Rajkummar is tough competition
Confident, and in his own way defiant, Rajkummar Rao has been trying to prove step by step that he knows what he is doing
In a scene in his latest venture 'Judgementall Hai Kya Rajkummar Rao tells Kangana Ranaut, "If you are psycho, I will prove a better psycho."
Saying that to one of the topmost heroines of Bollywood in a female dominated film produced by female producer Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor requires a lot of guts.
But the awkward looking protagonist in a world of chocolatey heroes proves his threat and at the end of the movie the audience goes home wondering who they had come to see in this film.
Ever since he decided to step into Bollywood after graduating from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), almost all his roles have had that signature Rajkummar Rao stamp.
Confident, and in his own way defiant, Rao has been trying to prove step by step that he knows what he is doing.
He is more of the Amol Palekar, Manoj Bajpai and Naseeruddin kind, performing whatever odd roles he gets with clockwork precision rather than wait for the grand debut on a grand scale.
So, when he debuted in a film called Love, Sex and Dhokha way back in 2010 as a superstore supervisor making a sex-tape, the audience gulped, but he left his imprint nevertheless.
Nine years down the line, Rao has one National Award and several Filmfare awards under his belt which goes to prove that his performances have both the critics and the audiences eating out of his hand.
Clearly aware of his shortcomings- his boy next door looks, less than average height for a hero (of course Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman did not let that come in the way of their stardom) in Bollywood where heroines are becoming taller by the day and not much of a dancer, he grabbed the offers he got with both hands and made the best of them.
Unlike the Khans, if that elite group remains relevant anymore, Rajkummar has said several times that he did not care even if he got one-minute roles as long as he got a chance to show his acting prowess.
For instance, in Talash he was sharing the screen with Mr Perfect Aamir Khan and he was only a junior Police officer who had just one dialogue in the entire film but left an impact.
Being what they call a method actor, he takes extra pains to get into the details of his role and this was evident in 'Gangs of Wasseypur 2, where Rajkummar is said to have visited Wasseypur several times to get his mannerisms and accent right.
No wonder that in a film that has a dream star cast of actors of the calibre of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Piyush Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi, he is not to be missed.
This film gave an indication that Rajkummar Rao believes strictly in the dictum of when in Rome, be a Roman. In his quest to be natural, Rao claims that he has mastered several accents so that he does not sound awkward.
At a time when questions are being raised on the Bihari accent of Hrithik Roshan in his successful Super 30, Rajkummar Rao has learnt a whole variety of accents from the Gujarati in ‘Kai Po Che’, Rajasthani in ‘Citylights’, Bihari in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 2’, to Haryanvi in ‘Dolly ki Doli’, Marathi in ‘Shaitan’, Delhi and Punjabi accent in ‘Queen’ and Malayali for his role in ‘Aligarh’ as a journalist.
His hard work finally paid off when his delightful role in Kai Po Che put him firmly in the limelight and one thing led to another, as they say. It was Kai Po Che that helped him bag a protagonist's role in Shahid, the film that got him the coveted National award.
But of late, his co-stars must have started realising that hero or no hero, Rajkummar has started stealing the show. It may be too early to say it just now but like his famous namesake Raj Kumar, he keeps stealing the lime-light from them and soon they may stop acting with him.
The legendary Raj Kumar was so choosy about his roles and his dialogues (which were specially written for him) that actors like Dilip Kumar were said to be scared of sharing screen with him. They came together only in two films, first in Paigham where he, as the elder brother, gives Dilip a tight slap. It was a special scoop of Subhash Ghai to get the two together towards the end of their career in Saudagar where both the egoistic stars were given almost equal footage and crispy dialogues.
Except for Sunil Dutt none of the heroes of that period wanted to share screen with him.
In 'Mere Huzoor', with the famous "Lucknow ki wo Kaun si Firdaus hai Jise hum nahi Jante" dialogue Raj Kumar walked away with all the accolades and the producers had to launch a questionnaire in newspapers to ask viewers as to who the hero of the film was.
Manoj Bajpai must have realised it in Chittagong where Rajkummar in his role of a freedom-fighter left a memorable mark.
In Bareily ki Barfi he virtually overturned the chess board in the end to pose a stiff challenge to Ayushmann Khurrana who had been taking him for granted throughout.
But unlike our favourite Raj Kumar, this man with an extra 'm' in his name is posing a challenge even to the heroines of his films.
In 'Queen' the film that launched Kangana Ranaut in a big way, Rajkummar had a small but memorable role. But in their latest 'Judgementall Hai Kya' he comes out with such a stunning performance that the egoistic Kangana will think twice before consenting to act opposite him again.