Rajeev Khandelwal: “Man With An Unborrowed Vision”
Interviewed by Deepti Chandak
Where are you Right Now? Is it a tough phase in your life? Has the pandemic directly affected your life? I am in Goa. Our second home has been a blessing of sorts since the beginning of the pandemic. The positive vibes it exudes has kept us sane. Yes, it is a tough phase, like it is for everyone. I went through Covid and came out of it. Efforts to constantly protect all around you and doing your bit for the society can be a bit overwhelming at times. But the devastating stories pouring in from all quarters is what affects you the most. And to not be able to help everyone who reaches out to you hurts even more. The feeling of helplessness stays with you and occupies your mind all the time. But if I were to take good out of this situation then I would say it has been proved the zillionth time that it is human who rescues or helps a human. No God , No Religion can be above humanity. I hope we all understand this and not let politicians or leaders of religious sects shake our belief in each other.
Tell us something about your Childhood. Did you move often as your dad was in the army. A few childhood books that have been the most inspiring or influential to you? Yes, we used to move from one city to the other every two years. So, my childhood was super fun. Friends, neighborhood and schools kept changing till I reached college. Making new friends while saying bye to older ones, from being a teacher favorite to becoming the new kid on the block all over again, dealing with heartaches(was too young for heartbreaks) while departing from a city and then starting from scratch to charm the girls in the new neighborhood was all fun. One thing that stayed constant were the army cantonments and the life of focus and discipline along with it. The exposure to almost every sport, outdoor activities, close association with soldiers, army clubs etc in the formative years had to leave a positive impact on my attitude and personality.
There is no childhood book but there is one I read in my college that did shape my way of thinking. It was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The character, Howard Roark , has stayed with me till date.
Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that acting would be your life and your living? That acting would be my life happened when I was in class 3rd but that acting would be my living happened after I completed college. What I mean is that I had started dreaming of becoming an actor but It was only post college when I decided that I wanted to live my dream and started working towards it. You eschewed the mainstream films and chose the offbeat path in selection of your movies. Was it a conscious decision?
To begin with let me tell you that doing films was not on my agenda. The only thing that has been on my agenda was to act and be part of projects that I am proud of. And today, I am proud of most of the projects I was part of. Coming back to films, it was Aamir that changed my taste. I enjoyed being part of that film so much that for me it was way bigger than the biggest of commercial films. And post Aamir I was looking for only projects that break new grounds for me. Hence, Sach Ka Saamna, Shaitan, Soundtrack, Table no 21, Court martial, Samrat & Co, Reporters, Fever, Marzi, Raag Rag mein Ganga etc followed. One thing I discovered very early about myself was that I wanted everything on merit without any aid from PR, relationships or lobbies. I don’t measure myself looking at others. I measure myself by own yardstick. I am my own mentor.
Court Martial was brilliant and we totally loved the fact that the whole movie was shot in a single room. How challenging was the role for you? Court Martial has been the most challenging project so far. It’s a trophy for me because I surpassed my own expectations. With Court Martial I had challenged myself because it was shot like a play. Which means there were hardly any cuts. When I had taken up the project I thought I won't be able to pull it off as the thought of shooting with theatre veterans without the luxury of cuts would give me the chills. But I worked so hard on it that it seemed like a victory when the crew and channel team gave us a standing ovation.
Media Pundits say a lot of your movies are not marketed well. We were surprised to see "Salt Bridge"has a 8.9 IMDB rating. Do you agree to their view? I agree. The truth is that a film belongs to the producer and I can’t do anything about it. I also fail to understand that why let’s say a film like Aamir or Shaitan or Soundtrack or Table No 21, would not be marketed or distributed well. These films survived purely on the word of mouth. I remember going out for promotions of Soundtrack on the day of its release and people in the malls were asking me about the release date. That was the level of awareness created by the makers. Aamir also was pulled out from theatres even though it was running to full house in every theatre. But I have no regrets as these films ended up being long term deposit for me. New audience kept trickling in after watching them on various platforms and appreciation kept coming in slowly but steadily.
Salt Bridge was an Indo Australian collaboration shot completely in Canberra and Sydney. It was an experimental film made in a very minimal budget and it was never meant to be a theatrical release in India. I am glad that those who watched it rate it high in their opinion.
Naxalbari has got good reviews. What attracted you to be a part of it? Naxalbari is as good as a historical show as it was the first project which was shot in the peak of the pandemic in India. I had said yes to Naxalbari many months before the pandemic hit us. It was a brilliantly written script which was well researched and gave a perfect peek in the truth of present day Naxalism. But the script, cast, crew and even the directors and writers were changed when it was decided that the project will be shot in Goa since I was here. I am glad that the reviewers found it very good even though I was sceptical about it (after the tweaking, rewriting and other changes were made) Have you found your place in life? We feel there is so much that you can offer. We so much want people to catch up with your work... I don’t think I will ever find my place in life because it keeps shifting. I reach a point and realise that the place l thought was ‘my place’ has moved somewhere else. And I guess that’s what keeps me alive and charged. As far as my work goes I don’t have any intended place to reach. I just need to be in a place which is earned by me and only me and of which I feel deserving enough. Also, work is definitely my identity for the world, but it is just a part of my world. I have other fronts which are equally important to me. So, you will have to be patient and kind to see my forthcoming projects. I promise that I will not let your interest die in me as long as I am around.
You have a large female following and then there is a certain type of masculinity that you display different from mainstream stars. How do you view yourself as an Actor and a Star?
I think I am a very intelligent actor. I may have some limitations when it comes to skill but with each project I try and increase my bandwidth. I still can’t call myself a consummate actor.
As a star I don’t exist in my eyes. Period. Talking about the female adulation the truth is that have never worked towards it even though like a regular guy I may crave for it. I have never been able to figure out that what is my appeal or whether I have any appeal to begin with. All I have told myself all along is “Rajeev…women are kind to you so lets not rack our brains any further to ponder over it’. Make hay while the sun shines.”
Of all the roles you have played, which one is your favourite?
It will be of Captain Bikash Roy of Court Martial. For some reason I found it the most challenging character and the most ‘enjoyed while shooting’ character. You have launched your own production banner: Real Film. Are you planning to produce only short films or even bigger productions? How has the experience been so far as a Producer?
As a producer I will only take up projects which add lustre to my library. I will never let Real Films associate with any project just for financial gains. It was really exciting to own Heartbeat because it was a project that I really believed in. I am glad that the journey of Real Films started with Heartbeat. We are waiting for your future projects..Is there something in the offering?
As of now, Covid has put a spoke in the wheel Mostly, you will see me in a dark comedy next.