In this freewheeling interview at his spacious apartment in Goregaon over scotch and shudh shakhahari dinner, actor RAJAN MODI tells JYOTHI VENKATESH that he is not at all greedy for money as an actor and is happy if he gets challenging roles to perform.
Did you make your debut as an actor with Shaadistan recently?
Though people may feel that Shaadistan was my debut film as an actor, I have been part of many regional films including Telugu films but it took me a longtime to inch my way through after acting in small parts in films like Kahaani Gudiya Ki , Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, Kranti, Bus Ek Tamanna, Calcutta Mail and Agent Vinod
Okay. How did you bag the role of the strict conservative fatter in Shaadistan?
I knew assistant director Rakesh Sain’s friend Sada Bhuad who asked me to send a picture of mine to Raj Singh Chaudhary who had acted in Gulaal directed by Anurag Kashyap. Since Raj Singh Chaudhary had seen me in my Telugu film Krishnashtami, he decided to cast me in his film Shaadistan after asking me to do a look test and take part in some improvisation classes and workshops.
What role did you play in Krishnashtami?
I played a hardcore villain in the Telugu film Krishnashtami
What role did you play in Shaadistan?
I played a conservative strict father to a young daughter who is slated t get married in Shaadistan. My co–actors in the film were Kay Kay Menon, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Kirti Kulhari etc. The film was shot in just 19 days in and around Mumbai, Rajasthan and Daman.
Shaadistan was streamed on Hotstar Disney Plus. Since it was shot as a film to be released in theatres, were you upset?
On the contrary, I am very happy that the film was streamed on a prestigious OTT platform like Disny Plus Hotstar, because it was during the pandemic. Had it been normal times, I doubt whether the film would have managed to get a big theatrical release.
You have been a part of the backstage with Dinesh Thakur of Ank, besides being a Casting Director for several TV serials including Udaan. How has the experience been?
It has been nearly 20 years since I had landed in Mumbai. After struggling for quite some time in regional films and gaming experience as an actor, I functioned as a casting director, co-coordinator and acting trainer, I slowly and steadily found my own path as an actor. I had also the casting director for John Abraham and Priyanka Chopra’s TVCs. When I went to director Anil Sharma for a role in his Veer, since I had acted in his Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, he said he did not have any big role for me to Vijay Galani to be the Casting Director
Is it true that you assisted Nawazuddin Siddique in training acting students?
Yes. I used to come from Mira Road where I stayed, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in local trains and assist him in teaching acting privately to students in Andheri. At that time, Nawaz was a bachelor and also a good friend of mine.
Why did you not take up acting in TV serials?
Frankly, it was my temperament that did not allow me to act in TV serials because I like to work on my characterizations of my roles and TV does not allow that to an actor. I remember Nawaz telling me Kaam Karo to acha karo or else sit at home.
Which are the films which you are doing right now, as an actor?
I am acting in a Shyam Benegal film, besides a children’s film. I am acting with Shyam Benegal in his biopic of Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. It is an Indo-Bangladeshi International co-production. I am the only Indian actor whereas the rest of the actors are from Bangladesh. I play the role of Painda Khan whose family was under house arrest
Tell me about the children’s film titled Decent Boy that you are doing now!
I am playing a positive character of the modern day Chanakya called Vishnu Gupta in the children’s film titled Decent Boy which is inspired by a real life incident of the education mafia. Basically, the film is about the grave conflict between the International Board and U.P. Board and its rampant effects on the kids. Bobby Khan is directing the film
Which is of maximum importance to you as an actor- the script or the director?
The script I of primary importance to me as an actor, not the film or for that matter the director, however big or small he may be
Does that mean that you do not insist on your price as an actor?
Let me tell you once and for all that money is never the criterion when I sign a film as an actor. I am not at all greedy for money. Let me put it this way. I will insist on the character always and not the payment
I want to emulate the example set by Sanjeev Kumar who is remembered for his acting prowess even today. I cried when Sanjeev Kumar died. I want people to remember me and cry when I die. That will be my reward for my acting prowess
Do you have any inclination to turn a producer or director too?
No. I am happy as an actor today and do not have any inclination to take up production or direction because I know only to make a film but do not know how to market it.
Which actor has inspired you, besides Sanjeev Kumar?
I would say that it is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is one actor who has inspired me in recent times. It was he who had polished my acting skills to the maximum extent.
You not only bear a striking resemblance to actor Pankaj Tripathi but also your voice seems to strike a similarity with it. How did you react when people compare you with Pankaj Tripathi?
Though Pankaj Tripathi is also a good actor on his own right and had been my neighbor for quite some time when I was residing at Malad, I would say that I have my own individual identity and I am sure a time will also come when people may even start telling that some actor or the other reminds them of Rajan Modi.