Cannes 2018: Rajkummar Rao peaks his unrivaled film festival run with debut at French Riviera with 5 Weddings

Devansh Sharma

May,09 2018 08:47:04 IST

While promoting his latest release, Hansal Mehta's crime drama Omerta, Rajkummar Rao said that he wishes every year is a Rajkummar Rao film festival. The sheer volume and diversity he brings to the table within a calendar year speak volumes of his versatility and dedication.

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Omerta. Twitter@RajkummarRao

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Omerta. Twitter@RajkummarRao

Last year in 2017, he had five releases — Vikramaditya Motwane's survival drama Trapped, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari's romantic comedy Bareilly Ki Barfi, Amit V Masukar's black comedy Newton and two romantic films in Behen Hogi Teri and Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aaana. His performances in the first three films were unanimously lauded. These also emerged successful at the box office but Rao never made it to the big league, thanks to the snubs at all major award shows.

Filmfare was trolled for not even nominating Rao in the Best Actor category despite the fact that he was considered by many the rightful winner of the top honour. For the sake of damage control, the first time in recent memory, nominations of the Critic's Choice category were announced prior to the Filmfare Awards ceremony. And obviously, Rao was nominated twice in the Best Actor - Critic's Choice category for Trapped and Newton. He was also awarded the Best Supporting Actor for Bareilly Ki Barfi.

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Newton

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Newton

Irrfan Khan winning the Best Actor - Popular Choice award for Saket Chaudhary's social satire Hindi Medium pacified the movie-goers who were petrified by Filmfare's decision to snub Rao's award-worthy performances. However, the uproar surfaced yet again when he did not win the National Award for the Best Actor. While his Newton co-star Pankaj Tripathi was given a Special Mention award, the only mention he got was from the jury chief Shekhar Kapur who claimed that Rao stole the spotlight from Tripathi.

But the fact is Rao is himself a victim of the stolen spotlight. This year may change that as the lack of awards have not affected his film signing spree. He will be seen opposite Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the musical Fanney Khan, opposite Sonam Kapoor in Shelley Chopra-Dhar's Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and opposite Kangana Ranaut in the black comedy Mental Hai Kya.

Rajkumar Rao poses with the Best Actor trophy at Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Twitter/@APScreenAwards

Rajkumar Rao poses with the Best Actor trophy at Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Twitter/@APScreenAwards

While Rao claims it is his if-not-films-then-what passion that drives him, it is only human to crave admiration. Rajkummar gets it, besides his loyal fan base, from the film festival circle. Unlike Varun Dhawan, he may have a long way in trade circles to freeze a big festival release (read: Rannbhoomi on Diwali 2020), he does earn his fare share of repute from his unparalleled film festival streak among his contemporaries.

This year, his debut Hollywood film, Namrata Singh Gujaral's 5 Weddings, is premiering at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. With his Cannes debut, Rajkummar has cemented his legacy as a new age festival favourite.

He is currently reveling in the praise for his chilling portrayal of terrorist Omar Sheikh in Omerta. While the box office performance of the film is dismal, it has a long history of being screened at film festivals across the world. Last year, it was screened at the oldest Asian film festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival. It had also received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.

Omerta also served as the closing film of the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. The home-bred festival is luck for Rao, or rather the other way round. The last two editions of the film festival also saw premieres of two Rajkummar Rao-starrers in Hansal Mehta's Aligarh and Trapped.

The combination of Hansal and Rao has been a force to reckon with at film festivals over the years. Their maiden collaboration, the legal drama Shahid, also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival years ago. It was followed by Aligarh that got a standing ovation at the Busan International Film Festival, New York Indian Film Festival and Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

No wonder Hansal has called Rao his 'muse'. But the muse in question was often chided for functioning in his comfort zone, or working with only festival favourite directors. With 5 Weddings premiering at Cannes and Love Sonia premiering at Bagri London Indian Film Festival, film festival circle's blue-eyed boy has come out of his favourite director's shadow.

(Also read — Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux addresses row with Netflix, #MeToo movement)

Updated Date: May 09, 2018 11:58 AM