Gajraj Rao on playing a patriarch again in PariWar, and life after breakout role in Badhaai Ho
After Badhaai Ho and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Gajraj Rao is seen playing a patriarch yet again in Disney+ Hotstar six-part family comedy PariWar.
Gajraj Rao made his debut as a feature film actor in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen in 1994, but his breakout role came 24 years later, when he played Jeetender Kaushik in Badhaai Ho (2018). In between, he was seen in films such as Dil Se, Aks, Chhal, Black Friday, Talvar, and a few sketches of The Viral Fever.
Rao sections his acting career into two: BBH and ABH, i.e. life Before Badhaai Ho and life After Badhaai Ho, the hit film in which he played a middle-aged expecting father. Ayushmann Khurrana and he were cast as father and son one more time, in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. After recently appearing as Minister Patil in Lootcase, Rao’s latest series PariWar dropped on Disney+ Hotstar on Friday. In Sagar Ballary’s six-episode comedy, he plays the lonely father of three.
Excerpts from an interview below.
How is Kashiram Narayan of PariWar different from Shankar Tripathi (Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan) and Jeetender Kaushik (Badhaai Ho)?
Not only are the directors of each of these different, the script is also different, the co-actors are different, and it’s an altogether different universe. Yes, they are all fathers, but fathers are not Martians. Fathers are all around us. It’s a natural, familiar relationship. As for Kashiram, he lives alone with his man Friday. His children live away, in other cities, but it’s his constant desire that his children come back home, and he will go to any extent to make that happen.
What appealed to you about this series?
First and foremost was the opportunity to collaborate with RayC (Sanjay Ray Chaudhari) and his company Arre Studio, which has produced PariWar. I have known RayC for more than 20 years, from our Delhi days. Second was the script and the small-town setting. And third was Sagar Ballary. He directed Bheja Fry, which is only of my favourite films.
Humour seems to be your preferred genre. Right?
I am very partial to satire. I enjoy reading Harishankar Parsai and Sharad Joshi. I think humour and satire is a route for delivering complex issues more easily. A light touch reaches people more gently.
You are just 50 years old, yet we have seen you play the patriarch a number of times. Does typecasting concern you?
I consider myself to be around 40 years younger than Clint Eastwood, and around 26 years younger than Amitabh Bachchan. As for typecasting, there is no worry because I am choosing these parts for myself. There is no pressure.
I come from a family where my father worked in the railways, and for 30-35 years, he did the same job but never said he was frustrated. So for me, it is amazing that the work I love is giving me my livelihood as both an actor and a director.
These things only matter if you have done the same role repeatedly, like Jagdish Raj, who played a police inspector over 100 times. But Jeetendra, Shankar, Patil, Phanse (Black Friday), Inspector Dhaniram (Talvar) are all different characters with different dimensions. I try to ensure that the character is not the same. I choose to play a father’s role when I see dimensions, characterisation, the director, co-actors, and writers. It takes all these people and elements to make content.
Are you content with the work and offers coming your way?
As a theatre actor, you are accustomed to irregular earnings and struggle. I saw some very tough days in my 20s. My growing-up years were very humble. I had to contribute to the household income. So I took up small jobs. I worked in newspapers and a tailoring shop. I understood the value of hard work and how my father fulfilled his responsibilities, without complaint. While I understand the value of passion and creative desire, I know it cannot happen on an empty stomach. I am glad I stuck to advertising, as I have no compulsion to take on roles that I might really want to do. My creative process has two outlets – direct and storytelling and, as and when I get good roles, I explore acting too.
You recently did a cameo in the mockumentary show Masaba Masaba on Netflix. What was it like to reunite with your Badhaai Ho co-star Neena Gupta?
I would be happy to work with Neena ji again and again. I keep looking for opportunities to work with her. She’s a wonderful co-star.
Could you tell us something about your future projects? As a director of ad films, any plans to direct a feature film?
I am working on a concept for a web series that I plan to direct. It should be ready next year. There are so many platforms available now, and I am hoping someone likes it. Then there is the film Maidaan, which is still being shot. Other than that, the only project is to stay alive and to stay safe.
PariWar is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
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