With his varied filmography which includes projects like Trapped, Bose: Dead or Alive, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton, one thing that is very clear is the fact that Rajkummar Rao just loves to push his own boundaries by challenging himself and he’s done it yet again with Hansal Mehta’s Omerta.
The trailer of Omerta launched on March. The film, which will hit screens on April 20, touches upon incidents in the life of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is responsible for the 1994 kidnapping of four foreign tourists in Delhi and the 2002 kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan among others. In fact, he is considered to have a hand in the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001 and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008 too.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Rajkummar Rao, who plays Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, speaks about how this film is the most difficult film he’s done so far. “I think it (Omerta) was even more difficult than Trapped. That film was physically taxing but this one mentally shook me up. I was exploring the world which I had no idea about. I was exploring dark roots and secrets about that world and I was very disturbed while shooting for it because I had to play him for that. I had to believe in his ideologies and that was an extremely disturbing process. It is not something I really enjoyed doing.” However, while portraying the character, one thing that Rajkummar found out about himself was, “That I can be really dark.”
Rajkummar Rao says the fact that his ideologies were so different than Omar made the character challenging. He broke down the way he prepped for the character and said, “I could not connect with him at any level. I don’t think anyone would agree with his ideologies. There is no way any sane person would connect to him. What these guys do is extremely inhumane. We all strongly condemn them. But yeah I chose to do this and had to start my process by watching those disturbing videos and documentaries. I would listen to his hate speech over and over again, trying to get myself charged up and gather a lot of hatred and anger inside me which I used while playing the part.”
Since it was the first time for Rajkummar to portray such a character, the negativity of his character did take a toll on him. He recalled how he missed his positive side.
“I was waiting for the role to get over. I remember the moment I shaved off my beard I became a different person. I vent out, started travelling, spent time with loved ones and started preparing for the next movie,” said the Newton actor.
In fact, he said that during the shoot he was so much into the character that people came up to him pointing out at his “negative energy.”
“Patralekha once came on sets while we were shooting in Delhi. She was like ‘you know what? Something is wrong about you. I do not feel the same. Your energy does not feel the same. I will see you later.’ But I was like – ‘what why, I am the same,’” recalled the Bareilly Ki Barfi actor.
However, that doesn’t stop the actor’s love for complex roles. Rajkummar reiterated how it was really fun to work on the project as it had challenged and helped to explore his horizon as an actor. When we asked if it was not a challenge to let go of the hero tag and become a terrorist on screen, the actor quipped, “That is the fun. I love challenges. I get very bored if I do something easy. I have done some stuff in past which were easy and I did not really enjoy them. If there is no challenge, I would want to get some into it. There has to be a sort of excitement.”
Another challenge of portraying Omar was no real time reference or a person who could make Raj’s research a bit easy. Rajkummar Rao said, “No, I could not meet anyone. Of course, he is the deadliest terrorist we have in the world. So, not even remotely… we could not make an attempt to meet anyone. But there was study material available online, couple of videos and photos but more than that it was prepping for the character psychologically. To understand why he was doing what he was doing was more important to understand and pick up to perform in the film.”
He adds that when the script came his way, he “knew that it is a darker space and I was ready for it.”