Actor Rajkummar Rao wins the best actor award at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

By Neeru Saluja

Actor Rajkummar Rao never fails to gain attention with the roles he chooses. Be it his portrayal of Shahid Azmi in Shahid, his breakout role in Kai Po Che! or the conservative city slicker in Queen, he leaves an everlasting impression. He is now gaining attention worldwide, as his film ”˜Newton’ is India’s official 2018 entry.

And now he has made us Australians proud by winning the best actor award for ”˜Newton’ at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) held last night in Brisbane. A double whammy at APSA, the film also won the best screenplay for Mayank Tiwari and Amit V Masurkar.

On his second visit to Australia this year, National film Award winner Rajkummar Rao talked to us before the awards night where we opens up about Newton, his style of acting and what kind of films are ruling Indian cinema.

Rajkummar, congratulations on your film ”˜Newton’ being India’s official 2018 Oscar entry and your nomination for best actor at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. If you are a winner at both the ceremonies, what will it change for you as an actor?

To be very honest, I don’t think it will change anything for me. I don’t live in the future. My win will help all of us. More than me, it will make my country very proud and place India on a bigger international platform. And as an actor that will make me proud.

Newton is a film that delves into the intricacies of the voting system of India in a satirical manner. What made you choose such an unconventional role?

The script! The moment I read the script I instantly connected to the character. It was very different to what I have read to date. I have never seen a film based on the election process, and that too set in a remote area such as Chattisgarh. The whole scenario was very fascinating. For me, Newton was a hero as the election officer and I was getting a chance to portray someone who is so committed and honest.

Apart from the unique storyline and remote access, what kind of challenges did you face during shooting the film?

There were not many challenges while shooting the film. To keep his sincerity intact was my main mission throughout the film. The location was quite tough as we were shooting in jungles in a slightly sensitive area. Other than that, it was a wonderful shoot.

You are known for your ”˜method acting’ and changing your look for every character in your film. Can you please elaborate on both?

Method acting is technically a part of Stanislavski’s system (Russian actor and director). But nowadays any actor that goes through that process is called a method actor. In a colloquial term, an actor who changes his garb with every character is also known as a method actor, so it’s debatable.

You are not the conventional hero when it comes to looks. Did you find it difficult to make a breakthrough?

I am very fortunate. The time I made an entry, Indian cinema was already going through a change. There was a new wave of filmmakers that were experimenting with their stories. After two years of looking for work, I made my debut with Love Sex Aur Dhokha and there has been no looking back since then. Overall, it has been a smooth journey and I feel blessed.

As filmmakers are creating a new wave in cinema, is content ruling as the king?

Content was always the king. Special credit goes to the multiplexes, Amazon and Netflix. Indian audience has evolved, thanks to the directors and writers who are trying experimental cinema. They are now writing characters for actors and then do their casting. This year content has definitely ruled in cinema.

But don’t you think that the content based films are getting more attention in international film festivals?

Newton won an award in Berlin film festival and Hong Kong and did equally well in India. So goes for ”˜Lisptick under my Burkha’ which created waves both nationally and internationally. They definitely get a lot of attention but Indian cinema lovers are also accepting such films.

What has been the best advice you have been given as an actor and what advice would you like to pass on?

The best advice I got was to never forget the truth. Look for that truth in your performance. And my advice would be if you want to be a good actor, train in acting and theatre. Do not rely to learn acting by watching actors. It’s important to keep practicing your craft.


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