Rohan Mehra on debut film Baazaar: It's an uncoventional launchpad but the best I could've asked for
Rohan Mehra talks about how he started with an Econometrics degree in London School of Economics and a job at Goldman Sahchs, only to land a Bollywood film.
Rohan Mehra, son of late actor Vinod Mehra, is a rare star kid. Usually, star kids become a household name much before they enter Bollywood but Rohan, who debuts with Saif Ali Khan-starrer stock market thriller Baazaar (releases on 26 October), feels like an outsider. “The other so-called star kids we speak about, the ones who are spoken about even before their film has released, I wasn’t one of those. No one even knew I existed. They came to know me when the trailer came out. But this is the way I would’ve wanted it to be. I’ve never got anything because of my surname,” he says. After his father’s death in 1990, Rohan grew up in Mombasa, Kenya with his mother, sister and grandparents.
Unfortunately, for the 27-year-old, his father passed away when his mother, Kiran, was four months pregnant with him. “Two things happened after that. I never got to know the lovely man he was. Secondly, I never knew the industry he was part of because as soon as my mom gave birth to me, we shifted to Mombasa. I was just six months old. I was far away from India, far away from the film world and far away from people who knew my dad on a personal level. The Indians living in Kenya knew Vinod Mehra, the actor, but nobody knew him as a human being. So, I grew up not knowing him,” he says.
“But when I moved to Mumbai about six years ago, I started learning more and more about him as I started meeting people from the industry. I could relate to him, he is not there but now I feel so close to him,” he says. Bemisal, Jurmana, Ghar, Anurodh, Anurag and Khuddar are some of his dad’s films that are his all-time-favourite. Rohan is a huge fan of Hrishikesh Mukerjee, and Vinod Mehra played an integral part in two of the films helmed by the filmmaker (Bemisal and Jurmana).
Rohan says initially, he was not influenced by cinema but after growing up, he was subconsciously drawn to acting. He says at the time, in Kenya, there was only one cinema hall and no one looked at films as a career. In fact, he was set to become an investment banker after getting degrees in econometrics and mathematics from the University of Nottingham, UK. He further wanted to study in the London School of Economics and work for the prestigious Goldman Sachs, a leading Global Investment Banking Securities and Investment firm but then his passion for films, music and storytelling took over. He had to leave his “pipe dreams” behind him. Since his mother was not too keen that he enters the film world, it was bit of a struggle for him to take the final call.
“I had to make a very big decision at the age of 20-21. I already had a couple of jobs lined up but I was not passionate about those. I had decided to become an actor. I remember having a discussion with my mom who was not much in favour of it, probably because I am the only man in the family. There were many responsibilities. And to come out of it to take another route in life was scary,” he says.
However, after sorting out his issues, Rohan landed in Mumbai and got himself enrolled with Anupam Kher’s acting school Actor Prepares. He also pursued theatre workshops and did a bunch of plays. “Few years ago, I uploaded a photo on Instagram and I got a call for auditions. But that film, called Mohabbat Zindabad, never happened which was heartbreaking, but I did make an impression. I went through several auditions and finally bagged Baazaar,” says Rohan, who agrees that his launchpad is an unconventional one but calls it the best possible launch he could have dreamt of.
“If you look at other debutants, some of these new boys are still being launched like heroes. But I promise you when you watch the film, you would feel this is the best launch that anyone could have. Trust me. Usually, there is also a new girl opposite a new guy but nothing of that sort is happening with Baazaar. I am the only new guy in this project. Then there is Saif, Radhika (Apte) and Chitrangda (Singh), who are all established actors. But yes, it is all changing and we are in a very interesting time where your work speaks and it is not so much about the project. If I had to pick I would always want a launch like this," he says.
Rohan plays a stockbroker, a small town boy who comes to Mumbai in order to fulfil his dreams. The newcomer was well rehearsed and well prepared for the role, so much so that not just his, but he also remembered all his co-stars’ lines by heart, giving jitters to some of them (as mentioned by his co-star Chitrangda). “I had read the script many times and it was like my bible (laughs). I needed to have a bit of knowledge about finance in India which wasn’t difficult as I have a degree in Economics. Also, my mom says that I have an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I am obsessive about everything but I don’t realise it. I could be sitting in one position while playing guitar continuously for eight hours and I don’t even realise that I am so involved in that moment at that time,” he says.
He continues, “I had to feel like fish out of water for this role. It was a delicate situation and I worked a lot on it. But it was something I could relate to. My character is from Allahabad whereas I am from Mombasa, which is not even a small town. It is a village. If you are from a small town and you pursue a dream, that language is universal.” And like his dad, Rohan, is completely crazy about music. “I am a musician as well. I play guitar and compose tunes. I love music as much as I love filmmaking. Right now, I am focusing on acting but later on if music comes alongside then why not,” he says.
Since we broached the topic of star kids, it would be interesting to know Rohan's take on nepotism. He says, "It would be very silly on my part to say that nepotism doesn’t exist. People do get films because of their connections. But I always believe that no one wants to do just one film. How many star kids or people through nepotism have built a big career? Very few. It takes a special individual, lot of hard work, talent, the right blend to make a successful career. All of us want to do 10-20-30 good films. Nepotism exists but it doesn’t guarantee a successful career. Everyone's aim is a career and not just one movie," he signs off.
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