Somethings don’t change, they say. Like the fact that Rajeev Khandelwal continues to be a heart throb since years – be it television or movies.His fandom continues to grow perhaps,despite the fact that one doesn’t see him on-screen as often.His latest film ‘Pranaam’ has just hit the marquee, and here we have the man fora chat to talk about his new release, his choices and more…

You’ve said in an earlier interview that, your strength lies in breaking grounds. Are you happy at this point then, continuing with such choices?

I am pretty happy with my choices. I am probably not happy always with the outcome of my choices, but then, eventually, it is my choice only. I chose to work on a project like ‘Fever’ which was a great script and I thought, it would turn out to be a great film but unfortunately,the process of filming took about two-two and a half years and the director wanted to do it in his own way and once you’re in a project, you’re just an actor. You perform your part and the film is put together by a director. You have no say on the film. But if the film didn’t get the shape that you had visualised it then that’s not in your control. The outcome was not very exciting and that’s a part and parcel of every industry. Not everything will turn out the way you expect it to, which is fine. But then, do I regret my decision? No. Because my decisions are instinctive and my decisions will only be based on certain things. I’m not someone who believes in camps or is a part of it, nor am I trying to reach out to people who have a firm holding in the industry.So, my decisions will only be based on a certain criterion.Sometimes, the outcome of those decisions is not good, but I don’t regret that decision. Having said that,I did try to better the benchmark for myself when I said yes to a film like ‘Fever’ because it was a very complicated film. I enjoyed working with everyone on it.

The poster of ‘Pranaam’ says it’s a ‘tribute to the classic era of Indian cinema’. Was that also one of the factors for you to come on board?

When I was told on phone that, this is a film based in a small town and it’s a role of a gangster, I was like,okay, let me come and hear it more. I was expecting a complex script to come my way because there’s this image post ‘Aamir’ of a guy who can be put into a complicated scenario who can perform. Suddenly, I hear something which took me back to 80 s. It’s not ‘herogiri’, but you will still feel he is a hero, and that’s what used to happen in the 80 s. Now herogiri is when you are flying in the air and all that. So, it was fun to do something for a change which was not complicated.The story-telling was very 80s which has things like ‘Babuji, Baba’. These words are alien for me but then I realised that my wife calls her father, ‘Baba’ in Marathi.In small town, everyone calls their father Babuji. So,then I realised that it’s alien for me, for the world where I live. The truth is, this is real India. It looks like it’s a world of 80s but it’s relevant and existing even today in those small towns because I was meeting those people when I was shooting this film. I thought it would be a nice change to be a part of such a film which is experimental in a nice way. You’re telling a story of 2019 with the feel of old times!

What kind of prep did you go through for this role?

The director and I, we just interacted with each other.A lot of prep was done by the director to make us unlearn what we thought we had learnt. He wanted us to let go off some ways we would approach a scene.He wanted a little more expressing, and not so subtle.Sometimes, he made me underplay it and in some scenes, he made me scream even. We worked and prepped for those things.

You’ve always been a very subtle actor on television, communicating more through your eyes, even at a time when it wasn’t in trend to be subtle. Did that always come from your personality?

I don’t know any other way of communication, if not through my eyes. I don’t consciously do it because I didn’t know that my eyes could speak. I was told after my first series that my eyes speak. Then I used to look into my own performance. When you feel the emotion, everyone expresses through their eyes. I could see a person’s eyes and know what’s on their mind. Yes, it was kind of new for television in those days which is why, it was spoken about. I figured that it’s a powerful tool and then when I saw, the greatest of actors spoke so much through their eyes. Like, you see Mr. Bachchan! Even all the romantic films of Shah Rukh Khan. I think, today, I perform through my gut.I don’t perform just on the surface. When you don’t see my eyes perform, you actually can say it’s not real. When I gauge my performance, I analyse that I am not true in a scene, when my eyes seem so dead and blank in it.

Tell me about the line-up of your upcoming projects.

There’s ‘Pranaam’ and a web-series called ‘Cold Lassi and Chicken Masala’. I am glad both these are coming almost back-to-back because both are so different from each other. If ‘Pranaam’ takes you back to the 80s, then the web-series is so contemporary or rather ahead of its times. It’s a well-written love story and there’s nothing to not like in it (smiles). CinemaInterviewsBollywood Trade Magazine