From playing the character of a homophobic father in Shubh Mangal Zyad Savdhan to a corrupt politician in lootcase, Gajraj Rao wrote heavily on his platter in 2020. Rao feels more organized and less depressed after about 10 months of the epidemic and believes that 2020 was indeed a good teacher.
“Despite living a bunk life, our family did not allow disappointment in our lives,” Rao said. In a candid chat with Indianexpress.com, the actor looked back on the year the project had made him happiest, and how an artist’s true personality is reflected in his craft.
Some parts of the conversation are as follows:
How will you look till 2020?
This year started with the auspicious Mars zida saudhan. Although there were apprehensions about how people would view the subject, it was welcomed. Therefore, I was eager to celebrate its success with my team and audience. But the epidemic brought everything to a complete halt. When Lootcase was released in July, it brought back inspiration. Soon, the web became a staple, I did some 50-60 lives which was a new experience, new to work from home, I also directed some projects. Now, after 10 months, I feel that I am disappointed and not disappointed.
Was the lockdown a separate phase?
We thought it was a temporary thing but the first month was unbearable. It was like living in bunkers during World War One, seeing the same faces every day. Soon, we realize that this is going to be long. Family support came to the rescue. The aim was to keep the harmony in the house and there should not be any sourness. The biggest achievement of my family was that we were not bored with each other and disappointment did not become a part of our lives.
You were part of so many projects in 2020 – Shubh Mangal Zyda Saudhan, Lutkase, Masaba Masaba, Family… I am sure you did not make headlines.
All these projects were shot before 2020. His release helped my brain stay active. Lutkase’s result supported me the most, at least mentally. This created immense positivity for me and my well-wishers. We really enjoyed reclaiming that Badhai Ho scene in Masaba Masaba. It is always special with Nina ji. We look forward to more projects together. 2020 was like a rope walk. But these projects ensured balance.
Which project was most completed last year?
Shubh Mangal Zyad Savdhan because my character of Shankar Tripathi was difficult. Since we were talking about homophobia, we did not want it to be preachy. We were very conscious of people watching the film, rather we wanted them to take it as entertainment and try to understand such a relationship. Our characters Shankar and Sunaina were sharp. So that was an accomplishment.
This year, any show or film you want to be a part of, and why?
I loved the Taj Mahal 89, its quirkiness and the way it made that period. I loved being a part of it. Hades was then a missed opportunity. I also loved Arya. I’m so jealous of these shows (laughs).
This year, the digital space brought democracy. Now, the preference is not on any blue blood or anyone who has directed five films. The web gave us incredible content that we had not even heard of. Look at Hades or Scam 1992, nobody thought they would become such a huge show. Audiences are now appreciating that type of story.
Your acting style has become a reference point. How do you take it
I had not received such appreciation before Badhai Ho. But this film became a turning point. No actor creates his own style. It is a part of his personality. Take Utpal Dutt for example. I don’t think he had any style of speaking or acting. It just shows their real-life understanding of things. Therefore, I feel for myself as well, the literature I have read or the cinema I have seen shows in my work. Jitendra Kaushik (Badai Ho) happened to me in 2017-18. Not that I will keep doing good work by default. I still need to do my homework for each character.
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How do you see your 2021 on the work front?
Is an anthology film for Netflix directed by Abhishek Chaubey with Manoj Bajpayee. Then, Imtiaz Ali is the produced-film. Shooting will take place in the middle of 2021, if all goes well. Even if things don’t get better and we still have to rope. Now, I am sure that we have got the experience of handling the situation well. Our heart will not sink