After proving his caliber yet again in films like Trapped, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton last year, Rajkummar Rao opens this year with Hansal Mehta directorial Omerta. The film is based on the life of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.
In a conversation with indianexpress.com, Rajkummar Rao spoke about how he has not internalised his success as an actor, and why working with Hansal Mehta is so special to him.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. After Shahid, Aligarh, Bose and now Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in Omerta, it seems you like being part of biopics.
It is a coincidence. It is not that I am only looking at doing biopics. But of course, as an actor, I always love portraying real-life characters because there is so much challenge involved in recreating somebody’s life. This process is fun, but after Omerta, at least for the next five-six films, I am not doing a biopic.
— Rajkummar Rao (@RajkummarRao) March 31, 2018
Q. Earlier you were known as an actor suited for content-driven cinema, but there has been shift, and you are now recognised as a mainstream actor. So how has this transition been for you?
I have picked ‘mainstream’ films only because there is a story and there are lovely people attached to it. That’s a conscious decision always for me. What’s the point if there is no story to tell? However, if you ask me about the transition, that transition hasn’t happened to me in my head. I don’t let it happen. It might sound weird, but I see no difference. I don’t think that ‘now I am a star’. I don’t get too much time to interact with people, and I am quite busy with work. I work. I come back home and my loved ones are still the same. They will never change. And, I travel. I have not realised or internalised that life has changed. I don’t even want to feel differently, honestly! It is a happy space to be in for me right now.
The process of playing a character as dark as Omar Saeed Sheikh is disturbing. So you have to mentally also be in that psyche, that state of mind. So, it was not easy. I was trying to cultivate a lot of anger and hatred in me while portraying him. Because that’s what I read and heard about him. I watched a lot of documentaries and disturbing violent videos to get my act together. I wanted to feel the anger about what is going on in the world. And it did happen, I could achieve that, and I had to retain that throughout the process, which was for three to four months. And it is not a comfortable place when you are continually thinking about hatred for other human beings. There were times when I would be mentally so tired while shooting that I just wanted to sleep because I was always in that state of mind. Shooting those scenes and interacting with people about those things, it was a tough process.
— Karma Media And Entertainment (@KarmaMediaEnt) April 3, 2018
I like to give my heart and soul to my characters. I was even affected by Trapped and this (playing Omar Saeed Sheikh) was way tougher than Trapped. In Trapped, at least, I could connect to him on some level, but this one I had no idea about and I had never imagined the kind of anger and hatred I had to showcase. It was a different territory for me, more difficult.
Q. Any stress that the film can create communal tension?
Not at all! See we are not targeting any community here. It is a very different film. It talks about a person who is an outsider. He is not from here, not from any of our communities. We are not trying to justify anything he does. Hansal Sir is a very responsible and honest director. It is a brutally honest film. It shows things the way it had actually happened, so there is neither an agenda here nor are we giving any justifications. We are just showcasing you the mirror. We are just showing you the dark truth of this world.
The antagonist rises. Here is the poster for our newest offering #Omerta – the true story of Omar Saeed Sheikh. Trailer out on March 14, 2018. @RajkummarRao @SWISSENTERTAIN3 #KarmaMedia @Omerta2018 pic.twitter.com/v7Cp6nKYGk
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) March 12, 2018
Q. Nudity in the film. Are you nervous?
Yes, there is nudity in the film, but I am not nervous. I was butt-naked in LSD, my first film itself. This particular scene was very very disturbing for me as an actor. I am not sure if I can even talk about it, but it is not about making love. It is more than that! It is brutal. It is wild. It is like being an untameable animal. I am a very different person from him. I am a fun loving, peaceful guy. I don’t have that kind of hatred in me. Doing this particular scene was very impromptu actually. We decided to do this shot in two days. Hansal sir told me about it. He said let’s do something like this, and that’s how we did it. In Shahid also, I am naked when these guys are torturing me. Similarly, this too is very real. We have tried to capture the nuances well. With Hansal sir, I can do it because I trust him. He won’t make it look vulgar. He has shot it very aesthetically.