Mumbai, Oct. 14 -- Rajkummar Rao has "never downloaded" a pirated film off the Internet, he says. He's "bad with technology". Of course. But back in film school (he went to the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the veritable breeding ground for a lot of acting and directing talent in present-day Bollywood), he would watch films that his "friends and classmates would download".
Downloaded or otherwise, FTII was Rajkummar's introduction to world cinema. The Gurgaon boy says, "I grew up purely on Bollywood films, on Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan... I grew up watching DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; 1995). It was only in film school that I started watching world cinema."
The two very different inspirations perhaps explain the kind of space Rajkummar, as an actor, has come to inhabit in the industry. He straddles offbeat, indie films - LSD (2010), Shahid (2012) and City Lights - along with commercial films that try and push the envelope - Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012), Talaash (2012) and Queen. "It's not like I want to do only offbeat films. I just want to work on good stories, and do something different every time," he says.
Of course, you've heard other actors make such claims before, but the National Award-winning actor (for Shahid) has, so far, lived up to what he says. Does that mean he'll turn down a glitzy, mega-budget film? "Yes, I've actually turned down a couple of hardcore commercial films where I was assured of sure-shot box office hits. And it's not hard to say no. You invest three-four months of your life in a film. So, I can't do one that I'm not excited about," he says.
The 'National Award winner' tag, he says, also brings more offers his way. "I get offered more scripts now. And they're not all parallel films. My next two-three projects are all commercial movies," adds Rajkummar. At present, he's shooting for Ramesh Sippy's comeback film in Shimla. Then, he's off to Maldives. In between, he'll be in the city briefly, during which he'll present South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's new film, One On One, at the Mumbai Film Festival (which opens today).
He's no stranger to the festival, and has been attending it for the last three years. "It's one of the best festivals we have. And it makes it so easy for the city to see films from around the world," he says. But with big names from Bollywood having bailed the festival out this year - after the sponsors pulled out - does it run the risk of being overshadowed by star presence? "No, not at all. The people who stand in queues come to watch films, not to watch us. It helps, however, if our names help get more attention and bring more people in," he says.