Newton’s character is very similar to my own personality: Rajkummar Rao
Rajkummar Rao is one of the key actors in today’s transformative Indian Cinema; representing the country globally and moving audiences with his realistic performances. With his last release, Bareilly Ki Barfi, he has also established himself as an entertainer who is well capable of attracting audiences to cinema halls.
Newton, his next film releasing this week, is a film about an idealist who wants to do his job with sincerity and is proud of his righteousness. As we talk to Rajkummar about the film, his ideologies and how he makes the character his own, we see why he is perfect for this role.
Tell us about your character in the film.
My character’s name is Nutan Kumar and Newton. He is a rookie government clerk who has been assigned the responsibility to conduct elections in the jungles of Chhattisgarh where Naxalism is prevalent. However, nobody else around him is interested in doing this work with the same sincerity as him. It is a black comedy that talks about something very important, which is the voting process in our democracy, but in a humorous and lighthearted way. The film is not preachy at all but it dwells upon some very important issues in our society like child marriage, casteism and so on.
I don’t plan my performance for a certain scene
Where did you draw inspiration for this character?
Honestly, my inspiration came from the script and the director’s vision. It was all written so descriptively in the script. Also Newton is a very idealistic character, which is very similar to my own personality; I am very idealistic about my work. Newton is someone who wants to do his job with full honesty and sincerity and that’s how I am in my life.
I had a lot of discussions with Amit (Masurkar, Director) regarding the character and we came up with the physical look for Newton, the curly hair. I added the nuance of the blink. Basically, to believe in his ideology was my main concern.
How did you get into the skin of Newton?
For Newton, there was no workshop or research as such. I just spent a lot of time discussing the character with Amit. I wanted to know what he thinks, how he visualizes the character and what he expects form my performance. My process is very organic. Once I understand the character and am done with my preparation, then I just react on set. I don’t plan my performance for a certain scene. Once I know the character well, you can put me in any scene and I would react like he would in that situation.
My inspiration came from the script and the director’s vision
Shooting in these troubled areas must have been challenging. Did you’ll encounter any difficulties?
Honestly, I was slightly scared about the regions we were going to shoot in, before we went there. But once we were there, we felt so welcomed. The people there are such happy beings. We’ve also cast some of the locals in our film. They are such fantastic actors, and they are always smiling. The jungles are untouched regions; no one has ever shot there. We found some great locations and had a great time shooting this film.
Shahid, Aligarh and now Newton are all socially relevant films in which your character fights for what is right. Have these films made you a more politically conscious person or were you always aware?
I was always a socially aware person. I was always informed about what is going on in the country and worldwide. But these films definitely helped me in shaping my political views and getting to know things more deeply. I didn’t know about Shahid Azmi before I heard the script. I didn’t know the entire reality of what happened with Prof. Siras (Aligarh). We see migrants roaming around in the city all the time, but we never think about the stories each of them are living like it is in CityLights. So these films have definitely made me a more informed person and I believe that you grow with every film as an actor and as a human being.
The film is not preachy at all but it dwells upon some very important issues in our society
You have been a part of such strong films, but your recent film Bareilly Ki Barfi was a light-hearted, massy film. How different was it to work on such a film?
It was definitely a breather for me. There was a mass connect with Bareilly Ki Barfi. Not that I had to work any less hard for it; it was equally tough, but people enjoyed it more. That’s the fun about being an actor, you never know which character people will like. I know I worked harder on Trapped than Bareilly…, but people will remember Bareilly Ki Barfi for a longer time.
You have brilliantly balanced both commercial and unconventional cinema. Is it a conscious decision?
Not at all. I am very impulsive. When I read Bareilly Ki Barfi, I thought it was thoroughly entertaining and a great opportunity to explore a different side to me, so I said yes to the film.