In the series titled First of Many, the who’s who of Bollywood will revisit their first film project. They will reveal how they landed the role and what was their experience on the first day of shoot.
“I might be making people laugh, but in real life, I am a very boring person!” That’s what Rajpal Yadav says sharing that unlike the comic roles he plays in most of his films, he is a very serious man in real life. The actor, who has been in the business for over two decades now, progressed from theatre to films.
Rajpal Yadav has so far given us several memorable performances in hits like Hungama, Chup Chup Ke and Bhool Bhulaiyaa. The National School of Drama alumnus has also showed different shades of his acting in projects like Jungle, Vaastu Shastra, Main Meri Patni Aur Woh and Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. While his major collaborations came with filmmakers like Ram Gopal Varma and Priyadarshan, the first film he signed was Shool, which he also calls his “first commercial project”.
So how did Rajpal Yadav land the role of a coolie (porter) in Ram Gopal Varma production Shool?
Here’s what the actor shared:
1. How did Shool come to you?
The first film I signed was Shool where Anurag Kashyap, who was the writer-assistant, recommended me. Ram Gopal Varma was its producer. The film was to be shot in Bihar. They needed 4-5 new actors for small character roles. I went to their office to meet them. I met all of them for the first time during Shool, and I was cast for one of the roles, which was of a coolie.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I had a day’s shooting work. Initially my role involved three lines. We were newly passed out from NSD so barely anyone knew us. Director E Nivas asked me if I will be able to speak three lines. I said I will try. Infront of me was Manoj Bajpayee who had already done Satya by that time. And his Bhiku Mahatre became a popular character. So, my three lines were with him. The role was of a coolie. Dialogues were – Arey coolie idhar aa, samaan utha, yeh paisa pakad. Ji sahab (Hey coolie come here, pick up the luggage and take money. Okay sir!). That was the role. But when all us met there during the shoot, we discussed that it is an important scene where Manoj Bajpayee’s character has arrived in Bihar for the first time. It is his introduction scene. So, we improvised on the spot and my character, from 3 lines, became that of 15 lines. After we did it, we were appreciated.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I felt the entire burden of the film was on my shoulder. Like a house stands on 5 pillars, I felt myself as one of the pillars. The most important one that held the entire weight of the building. And I say this with pride.
When I picked acting as a profession, I had two options, one through the stage and one through the camera. Both of them have remained my friends, one on right, and one on left. So, when I face the camera, I never feel nervousness. I feel happy that I am meeting a friend and now these two friends will do something amazing and creative. I feel more relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. I live a better life in front of the camera.
And regarding takes, making mistakes is a right of a human being. Everyone makes mistakes. So, I like making mistakes. Once, Shyam Benegal told me that retakes and making mistakes is the right of an actor. If he is making mistakes, that means he is trying to live that character and trying to gain something. So, I love making creative mistakes. They are my jewellery.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
My rapport with whoever I started with, remains the same from my side. All these people are the building blocks in my life and career.
When RGV saw my work in Shool, he was making Mast that time. So, he randomly called me and said it is for few close-ups and nothing else. Later, he called me when the casting of Jungle was going on. I had fever so I skipped going. I got a call from RGV’s office. When I met RGV, he said why didn’t you come. I said this is a film set in a jungle and you’ll be casting tall and well-built people and I don’t know if I’ll fit or not. So I was hesitant. But he remained adamant that this particular role (Sippa) is for me only. He said the tiny roles you did in Shool and Mast were your auditions. This is a break for you.
I will share an interesting story. Be it main role or supporting role, you need to do the same kind of hard work. We were in Hong Kong shooting for Company. RGV has a habit of pulling my leg. One evening while sitting on the terrace of Continental Hotel, he said, “Rajpal next time you won’t work with me”. I asked why. He said because now you have won so many awards post Jungle. You’ve become quite established. And you have such a small role in Company. I told him, “sir you gave me both Jungle and Company. And I know if ever a main lead role comes worthy of me, you won’t give it to anyone else.” And after I said this, there was complete silence. I knew that’s my pack-up now. I did blurt it out and RGV said look at his confidence. RGV told me he couldn’t sleep the entire night after I said this to him. Soon, we went on our separate film projects and this chat was forgotten. After 1-2 months, RGV called me and said I have a subject for you. I though a joke was taken seriously. That film was Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what is that one thing you would like to change or do better?
It is a very good question. Be it any industry or department, a person becomes young after 40. Because before that age, you are caught in the regular life, like studies, job, family, kids. So, you gain more understanding post 40. As a creative person, I feel I haven’t even spent my 10 percent till now. I feel I haven’t done enough at an actor’s level but whatever I did reached the people’s heart and I am getting so much love. In my upcoming films, you will see a fresh side of me. I am going to explore new shades of acting.
During Shool, I was an unknown struggler. From 2019, Rajpal Yadav is a well-known beginner!
6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
I have always been an enthusiastic person. During my growing up years in Shahajahanpur, on one side I was doing theatre, on the other, I was studying politics. So, there was a confusion that which side I should choose. That’s when Vibha Mishra from Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal had come for a workshop at Uttar Pradesh Natak Academy for two months. There she conducted a play called “Andher Nagari, Chaupat Raja”. I got a chance to play Govardhan Das in it. When it was performed, I received a thunderous applause from the audience. After the play, I thought since the audience has given me so many claps, this is going to be my profession.