Rajkummar Rao on Stree co-star Shraddha Kapoor: She was supposed to do my debut film Kai Po Che

Seema Sinha

Aug,29 2018 08:17:38 IST

Stree, a horror comedy, may be an author-backed role for the film’s female lead, Shraddha Kapoor. But that did not deter Rajkummar Rao from doing the film essentially because of the “unique combination of horror and comedy”, and also because he loves the humour in the film scripted by Raj and DK. “Humour of the film is relatable, it is very small town. It’s very entertaining and I am a big fan of Raj and DK.  I loved their Go Goa Gone and Shor In The City. They are very quirky writers, they always bring something new in their films,” says Rajkummar.  “I have also known Amar (Kaushik, director) for a while. He’s a very talented director. I loved his short film Abba (the only award-winning Indian short film at Berlin International Festival, 2017),” he adds.

Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in a still from Stree. YouTube screengrab

Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in a still from Stree. YouTube screengrab

Rajkummar plays “an aspirational, uniquely talented tailor specialising in ladies fashion” in the film that recreates an urban legend of the early 1990s on the big screen. “My character doesn’t believe in spirits and ghosts and then he hears that a ‘stree’ is taking away men but leaving behind their clothes. Soon after he meets Shraddha and how his life changes after that,” says the actor.

He admits, however, that he is not a staunch believer in spirits and ghosts. “Growing up, we all hear stories and have sessions of horror nights where you narrate your experiences. I won’t say that I am a staunch believer but I am sure there are some energies and one shouldn’t disturb them,” he adds. While the actor says that they had an incredible experience shooting the film, he admits that it was also quite scary and disturbing for him. “We were shooting in this haunted place in Bhopal and we were given some rules and regulations, like not to wear perfume, girls were not allowed to leave their hair open, then we had to carry a 'Hanuman Chalisa' (a holy book) and not talk too loudly or we might disturb the entity. It was quite eerie and we were shooting in the night. I walked in really long alleys in pitch dark. It was quite disturbing for me,” says the actor.

He recalls how he grew up watching horror films by Ramsay Brothers, like Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche and Purani Haveli. “It was much later that I started watching The Conjuring and films with paranormal themes,” he says.

Rajkummar and his Stree co-star Shraddha go a long way as she was supposed to do Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che, Rajkummar’s debut film. “Shraddha and I have been in touch since then. We wanted to work together for a while and I don’t think there could have been anything better than this. She’s tried something new with this film and even with her voice,” he says.

Rajkummar, who had an extraordinary year in 2017 with over half a dozen releases and two big hits in Newton and Bareilly Ki Barfi, is unstoppable. This year, besides Fanney Khan (released this month) and Stree, he has two more releases in 5 Weddings and Love Sonia. His 2019 outings like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (with Sonam Kapoor) and Mental Hai Kya (opposite Kangana Ranaut) are already being talked about. After Stree hits the screens on 31 August, he will start shooting for Made In China, in which he plays a struggling Gujarati businessman. Then, he will also team up with one of his favourite directors, Anurag Basu, for Imli, a love story with Kangana, which will roll sometime towards the end of this year.

“Every time I think of taking a break, I get tempted with such wonderful scripts that I simply can’t refuse. So when I am not shooting, I am promoting some film and vice versa,” he laughs heartily. “Honestly, I don’t plan anything. It is my greed, my hunger of an actor, which doesn’t let me sit. But of course, I came to the city to work, to act and when it is happening, why wait, why stop?”  he reasons, further adding, “We have such amazing directors. Even the regional directors are making such wonderful films. I love watching their films, I hope I get a chance to work with them.”

A lot has changed for the acting powerhouse, who is known for his choice of unconventional roles, often those of ordinary people grappling with extraordinary circumstances. “Now, I am doing bigger films, budgets of my films have increased. My fees has increased but I don’t discuss money or finances because I am an actor first. Now I have seen a lot of box office successes, so things have changed definitely for good but my criteria to choose a film will always remain the story. I have to feel excited about a story and I go by my gut feeling. Maybe it won’t work every time. It may work probably three out of five times. There is no guarantee what will work and what won't. But I try and push the envelope with every film. That’s why when I play Subhash Chandra Bose I want to go half bald rather than sport a fake patch," he says.

That brings us to his previous release Fanney Khan – the highly anticipated film (also starring Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) that met with a poor response at the box office, to which the National Award -winning actor says, “Reviewers and people told me that they missed me in the film. They wanted to see more of me in the film. That itself is a huge compliment. I won’t say box office figures don’t worry me and we all want our films to do well. But there is no guarantee, so I will keep trying,” he concludes.

Updated Date: Aug 29, 2018 08:17 AM