Gajraj Rao, after delivering two back-to-back hits in the form of Badhaai Ho and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, is all set to break out of his fatherly image in his new film, Lootcase. The 50-year-old plays a corrupt MLA in the laugh riot which also stars Kunal Kemmu, Rasika Dugal, Ranvir Shorey and Vijay Varma in pivotal roles.
Not many would be aware that Gajraj is younger than the Khans but has played father to all from Ayushmann Khurrana to Jitendra Kumar in his recent ventures. He also got to play a father in two of his most popular web shows: TVF’s F.A.T.H.E.R.S. and Tech Conversations With Dad. However, he doesn’t hold any regrets and is currently enjoying in the popularity coming his way.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Gajraj opened up about his new film, his much admired onscreen pairing with Neena Gupta and his views on nepotism. Excerpts:
Gajraj Rao in a still from Lootcase.
Are you doing something different in Lootcase?
It was amazing for me because I had played a father in two films back-to-back. As soon as the Badhaai Ho shoot wrapped up, I began shooting for this film. I thought this would save me from being typecast as a father. In Lootcase, I play a manipulative politician whose suitcase goes missing. The entire film revolves around that missing suitcase. People who like Priyadarshan’s films will love this one. They would get a feel of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. This is that genre, it’s a realtime comedy.
No one from the Lootcase team was a part of the Disney+ Hotstar press conference in June. Do you think it was unfair?
I am not sure about what was the plan but it would have been good if they had called someone. Even then it wouldn’t matter because if you or your film lack talent, the audience will reject you anyway. The biggest validation is given by the audience. I have done films like Talvar and Black Friday and wasn’t even invited for the promotions, but the audience and critics have showered me with a lot of love.
You and Neena Gupta have emerged as the new hit onscreen pair. How do you describe the experience of working with her?
It’s always very amazing to work with her. We were recently talking about how much we had enjoyed during the promotions of Badhaai Ho and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. She is a very amazing artist and an inspiring human being and we hope we will get to work together again in many more projects.
She is very fit and looks younger than me. She does yoga for 1-1.5 hours, does riyaaz, walks for one hour in the morning as well as in the evening. She has wonderful stamina. We must take good care of ourselves in our younger days or else after an age, we will realise that our body isn’t supporting us much. Everyone must practice yoga.
Neena has been in Mukteshwar ever since the lockdown was implemented, how did you spend your time during lockdown?
I have read a lot of books. I have a huge stock of books and am very fond of buying books. I also read about a dozen film and web show scripts during this time. We must also take care of our family members and I took care of this aspect as well. We don’t have a place like Mukteshwar but have no complaints.
A still from Badhaai Ho.
It took almost 25 years to get the success you enjoy post Badhaai Ho. Do you think it was a long wait?
Not at all, one must keep working hard. I was getting appreciation but from a small segment of writers, filmmakers and critics. My work must have reached the larger section of the society but I came into the radar of the audience with my recent films. I am also very proud of my work in the last 25 years.
Have you ever lost on opportunity to an insider in Bollywood?
I believe you get work on the basis of your talent. If all of us will talk about being an insider or outsider, many big stars wouldn’t have achieved stardom. Dev Anand launched his son Sunil Anand. Mukesh’s grandson has also been working very hard but success doesn’t come easy. Indian audience is very selective and knows whom to grade and not to grade.
Gajraj Rao and Manoj Bajpayee in a still from 2000 film Dil pe Mat Le Yaar!!
Gajraj Rao and Mano Bajpayee in a still from Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!!
You play a father to actors just 15-20 years younger to you. What do you have to say about it?
I am 27 years younger than Amitabh Bachchan and 40 years younger than Clint Eastwood. Acting is a very amazing profession. I am not a politician but I play a corrupt politician in Lootcase. I am not a police inspector but I played Inspector Dhaniram in Talvar. I am not a detective but played one in Black Friday. I played a CBI inspector in Dil Se. Age of a character is not important for me. Ben Kingsley must have been around 40-50 when he played Gandhi. I have no objection to playing an older character.
Author tweets @ruchik87
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