Being earnest

powerful performer

of edgy roles Rajeev Khandelwal has earned both commercial and  critical success as an actor.

Honest, candid and determined are a few adjectives that can be used to describe him; and these are truly distinctions that perhaps set him apart from the rest of the lot in tinsel town. Meet Indian television’s poster-boy Rajeev Khandelwal. Immortalised as Sujal, the indelible character from the popular Balaji series Kahiin to Hoga, Rajeev comes across as someone who has his head on his shoulders. Perhaps, he got these traits from a father who was first an army officer, a disciplinarian, and then a father. Rajeev ended up in the glamour world but never did this blue-eyed boy of television let stardom affect him. For the actor, who finds it difficult to easily disconnect from the roles he plays on screen and often carries his characters back home, Rajeev refuses to get carried away by his popularity and fame. “Subconsciously, I know that the recognition is not really for me but for the characters I play. I want to work hard and I feel that I deserve every bit of praise that comes my way.”

Though he’s level-headed in his reasonable approach to life, he still lets his heart rule over his head. “I’m an instinctive person, who doesn’t listen to anyone. I follow my heart and stand by my decisions, whether they work in my favour or not!” he adds with emphasis.

It is this very attitude that has led Rajeev to taste success on television as well as the silver screen. Some of the roles he has essayed on TV include that of Inspector Raj in Kya Hadsaa - Kya Haqeeqat, RAW Intelligence Officer Varun Awasthi in Time Bomb 9/11, Captain Rajveer Singh of Left Right Left fame, ACP Prithviraj in CID and most noticeably, that of an intense lover, Sujal in Kahiin to Hoga, which made him a household name.

Rajeev has also tried his hand at hosting shows like Deal Ya No Deal and Sach Ka Saamna. Although he admits not all his shows have found their mark, yet it’s the urge to constantly prove himself that keeps him going. Not an actor to lust after banners and camps of the industry, he says, “If I can make a show work on a lesser popular channel, the victory for me would be bigger and the success sweeter.”

Thus, when it came to his debut film, Rajeev went against popular advice to sign Aamir — a thriller, set in Mumbai, where he plays the lead and carries the entire film on his shoulders. Despite a fresh crew, including a debutant director Raj Kumar Gupta, this 2008 release was very well received by critics and audiences alike. With the recent success of Shaitan this year, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, another debutant director, Rajeev has added another impressive chapter to his success story.

With a difference

His penchant for picking unconventional roles and working with newcomers is proved yet again with his latest film Soundtrack, being directed by another debutant, Neerav Ghosh, alongside co-stars like Soha Ali Khan, Mrinalini Sharma and Mohan Kapur. Soundtrack is an edgy, modern tale of an established musician and DJ. It traces his meteoric rise fuelled by alcohol, drugs and sex, as he battles his demons and a damaging handicap. “I have pushed the envelope with Soundtrack and portrayed a character like you’ve never seen me play before, but if you’re looking for a routine song and dance film, this film isn’t for you,” he warns.

In retrospect, for someone who always wanted to be an actor and has struggled to find his feet in the industry, Rajeev Khandelwal has come a long way. He talks unabashedly about his initial days of strife in Delhi where he scouted around for work. When that seemed difficult, he took to writing for documentary films. After patiently writing 30-odd films, he decided to put in all his savings into producing the pilot episode of a serial, which took him to Mumbai, only to realise that there were no takers for his work.  

Looking back now, he feels that this was life’s way of taking him to tinsel town so that he could follow his dreams of becoming an actor. But it never came easy. Like countless others, he too stood in long queues, auditioning for ad films, until the day lady luck decided to shine upon him. What followed were a string of commercials for LML, Green Label, Kodak Express and Videocon among others. And then, he struck gold with Kahiin To Hoga and the rest is history.

But if you were to ask Rajeev, “the struggle never ceases, just that the nature of your struggle changes. Now, I struggle to do things that excite and motivate me.” And currently what excites him is the brand new show on National Geographic called Nat Geo Super Cars. He has been chosen as the Indian face to introduce super cars to viewers. The show reveals the science, technology and manufacturing stories of the most sought after international icons — the Lamborghini Murciélago, the Porsche GT3, the Audi R8, the Rolls Royce Phantom and many more super cars.

For a man passionate about his wheels, one can’t help but notice his eyes light up at the mention of these mean machines. “I’m happy to be a part of something so exclusive and after having discovered such amazing facts about these super cars, my respect and love for them has grown manifold,” says Rajeev. He further reveals his interest in sports cars, SUV’s, and speaks with pride about his custom-designed Scorpio Extreme.

What after Nat Geo Super Cars, I ask? “Well, there’s my next release Raakh to look forward to. This is a film by Tanuja Chandra,” about whom he speaks rather fondly. “In Raakh, I play a small town shayar from Ujjain who uses shayari as a means to impress a married woman. It’s a romantic thriller,” shares the actor.

With Rajeev Khandelwal, one never knows what to expect next. As he candidly adds, “Tomorrow you might find me doing a street play, if that excites me enough! I do not know where I will be ten years from now, but I want to feel satisfied and proud of the work that I have done.”

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