Rajkummar Rao on why he chose Made In China: I found it funny, entertaining and very aspirational
Rajkummar Rao and Mouni Roy's Made in China will release in cinemas on 25 October alongside Housefull 4 and Saand Ki Aankh.
After Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and Judgementall Hai Kya, Rajkummar Rao is will be seen in his third release of 2019 — Made in China. The actor plays a middle-aged Gujarati businessman in this quirky comedy, who dejected by his failures goes to China for better prospects.
In an exclusive chat with Firstpost, Rao talks about prepping for the role; his co-actor Mouni Roy and, balancing between serious and light-hearted cinema. He also discusses his forthcoming films, including, Hansal Mehta’s Turram Khan; Netflix’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga's book, The White Tiger, with Priyanka Chopra; Anurag Basu’s crime comedy, Ludo; reprising Dharmendra’s role in Chupke Chupke and missing out on Karan Johar’s Dostana 2.
Excerpts from the interview:
What attracted you to Made In China?
Dinesh Vijan (producer), on the sets of Stree in Chanderi, told me very briefly about the idea of Made In China. I got very excited listening to the one-liner. It is a story of this aspirational struggling middle-class Gujarati businessman who goes to China and gets this secret recipe and how he tries to sell it and make it big. When I came back to Mumbai, the film’s director Mikhil (Musale) narrated the story to me and I found it very funny, very entertaining and very aspirational at the same time. It is a story of an underdog.
How did you approach the part? Mikhil Musale said that he did not want your character to be stereotypical.
I was also pretty sure about that and I didn’t want to get influenced by anybody that we have seen on television or films. We were very conscious that we wanted the character to be authentic and real. For that I had to go to Ahmedabad and spend time with locals to see how they live and speak, and the kind of Hindi they use in their daily spoken Gujarati-Hindi. I was making voice notes, I was video recording them, learning their mannerisms and, I would pick up the nuances. The whole point was to pick up the details where they stress, what words they stress on and the exercise really helped me. I got a lot out of it.
Then we worked on my physical appearance. I was noticing that the boys there had a lean body but for some reason they had a paunch, which I found very fascinating. I like changing my appearance for my characters. Bose (web series) was the last time when I gained around 13 kilograms, for Trapped I lost seven kilograms and now again I gained a few kilos for Made In China. It is a roller-coaster.
But for me the internal process is very interesting for any character I have played so far. The arc of the character especially in Made In China was very well written — The whole journey of Raghu, from him starting his life as a businessman, trying to make it big by selling roti-makers, square shaped water melon but failing in everything. Everybody around him tells him that he is not meant for this business and he should do something else but he insists on continuing as he wants to be a successful entrepreneur. So, I could also relate to the character because that is how I was also in life. I never had a Plan B, I only wanted to be a film actor. There were times when people told me that I should try television or do something else and maybe films were not meant for me but I was adamant that I will be in films till the time I make it.
Are you excited that the film is a Diwali release?
As an audience I find it very exciting that three very different kinds of films are releasing at the same time. I am pretty sure that good films find its own audience especially now that things are changing. People are welcoming content driven cinema and Made In China caters to that. It really entertains you, it’s a beautiful journey of a middle class family. Housefull 4 and Saand Ki Aankh will have its own audience. It is a long weekend and we have seen in the past that two good films can survive together. We are hoping for the best.
Your Made In China co-star Mouni says she was a bit intimidated by you in the beginning..
Mouni is amazing. She has done a fabulous job in the film and she will make you believe that she is the Gujarati housewife that she is playing. She is very passionate about what she does and wants to grow as an actor with every film, which is a great quality.
Your career in the film turns around after a trip to China where you find a product that enhances sexual performance. Since the film is touted to be a family entertainer were you all conscious about avoiding sexual innuendos or double entendres?
We were all very careful, the writers are also very responsible. It is not a sex comedy, it is a U/A certificate film. It is meant for family viewing. Whatever is seen in the trailer is an undercurrent. It is the journey of this middle-class struggling Gujarati businessman, the idea he is trying to sell and in that what chaos happens, the kind of wave he is trying to create. What is Dr Vardhi (Boman Irani’s character, he plays a sexologist) thinking, what is my ‘wife’ thinking, what is the ‘extended family’ thinking? It is a mix of emotions.
Did you borrow inspiration from any real life businessman?
No, not from any businessman but I have picked up lot of mannerisms from lot of people like the body language that you will see, his hand gestures, all that I have picked up from lot of people.
You seem to select a good mix of serious and light-hearted films.
I keep going back to each genre. For instance, Judgementall Hai Kya was pretty serious. Then, I will start shooting for The White Tiger which is again a drama based on the book by the same name. Again I have three light-hearted films, one is with Hansal Sir (Mehta) called Turram Khan, there’s RoohiAfza another horror comedy after Stree, and Anurag Basu’s next titled Ludo, an anthology. But I want to do everything, I don’t want to typecast myself. I want to surprise my audience with all my films.
Both 2017 and 2018 were quite eventful for you and you continue to remain prolific. How do you plan that?
It is not a conscious decision, it just happens. But I like working, I like being in front of the camera, I like playing different characters on screen. This is the time when I want to really push my boundaries and keep challenging myself as an actor. Even for a simple character I want to put something in it so that it excites me as an actor. As long as people are offering me different scripts, different characters to portray and I am not repeating myself, it is fine.
Is it still difficult to get varied roles? Are you happy with the scripts offered to you?
People do come with good scripts but you have to be little conscious in what you are choosing and sometimes in the same genre, same space, then it becomes your responsibility how to make it exciting for yourself. Next year I have Turram Khan, RoohiAfza, Ludo and White Tiger. Each [film is] different from the other. Also, so many new filmmakers are coming. Last year Amar Kaushik came with Stree, this year we have Mikhil. Mikhil is very clear in his vision and the world that he has created you will smell Gujarat in our film. He was very clear what had to be extracted from the actors.
Are you looking forward to Stree 2?
It will happen for sure because it is a great franchise. I get so many messages that people are really waiting for it, and me, too, I am desperately waiting for it. I want to get back to the team. We ended up making a beautiful film and we should definitely take it forward.
What about Chupke Chupke? There were reports that you will reprise Dharmendra’s role in the remake of this cult classic.
Yes, it is happening, I'm doing the film and we will start the shoot next year. The script is being written right now. It’s a big responsibility on me. I am excited about it. It is a great story, it is one of my favourites. It is a cult classic.
Lastly, do you feel bad about missing out on Karan Johar’s second instalment of Dostana, since the dates were clashing with The White Tiger?
Yes, I wish I could have done the film but the dates were clashing. I wish I could have done both of them but I couldn’t.
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