Rajeev Khandelwal prepares for the first Indian equestrian film

By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network

Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar have nothing to fear. If their film has Shah Rukh playing the title role in My Name Is Khan, in Pritish Nandy Communications' Khan, the title role is played by a horse. And Rajeev Khandelwal who plays the jockey is already spending considerable time on the race tracks with reputed jockeys of Mumbai, learning how to be a professional horse rider.

Says Rajeev, "I've been riding horses from childhood. My father was in the army. So I was exposed to an equestrian life from the start. However, I've realized there's a vast difference between riding as a hobby and riding professionally. I've been unlearning my horse-riding to play the jockey in Khan. It's fascinating but a tough process. I can't say I'm not enjoying it."

Adds the film's producer Pritish Nandy, "Khan is a film about the relationship between a jockey who's on a downward slide in life and his horse. It's sub-title is 'Second Chances Don't Come Easily'. Rajeev will have a girl. But the main relationship would be between the jockey and the horse."

Apparently, the first and most natural choice for the role was the self-proclaimed horse-lover Randeep Hooda. Says Pritish Nandy, "We did think of Randeep first because his pictures with horses are all over the place. But then I thought he was too big-built to play a jockey. Hence we never approached him. Rajeev was hungry and eager for an exciting challenge. And in my lexicon, that makes for a great actor. The fact that he's fresh and new also contributed to our decision to sign him. We at PNC constantly want to promote new or renewed talent."

Rajeev is all geared up to play the jockey and establish a rapport with the horse which he compares with the boy's friendship with the donkey in Santosh Sivan's Tahaan. "But I don't really need to get friendly with the horse. In my experiences with jockeys, I've been told that horses respond to being controlled. If you are in-charge and fearless on a horse it will carry you well. In that sense horse-riding is a lot like my career."

About the title, Rajeev jokes, "After Aamir, doing Khan will prove once and for all whom I'd like to model my career on."

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