Straight from the art

Straight from the art

artistic excellence

Straight from the art

He’s very clear about the fact that he is an artiste, or as he puts it, a kalakaar. “The entire community for whom the suffix kaar can be added, kalakaar, shilpkar (sculptor), chitrakaar (artist or painter), patrakaar (journalist), sangeetkaar (music director) and so on are all brothers whose mother is kala or art,” declares Rajpal Yadav, who goes on to add, “And multiple births are grossly insufficient to understand the limitless expanse of art.”

Having acted in over 100 films, primarily in comic roles (including a few films as a comic hero), but also in villainous and pathos-laden roles, the lad from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh who trained at the Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts in Lucknow, followed by three years at the National School of Drama, is now set to turn director with Ata Pata Lapataa.

Do not be under the impression that Yadav is only taking this usual, expected step for an actor — he is also producer, co-writer and co-composer of the film, which he describes as “organised musical chaos.” “For the first time,” he tells you, “there are 175 featured artistes in a film,” including himself. Incidentally, the film is the last movie of two stalwarts — Dara Singh and theatre guru Satyadev Dubey.

“My film has an ensemble cast, and only about 25 are known faces from films and theatre,” says Yadav. “The rest are theatre actors from all over. I operated with a nine-camera setup and a ‘Jimmy Jib’ (A jib is useful for shots that need to move a great distance horizontally or vertically) was needed throughout the film. With no stars, my budget has still managed to touch over 20 crore. But I assure you that this kind of film has never been made before — it is 100 per cent new, and will appeal to everyone from ages eight to 80. This movie is what I call a serving of both truth and entertainment.”

Yadav loves Broadway, and his treatment and narrative format is along those lines. “Most films have drama, with music in the background. In my film, music is in the foreground instead. Even the ‘Jimmy Jib’ moves in rhythm with the beats,” reveals the actor who had earlier sung a song in Hum Lallan Bol Rahe Hain and is best remembered for his performances in Darna Manaa Hai, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, Hungama, Waqt — The Race Against Time, Malamaal Weekly and Action Replayy among many others.

Yadav adds, “I was nominated twice in the same year at an awards ceremony, for Best Comedian in Hungama and for Best Actor in my lead role in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. I thought of expanding my horizons to produce films of the kind I wanted, and perhaps, turn to direction at some future date. I have heard over 300 subjects, mostly while travelling to and from location at Film City, and short-listed about a dozen.
Mohammed Salim had written Ata…, but I was not fired by his script. So I asked him if he was okay with just giving me the central idea.”

Direction thus became a logical outcome. “I have spent a lot of time researching the work of greats from international and Indian cinema, from a Sir Laurence Olivier to a Robin Williams, and I settled on Raj Kapoor saab as my ideal and my teacher. Here was a man who was acting as well as directing films all his life, and excelling in both. If I had signed on another director, he may not have executed the script that three of my college mates — Sanjay Kumar, Sonu Shubhankar, Pradeep Singlor — and I have written. And today, I must say that I have had my best time as a director,” Yadav reveals.

Yadav is upbeat that his film looks at society — the public, the politicians, the media and the police — without directly pointing fingers at anyone. “It was a challenge to make a black comedy that reflects India’s last decade, and is dedicated to you all, to cinema and also to theatre. My film will be entertaining for those who do take it at face value, and it will be a deeper film for all those who understand the layer below.”

Yadav has his own take on entertainment too. “It’s my commitment to entertain. And entertainment is never one-dimensional but always three-dimensional. In the same year, both Taare Zameen Par and Partner were about great entertainment, which is why they were both super-hits with the same audience.”

He has cherished every single role he has done as an actor — even his two-scene cameos. “Very honestly, I have always believed that if I do my work well, the film will prove to be a hit! I am happy that my name has mattered with film distributors for many years now, and I love the term ‘and Rajpal Yadav’ when the cast of a movie is being discussed!”

If Yadav has a grouse, it is about being labelled as a comedian, “I am willing to do comedy all my life, but I am a kalakaar. I am most famous for my comic roles, but that is my professional image; that stops when the shot is over. I want people to know that Rajpal Yadav in real life is quite different from his on-screen avatar. I want people to realise that there is a real Rajpal Yadav who is educated and well-read, has his likes and dislikes, his beliefs, and that his personal traits and views have nothing to do with the characters he plays.”

Rajpal is also extremely charged with his Hollywood film A Prayer For Rain, based on the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy — “I play the central character of a mazdoor in the Hinglish 35 crore film. I was told that my name was being considered alongside that of 10 other actors, including Abhishek Bachchan and Irrfan. Finally, they chose me.”

And that’s another peak in a remarkable Yadav ki baraat.