Over the years, Rajesh Kumar’s name has been synonymous with some of the most iconic characters and television shows. Whether it was Roshesh in Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Dishtdumn Sharma in Mrs. & Mr. Sharma Allahabadwale or Subodh Labshankar Thakkar in Baa, Bahu Aur Baby, Rajesh has tickled our boned compelled us to laugh with his banter.
" class="story_para_1">But with his recent release Haddi, in which he plays a menacing character Satto, Rajesh Kumar has shattered the notion of the world, that he is capable of much more than just a comic character in a sitcom. The crime thriller film starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anurag Kashyap has been the talk of the town, and Rajesh Kumar is ecstacy about it.
During an exclusive chat with News18 Showsha, Rajesh opened up about being part of serious projects, his preparation for the role in Haddi, his equations with the co-actors and more.
Here are the excerpts:
First of all congratulations for Haddi. Rave reviews coming from all over. How do you feel?
I am on Cloud 9(laughs). All the Hindi films that I had done previously, the roles weren’t talked about and the films unfortunately didn’t do well to be noticed enough. But Haddi is like a new lease of life, second innings. I am feeling good about it and I am feeling all the gratitude towards the makers who thought that I can be part of Haddi.
The world of Haddi was very very different from all the worlds you’ve been part of be it in television or cinema. What majorly attracted you to this world? And whether you could envision yourself in a dark, gritty story like that?
I had always envisioned myself as an actor that I can equally play the dark roles. I have always visualized myself doing that. I used to do comedy in between where I always used to say that negative comes naturally to me. And it came true since doing a negative character in a natural space, falls right within the realms of my capabilities. It’s like music. If you know how to sing Classical songs, all the other forms of music become easy for you. It needs the same devotion while performing.
Like I pointed out, this film shows a very different side of you as an actor. How did you approach Satto? And what additional quirks did you give to this character that were not part of the script?
First of all, the appearance of Satto, the idea was how he looks and whether it can make the whole performance believable. Because sometimes you don’t look your part and then you have to put in a lot of effort while performing. We had to conquer that thing first because there were a lot of perceptions of me that I am only good at comedy or good with light-hearted characters rather than serious. Because nobody wanted to explore you or touch you when it comes to the negative shades of a character. So how should I look was the challenge. If I was 15 kgs under or 20 kgs under, that maturity of look may not have happened. To gain that excess pound on the face and the body was required because it should reflect in his demeanor. Then the whole thing of getting a crew cut for this character made it even easier to go close to the it. Akshat, the director had a clear concept in his head that because the character’s name is like Teddy Bear, his whole persona should look like you can cuddle up to him and he can become your agony aunt but at the same time, he is also a part of the negative world in a positive way. He gets violence and but when it comes to violence, he doesn’t hesitate to lift the gun and shoot someone. He doesn’t like it but he has to do it. In a scene where I am brutally hitting Nawazuddin Siddiqui and punching him, you see the expression and reaction at that time is very ‘why are you making me do like this’ but ‘okay now you have asked me to do, I’ll do it.’ So that is how approach the character, rest in today’s scenario, the way we deliver our lines have become very colloquial, very conversational. So we ensured that the lines don’t land up as dailogues but as a conversation between two people.
I think your on-screen tuning with all the other actors were bang on. Especially with Saurabh Sachdeva and Shridhar Dubey. How did you achieve that?
I had seen both their works. They had somehow seen my work. Except two people on the set who had never seen my work in the last 25 years and those were Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anurag Kashyap. I always knew that Saurabh was also an acting teacher. So I had to take advantage of a teacher being on sets. So I was being alert of the kind of performances people deliver on spot. During my rehearsal, I was over-alert, I was over-focussed. There were two instances when Nawazuddin Sir complimented me by saying that when other actors are doing their part well, it gives us that push. We don’t have to double-guess their capabilities. And they were skeptical since they had never seen my work and even Saurabh pointed this out in one of the scenes. Even Shridhar Dubey wrote me a heartfelt note.
What was it like to step away from the comedy space? Were your nervous whether your fans and admirers will accept you in a character like that?
The whole thought whether people will accept or won’t accept depends on if the film works or doesn’t work. But as an actor, this is like gambling for us. Few moves work, few don’t work. But that doesn’t mean we should stop ourselves from experimenting. We have to keep experimenting. So I was not skeptical about the role of my fans. I had the thought that if this works, it will work for me. And this film has to work because it has an ensemble of good performers and not too M
many characters. There are just 7-8 of them. And in a scenario like that, everyone has to be at par with each other. Even one person lagging gets noticed easily. It’s like a symphony. All the instruments have to work at the right time to make it a great symphony. Haddi is like that only. It’s a collage of good symphonies. Everyone is playing their own instrument. So somewhere, I didn’t feel that skepticism. I knew if the film works, people will accept the character as well. I had given a lot to this character in terms of my energy.
How was it like working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui? And whether he got around to your previous works?
I had an opportunity to work with Nawazuddin Siddiqui for a second film. But as co-actors, we were together for a good 20-30 days after Haddi. And there he was like ‘Ye Tune Kya Kia Hai’, because everywhere people will talk about that. He was curious about that character so I had to show him a couple of videos and he was laughing his guts out. He even said ‘Tu Kitna Purana Chawal Hai Re’. They compliment you when you do good. They see film as one unit because everyone’s contribution is necessary.
Now you have only recently said that you don’t think Sarabhai vs Sarabhai 3 will happen anytime soon. But if it were to happen, how would you want your character of Roshesh to be portrayed? Would you like him to be the same or would you want him to be presented in an evolved manner?
No. The manner has been crafted so well that the moment you try to be smart with that character or the innocence of that character, who approaches his voice, his mannerisms, the interpersonal relationships of that character. The moment you try to meddle with that or alter that, it will fall flat. Because Roshesh is more about innocence. That’s how he is. Some people call him dumb, some call him Mama’s boy. Some call him a poet. So there are so many facets that are present in Roshesh, we don’t want to hamper or tamper with any of those aspects. So when that happens, all those traits that Roshesh had 20 years back, I have to adapt to it.