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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Gajraj Rao: Digital medium has brought democracy in the entertainment industry

Actor Gajraj Rao reflects on his varied projects in 2020, including Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Lootcase and Masaba Masaba.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi | Updated: January 14, 2021 5:09:18 pm
gajraj rao 2020 filmsGajraj Rao said 2020 was a good teacher. (Photo: Gajraj Rao/Instagram and Yogesh Chiplunkar)

From playing a homophobic father in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan to a corrupt politician in Lootcase, Gajraj Rao had his plate full in 2020. Rao feels more settled and less frustrated after nearly 10 months of the pandemic and believes 2020 was indeed a good teacher.

In this candid chat with indianexpress.com, the actor talks about 2020, the project that made him the happiest and the digital medium.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

How do you look back at 2020?

The year started on an exciting note with Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Though there was apprehension as to how people will perceive this subject, it was welcomed. So, I was looking forward to celebrating its success with my team and the audience. But the pandemic put a full stop on everything. When Lootcase released in July, it brought back the motivation. Soon, the web became dominant. I did some 50-60 lives which was a new experience. Work from home was new. I directed some projects too. Now, after 10 months, I feel settled and not as frustrated.

Shubh-Mangal-Zyada-Saavdhan-film Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta and Jitendra Kumar in a still from Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. 

How did you cope with the lockdown?

We thought it’s a temporary thing but the first month was unbearable. It was like living in bunkers during the World War, looking at the same faces every day. Soon, we realised it’s going to stay for a long time. Family support came to the rescue. The aim was to keep harmony at home and not have bleakness there. The biggest achievement of my family was we didn’t get bored of each other and disappointment did not become a part of our lives.

You were part of so many projects in 2020 – Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Lootcase, Masaba Masaba, Pariwar. I’m sure you didn’t miss the spotlight.

All these projects were shot before 2020. Their release helped my mind stay active. The result of Lootcase supported me the most, at least mentally. It created immense positivity for me and my well-wishers. We really enjoyed recreating that Badhaai Ho scene in Masaba Masaba too. It’s always special with Neena ji. We are looking forward to more projects together. 2020 was like a rope walk. But these projects ensured balance.

Which project was the most fulfilling last year?

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan because my character of Shankar Tripathi was difficult. Since we were talking about homophobia, we did not want it to look preachy. We were very conscious about people judging the film. We wanted them to take it as entertainment and try to understand such kind of a relationship.

gajraj rao lootcase Gajraj Rao in Lootcase.

Was there any 2020 show or film you wanted to be part of, and why?

I liked Taj Mahal 89. Its quirkiness and the way it created that period. I would’ve loved to be a part of that. Then Paatal Lok was like a missed opportunity. I loved Aarya too. I’m so jealous of these shows (laughs).

In 2020, the digital medium brought democracy in the entertainment industry. Now, preference is not for any blue blood or someone who’s directed five films. The web gave us incredible content, which we hadn’t even heard of. Look at Paatal Lok or Scam 1992. Nobody thought they’ll become such huge shows. The audience is appreciating that kind of storytelling now.

Read: Express Rewind | Jaideep Ahlawat | Abhishek Banerjee | Pratik Gandhi | Sonu Sood | Shweta Tripathi | Sharib Hashmi | Mukesh Chhabra | Sumeet Vyas | Ali Fazal | Hina Khan | Amit Sadh | Rasika Dugal | Shreya Dhanwanthary | Ishaan Khatter | Hina KhanDivya Dutta Dheeraj Dhoopar | Aparshakti Khurana | Kunal Kemmu | Priyanshu Painyuli 

How do you see 2021 on the work front?

There’s an anthology film with Manoj Bajpayee for Netflix. It is directed by Abhishek Chaubey. Then, there is an Imtiaz Ali production. The shooting will happen in mid-2021, if all goes well.

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