In normal circumstances, Aditya Rawal would have spent the time after the release of his debut film Bamfaad, celebrating — courtesy the rave reviews that the film, which released on April 10, has received. But at a time when most of the world is living in lockdown, Rawal too is home with his family, and currently reading Dr Zhivago, the Russian novel written by Boris Pasternak. “I first read the book when I was 18 and now I am revisiting it. It’s an all-time favourite of mine. It opened my mind then, and even now. I was amazed at the perspectives it threw at me. But yes, apart from that, it’s heartening to be appreciated by the critics and the general public,” says Aditya, who essayed the role of Nasir Jamal aka Naate in the film which is an action-romance-drama set in Allahabad. “I got calls from the local inhabitants of Illahabad, and they were quite happy with the authenticity with which we have portrayed the city,” adds Rawal, over the phone from Mumbai.
The film, which follows the now trending ‘small-town’ genre in Bollywood, is essentially the love story of Nasir and Neelam (Shalini Pandey). Adding drama is Nasir’s rivalry with Jigar Fareedi (Vijay Varma). We see the narrow bylanes and rooftops of Illahabad, some violence and heavy dialogues. Glamour is conspicuous by its absence. Rawal sports kohl, a middle-hair parting and alternates between ganjis and plain shirts. He is a far cry from Rawal’s real life persona, in fact making him unrecognisable.
For a star child — his parents are actors Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Sampat — Bamfaad is a very unlikely launch pad. Surely, he would have liked to dance around trees and have a makeup dada assist him, we wonder. “I read Nasir’s part and within the first 20 pages I was hooked. I had an opportunity to showcase a range — right from comedy to action and romance. Nasir is so different from me. I had to work on everything, including the body language. Additionally, for me as an actor, it helps that I have a very malleable face. Slight tweaks in the look of a character makes me look very different,” says the 28-year-old. He adds, “As for choosing Bamfaad as my debut film, I had never planned a big launch. I had always forged my own path. I never expected, nor wanted my father to chart a path for me.”
Words like ‘look, feel and skin’ of a character is something that Aditya grew up with. From a very young age he was exposed to Gujarati theatre and art and culture, courtesy his parents. “Sunday afternoons would be spent clay modelling, or painting, we still have somethings in our house that me and my brother made as kids. My mother is such a versatile artist, with a background of modelling and then doing theatre and films. Dad would make us watch movies, we grew up with exposure to everything cultural and artistic,” he adds.
The Rawal Household was not centered around Bollywood. It might sound strange since Paresh has almost 200 films to his credit, but there were no set visits for the young actor while growing up. “Ours was not a filmy household. I would attend an odd theatre rehearsal, or accompany them on their theatre tours. The first set that I ever visited was that of Oh My God (2012), where I was an AD on the film ,” says Rawal who grew up in Juhu and attended Jamnabai Narsee School.
Growing up in a relatively insulated world, Aditya was exposed to the other world when he started playing cricket and later football after school professionally. “I was always interested in reading, writing and acting. I did school and college theatre, but I was primarily interested in sports. It’s only at the age of 20-21 that it dawned on me that I was inclined towards acting and writing. I am glad that I pursued it,” adds Aditya.
In 2014, Aditya attended the initiation course in Devised Theatre and Performance at the London International School of Performing Arts, while simultaneously writing plays and short films. He followed this up with a two-year course in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He came back to India two years ago, and in those two years he has also co-written Panipat. “I keep myself busy. I auditioned for Bamfaad almost at the time I was wrapping up Panipat. Writing offers a nice change of pace from acting, as acting is very stimulating and needs engagement of people around you. Writing for me is taking five steps to your desk, and that’s your world. The writer in me is living a normal life under the lockdown,” he informs.
Trying to make the most of the lockdown, the young actor has also received praise from his father. “He said that it didn’t feel as if it was my first film. It seemed as if it was my fifth or sixth film. Coming from him, this is very high praise,” says Aditya.
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