercially successful.”

We wonder, if post LSD, Ragini, Wasseypur & Shaitan, the actor made a conscious effort to to steer away from negative roles. “Absolutely not, I don’t mind doing negative roles, provided the role is challenging.”

When you see the graph of a versatile actor like him, one can’t help but wonder, what made him take up movies like Shaitan, Wasseypur and Talaash? After all, he has been receiving offers to do lead roles pretty consistently, then why did he want to play those minuscule characters? So, starting with Shaitan, we ask him his reason to do the character roles.

“As far as Shaitan is concerned, I had originally turned it down. At that time, Bejoy also did not have a producer. But then, Anurag Kashyap came on board and Bejoy approached me again. With Anurag backing it, and also seeing Bejoy’s passion for the film, I consented to the film. Though I knew it was a small role, I was getting a role where I can experiment. I was playing a cop and a Marathi character.”

Gangs of Wasseypur: “When the original story was formed, Shamshad’s role was meatier. So, I was all kicked about it. But when the screenplay began, the role reduced. I was told by Anurag about it. But, because he was directing it, I didn’t want to give it up. So, I don’t have any regrets doing the film.”

So, does he regret doing Talaash, where again he plays a sidekick. “No, no… I had a great time working with Aamir Khan, and it was an immensely enriching experience. He is just like any other actor, someone who would stand behind the camera and give me cues.”  Ask him about the movie, he remains tight lipped. Of course, with so much riding on Talaash and it being a mystery thriller, one cannot expect the actor to reveal much about it.

As the interview reaches its culmination, we move from his films and ask him about his heroines. How was working with Amrita Puri? There is a stress on “very” and “sweet” when he says, “We have a very sweet romantic track in the film, and it has come out really well.”  And as far as his alleged rumours with Kainaz Motiwala, he rubbishes all of it. “I don’t know where it came from. It was bullshit. I guess it was a marketing gimmick and I was just a victim.”  Well, he isn’t the only one to fall prey to such techniques of selling a film, is he?

So, we ask the actor what’s keeping him busy these days? And he tells us about his forthcoming project about which he seems very enthusiastic – Vikas Bahl’s (of “Chillar Party” fame) “Queen” – co-starring Kangana Ranaut. Reports say that “Queen” is for Kangana what “The Dirty Picture” was for Vidya Balan. Don’t know what that means but he seems happy sharing screen-space with the feisty heroine who, going by his words, is very cooperative. “Kangana plays a character called ‘Rani’ and I play Vijay. It is my character who fondly calls her ‘Queen’. We are shooting across Europe and improvising a lot. It’s a lot of fun.”

I had met Raj Kumar Yadav for a film that a friend of mine was going to direct, and which like many in the industry, never happened. He was just one film old then and extremely modest. One has to say that after the long line of filmography and still many more to come, Raj Kumar is still a very grounded personality. That might just be an added reason for so many directors opting to sign him. On behalf of MAM, we wish him a very successful career ahead.

 

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