In the mid-2000s, when neither airconditioned buses nor the Metro plied between Gurgaon and Delhi, Rajkummar Rao would take the Haryana transport bus to the capital every day. Leaving home at 7.30 am on crowded buses that threatened to break down every few metres, he would first attend classes at Atma Ram Sanatan Dharm College in Delhi University’s South Campus, and then head to Sri Ram Centre Repertory Company, returning home only past 11 in the night. The journeys were long and tiresome but the aspiring actor had no time to waste. He would turn these trips into opportunities. Observing people who regularly boarded the bus, he’d analyse their personality, and jot down their quirks. Sometimes he would playact, pretending to be a deaf-and-mute person, to see how people around him reacted.
Once, he showed up at a bus stop near Bengali Market as a self-flagellating shaman, in black costume and make-up, whipping himself in public. “A crowd started to gather until a cop shooed me away,” says Rajkummar, speaking through the din of the blow dryer as he readies for his shot on the sets of Dolly Ki Doli, an Arbaaz Khan film where he plays the lead, in Madh Island, Mumbai.
The diary where he meticulously made notes is still with him, but Rajkummar no longer needs it. The 29-year-old actor, who made a striking debut in Dibakar Banerjee’s ensemble Love Sex Aur Dhokha in 2010, is one of the most promising talents in the country. His career boasts of a 100 per cent box-office success rate. His performance in Kai Po Che as a young Gujarati with quiet ambition and drive is as lauded as his morally ambivalent, if not downright offensive, characters in Ragini MMS and Queen. But it’s his portrayal of the strengths and vulnerabilities of slain human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi in Hansal Mehta’s Shahid that established Rajkummar as a performer. That role won him the National Award earlier this month. It also proved that despite his average-Joe looks and a complete absence of film connections, he could carry a film on his shoulders. That led to his next big role, the Fox Studio-backed Citylights, directed by Hansal Mehta.Everyman’s hero Rajkummar plays the lead in Hansal
The sun has already set continued…