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‘Shahid will always be one of the most special films…’ says Rajkummar Rao

New Delhi: Rajkummar Rao has emerged to be among the unconventional actors of new-age cinema delivering impactful performances across films of varied genres. The breakthrough actor who is being praised for his recent Netflix film ‘Monica, O My Darling’ is a recipient of a National Award. Having won the honour for ‘Shahid’, the film remains special to Rajkummar for many reasons which he discussed with IMDb in an exclusive interaction.

Speaking of the significance of the film Shahid, Rajkummar Rao said, “Shahid is certainly one of the most special films of my career. It has given me so many things and I’m not just speaking about the accolades I received for my performance, but meeting Hansal Mehta Sir, who’s more like a family now. The knowledge and sensitivity with which one approaches a biopic. Shahid being my first biopic, I learned a lot from the film.”

Further, he added, “How to play a real-life person on screen is a different kind of challenge altogether. The journey of filming Shahid was also a special one. It was a small budget film, but all we had was passion and the fire to tell a story with utmost sincerity, and that’s what we were aiming for. I remember when Shahid’s mother came to meet us during the initial days of the shoot, and she just kept looking at me because I reminded her of Shahid, her son, and then she asked for a pen, and she gave me a pen.”

“She had put that pen in my pocket and said to me to that, keep this pen because Shahid always used to carry a pen, and that was so emotional for me. We finished Shahid in almost nine months. There was a time when we finished one schedule and then we had to wait as we were waiting for some more money to come in. There was also a lot of fun in all this hustling. We were mostly guerrilla shooting in Mumbai. I would just walk into the local trains and talk to real people, and we would look for montages.”

“In fact, there are so many real locations with real people, and they had no idea that we were filming. All these little things made it a lot of fun for me to shoot the film. Of course, while it was a lot of fun shooting the film, we also had to do a lot of preps. A film like this would lose its charm if not prepped for properly. For example, the court scenes, it was the first time I went to the court with Hansal Sir before we started filming to get an idea of how the courts in India function. Believe me, it was an eye opener,” he added. 

“It was nothing like how I thought it would be because we are so conditioned by watching films. We were very clear that we wanted to keep things very real. This was not the conventional Bollywood film with court room theatrics, The drama in the courtroom had to feel real and had to lead to the emotional arc of the character, which is why all that research was very important for us to recreate the court room scenes and make them as real as possible. In fact, most of the court scenes are improvised. Like even the monologues are strictly improvised, and this could happen only because the world that we created became so real to all of us that even I as an actor was able to think like Shahid Azmi.”

“We just can’t thank our stars enough that we got to be a part of this beautiful story and this beautiful film. It gave me and Hansal Sir our first National Award, my first Filmfare award and so many more accolades, so it will always remain very, very special to me. What I learned from Shahid is we don’t really need a lot of money to make a good film. All you need is a good story, a good heart, a good maker, and a lot of passion to tell that story sincerely. It’s films like Shahid that keep me going as an actor. This is the true meaning of cinema for me.,” he concluded.

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