Rajkummar Rao, who plays the deadly gangster Paana Tipu in the Netflix show Guns & Gulaabs, represents an ilk of actors defined by their skill and versatility. Instead of playing types, Rao plays no type at all. He disappears into roles completely and the more singular the role, the more unforgettable Rao stands to become. In an exclusive chat, Travel+Leisure India & South Asia’s latest digital cover star talks about his most difficult roles, his urge to experiment and his love for exploring new places with his favourite travel companion–Patralekhaa.
Stylist’s Assistants: Keyuri Sangoi, Ankitha Chauhan, and SR&CO
Editorial Assistants: Ishika Laul and Muskaan Pruthi
Celebrity Manager: Mona Joshi
Rajkummar Rao may often be referred to as the poster boy of content-driven cinema, but the actor, who plays Paana Tipu in the latest Netflix show Guns & Gulaabs, shrugs off such tags with nonchalance. On the day of Travel+Leisure India & South Asia’s digital cover shoot, as we go through the final details one last time, Rajkummar Rao simply walks in, devoid of any starry airs, to the Prestige suite of Sofitel Mumbai BKC, the location for the shoot.
As with Bollywood stars, I expect much ado about his arrival but instead, I am greeted with a warm smile. He straightaway gets onto the job and promptly gets ready for the first shot. Having won the National Award for Best Actor and four Filmfare awards for his various roles, you’d presume he would have his way with the shots—the light, frames and other details. But surprisingly he gives in to our suggestions—from funny to romantic to solemn—he pulls off each expression swiftly without the slightest hesitation. It’s this respect for his craft and his willingness to experiment that makes Rajkummar Rao what he is today. When I quiz him on what he likes more—comedy or action, he replies, “Acting. An actor will do it all.”
In a career spanning more than a decade in the Bollywood film industry, Rajkummar Rao has transcended rigid labels. He is the closeted gay inspector of Badhaai Do, the gullible village lad of Stree, the rookie government clerk in Newton, and the deadly gangster in Guns & Gulaabs—there is utter contrast in the roles he has played. Like in this shoot and his career, Rajkummar Rao is only interested in doing the job right. In between shots, Rao gets candid about choosing unconventional roles, drawing inspiration and life lessons from his travels and planning fun things with the love of his life-Patralekhaa.
Given below are excerpts from the interview with Rajkummar Rao: