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‘ The Godfather is always with me’

Actor Rajkummar Rao runs across the hall, apologising profusely for having been whisked off for a photo shoot. The actor is being celebrated for both his commercial wins, like the romantic comedy
Bareilly
Ki Barfi
, and his offbeat successes like
Newton
. But while he shakes a leg with
Fanney Khan
co-star Anil Kapoor to ‘My Name is Lakhan’ with complete abandon, Rao also seems bashful as he talks about his work — brushing compliments aside with a quick smile.

Attention to detail

Last seen as the sinister, sullen British-Pakistani terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in Hansal Mehta’s
Omerta
, Rao has been open about the hatred he had to muster, to effectively essay the role. He admits that immersing himself into the character was a disturbing experience, but one wonders if that led him to draw boundaries for himself in his preparation and training. “No, once I am in that zone, then I really love being in that space,” he answers. “I love playing different parts and pushing myself for my films.” Adding that he had never explored as dark a character as Sheikh before
Omerta
, he adds, “Thanks to a
Stree
or a
Fanney Khan
, I got out of that [space] sooner than I expected. [They] really helped me unwind from
Omerta
.” The actor has two comedies out this month — there’s the just-released Atul Manjrekar’s satirical
Fanney Khan
and Amar Kaushik’s horror-comedy
Stree
.

In
Stree
, Rao plays a tailor who falls in love with a girl (Shraddha Kapoor), only to find out that she could be a ghost. While Rao has spoken about learning tailoring for the role, he shares that for
Fanney Khan,
he added a small background story for his character. Rao plays Adhir, who helps his friend Fanney kidnap a pop star in the hopes that Fanney’s daughter will be made a singer. “It’s a bizarre situational comedy,” says the actor. About Adhir, Rao shares, “He was born in Kashmir, and he has been in Mumbai for decades now, but he is still carrying a little bit of that [Kashmiri] lingo with him.” The actor’s backstory for the character is important, “There’s also a Kashmiri folk dance that he used to watch with his parents when he was in Kashmir.” Rao is referring to the snippet in the music video for ‘Halka Halka’ that has him teaching the dance to Aishwarya Rai’s character, the kidnapped Baby Singh. When asked if the detail was his addition, Rao sheepishly answers, “Yeah, you can say that.”

Reel idols

Regardless of the size of his role, Rao is clear that he always goes the extra mile to understand the character. In fact, even outside of preparation for roles, the actor revisits some of his favourite films at least once a month. “
The Godfather
is always with me — in my phone, or on my iPad,” shares Rao, specifying that he loves the first (1972) and second (1974) parts of the franchise. “And if I have to feel happy and inspired, I watch
Forrest Gump
(1994).”




Rao’s own list of upcoming films is impressive. The shoot for
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
, and
Mental Hai Kya
have nearly been completed, while he will soon start on Mikhil Musale’s
Made in China
, and Anurag Basu’s
Imli
. But next up is
Stree
. “It’s releasing on my birthday, so double [the] celebrations for me!” Rao ends with a smile.

Thanks to a
Stree
or a
Fanney Khan
, I got out of Sheikh’s mind [space] sooner than I expected. [They] really helped me unwind fromOmertaRajkummar Raoactor

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