I understood the emotional grounds my character was standing on
He made his acting debut with the much popular TV show ‘Hip Hip Hurray’. Since then Rushad Rana has gone on to play pivotal parts in leading TV shows and small but significant roles in several films as well. He will soon be seen in Oorvazi Irani’s The Path of Zarathustra where he plays a half Parsi, half Catholic boy who questions his faith. As the film readies for release, the suave actor talks about giving back to his community through this special Parsi film, his transition from TV to movies, his upcoming projects and more.
Most of us remember you as the charming Raghav from ‘Hip Hip Hurray’. Was acting always on your mind?
No it wasn’t. Acting in plays and being on stage was something that was euphoric for me since childhood. But I never thought I would end up doing that. I had aspirations of either becoming a lawyer or getting into copywriting as my father was in advertising. But as destiny would have it I did my junior college from St. Xavier’s (Mumbai) and while I was finishing Class 12, my friends suggested that I try for modeling. I was always the first one to be picked up by college talent scouts looking for people for ads etc. That’s when I decided to give modeling a shot and auditioned for over a year but nothing happened. I had distributed my pictures to several model coordinators and one of the them told me about this ‘school-college’ type show that was looking for people and if I’d be interested in acting in it. But I wasn’t sure about it since my parents were very particular about me completing my studies. She told me to give the audition a try and it was fantastic. I somehow convinced my parents and ended up being selected for ‘Hip Hip Hurray’. While doing Hip Hip… I started getting other offers and kept doing shows alongwith my studies. I had a very busy college life. That’s how acting happened. And from the time I got into acting I haven’t thought about doing anything else.
Did you actively pursue film opportunities? Is it easy to make the transition from TV to films?
I never actively went behind films. While I was doing Hip Hip…, my friend Mehul (who was also in the show) and I would struggle together. In those days struggling meant going from office to office and dropping your pictures. It so happened that Mehul was constantly in touch with YRF and knew that there was a huge film being made. One day I just landed up in their (YRF) office with Mehul. Nikhil Advani was the Chief on that film. He saw me and told me that he liked my work and insisted that I give an audition for a part in the film. I gave an audition just for the heck of it, in fact there were four rounds of auditions that happened, but I cleared them and that’s how Mohabbatein happened. With Mohabbatein and the entire larger – than – life film set experience with the biggest names in the industry, I knew I’d love to be a part of films. After Mohabbatein I was very busy with TV so I didn’t really get the time to go to production houses and pursue films. But since I’d done Mohabbatein and had a rapport with Mr. Aditya Chopra, he remembered me while casting for Veer Zara several years later. I was very touched by that. That’s how Veer Zara happened and things followed.
The transition from TV to films is not easy at all. I have wasted three years of my life trying to make that transition. I had two good films in my kitty but nothing happened and I ended up wasting a lot of time. This was around seven years back when people in films were not very open to people in TV. I was to do a small, indie film called Yeh Faasle and the director didn’t want me to do much on TV till the release of the film. Being the loyalist that I am, I agreed to stay off TV shows for that time. I thought the movie would be ready and released in six months but unfortunately the movie took like three long years to get made. In the meanwhile I was also doing 8X10 Tasveer with Nagesh Kukunnoor, which was a big film, and I had a great part in it. I used to think that I’m sorted; I had one indie film and one Bollywood blockbuster. Unfortunately it didn’t happen the way I planned. So I had to start TV from scratch.
How did The Path of Zarathustra happen? Why did you agree to be a part of this film?
I didn’t have to put in a lot of thought for The Path of Zarathustra. Oorvazi (Irani) came with a very genuine motive to make a film on Parsis. The minute she told me about the concept, I felt that I should be a part of it. We rarely do anything for our community and I felt that as an actor if I can do even a small thing (for my community) by being part of a Parsi film, then why not. That’s what made me say yes to the film. And Oorvazi didn’t ask for any huge commitments and she was very accommodating so it was nice to be part of the project.
Tell us about your role in the film. What were Director Oorvazi Irani’s expectations from you?
I play a character named Perseus. As the film progresses you understand that Perseus has been in love with Oorvazi (Oorvazi Irani) ever since they were kids. Oorvazi’s grandfather (Tom Alter) has never been in favor of the friendship blossoming into a relationship because I am not a full Parsi but half Catholic and half Parsi, in the film. After Oorvazi’s grandfather passes away she comes to Bombay and lives with my family. That’s when we start talking again and revisit the past. Perseus is a character who has come up the hard way but now he’s doing well in life. There is a slight layer of resentment and emotional turmoil that Perseus carries with him all the time because of the kind of stigmatism he and his mother have faced since he is not a full Parsi. My character does not blindly follow religion. He represents the somewhat modernist breed of Parsis who always question their faith while Oorvazi represents a sect of Parsis that are deeply into religion and rituals.
Oorvazi gave me a free will when it came to acting. Her only emphasis was that my character should be soft, not in the pitch that I talk in, but a softness and vulnerability in the eyes. She emphasized on this softness of the character, which has thankfully come across on screen as well. Her only other requirement was in terms of the color palette. We have all used our own clothes in the film and Oorvazi wanted us to wear pastels. I told her I’m very fond of colors so if Perseus could wear a little bit of orange and yellow as well. So you can see my character wearing these colors.
Was there any preparation or rehearsal method that you had to follow?
Not at all. It was spontaneous. I would take the onus of that as I was doing a TV show so couldn’t spare much time for rehearsals and workshops. In terms of research, this was not that kind of a character where I needed to do any research. I understood the emotional grounds that the character was standing on and that was enough for me to go ahead.
Television or films, what are you more drawn towards?
Both are equally interesting sides of a coin. The reach of TV is amazing and it is something that you know people are going to see. I love the urgency of delivering an episode for TV, it keeps you on your toes. Whereas whenever I’m doing a film, it’s like a holiday for me – lavishness in every aspect because at times you just have to do one scene a day. I enjoy both. But having said that, if I’m talking about my future aspirations, I would love to be a successful face in films some day. But I don’t disregard TV at all and am extremely grateful to TV and will continue to do it.
What are your expectations from The Path of Zarathustra? What would you like to say to the audience about the film?
We are doing our bit to spread the word for people to come to the theatres and watch it. The film has a limited release, only in select PVR theatres. Also it is an English film, a film on Parsis, and does not have any big faces. But I do hope that through word of mouth there will be a certain category of people who will watch it and like the film.
Which actors do you look up to in the industry?
My biggest inspiration in Bollywood is Shahrukh Khan. Even though he was an outsider, he has now become the face of Bollywood and that is remarkable. In Hollywood I keep studying actors like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and keep watching their films to see how brilliantly natural actors they are.
Tell us about your current projects?
September is coincidentally a special month for me as I have three releases. The first film is The Path of Zarathustra and two other films of mine will release on 25th September. One is a comedy called Bumper Draw made by debutants and I’ve also done a small part in Madhur Bhandarakar’s Calendar Girls. So this looks like a good month. On TV I’m doing an interesting part in a show called Gulmohar Grand, which is a mini series on Star Plus. I keep myself busy by doing episodics as that’s a great experience as an actor.