Vijay Raaz does not think of acting as work. “Acting has always been like my hobby. I don’t look it as work so I have never taken burden from it. I am very thankful that I can be paid for something I like doing,” he says.
For someone who burst on to the scene more than a decade ago as the tentwallah Dubeyji in Mira Nair’s ‘Monsoon Wedding’ (2001), Raaz has managed to successfully script his identity as a tour de force character-actor. He does not like to look back and it’s with some reluctance that he talks about his breakout role, “It was a turning point in my ‘career’. I don’t like that word ‘career’, but yes it got me recognition,” he says.
It got him more than that. From playing the National Award-winning role of a jobless man in ‘Raghu Romeo’ (2003) to a loveable gangster in his last outing, ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ (2014), Raaz has time and again proved his versatility. And now he’s ready for the next chapter of his time in the industry, as that of a director with ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’. The film is not meant to be a statement, as he clarifies on the outset. “Growing up in Delhi during the ’70s, I have always heard about stories of Partition and separation. And Karan (Arora), the producer had this script lying with him for a long time, and he asked me if I would be keen on directing it,” says 44-year-old Raaz, who also plays one of the main characters in the film.
Set in 1948, the story revolves around two characters: from India and Pakistan, who are grappling with their sense of identity. Raaz portrays Rehmat Ali, a simple man from Delhi who gets displaced from his home and takes refuge in Pakistan, six months prior to the Partition. While Raaz’s character will have comic touches, he maintains that the story has been given a realistic and sensitive treatment.
“The film will have its serious and funny moments because adversity doesn’t have a constant emotion. There are funny and serious moments,” says Raaz, who draws similarities between direction and the craft of acting. “There is a lot of direction involved in my acting. I direct my own characters and I live that character in some shade in front of the camera,” he adds.
Raaz has never vied for the top league of actors in Bollywood, preferring to act at his own pace. “My involvement in acting is such that I don’t have any aim. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Where work is concerned, I do not set any goals for myself. So direction just appealed to me and I went ahead with it. But I have no future plans yet,” says Raaz, who prefers to spend hours just sitting and reading.
“When you are in action and doing something, you are missing out on life. When you are doing nothing that is when you discover yourself,” he says. But things have picked up pace for the actor since ‘Dedh Ishqiya’. After his directorial debut, Raaz has Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Saat Uchakkey’ lined up for release.