Leading man Rajkummar Rao and director Vikramaditya Motwane of Trapped in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): What was the thought behind making this film?
Vikramaditya Motwane (VM): I just wanted Rajkummar Rao to get trapped in a room and experience some bad things. Since he had refused to do a film with me, this is my revenge. (Laughs)
Rajkummar Rao (RR): Yes, he offered me Lootera and I refused. Can you believe that? (Laughs) So can you please answer the questions?
VM: This was not my idea; it was the writer Amit Joshi’s idea. The guy emailed me out of the blue. I noticed the name Amit Joshi and a synopsis and I thankfully read the email. I thought the idea was fantastic and that’s how the journey of this film began.
BOI: When you read the script, you must have had someone in mind for the role. Was he your first choice?
VM: Yes, Rajkummar Rao was always my first choice.
BOI: What was your reaction when he approached you with Trapped?
RR: I was super-excited. I had been trying to work with him since Udaan and then I saw Lootera.
VM: And then we worked together…
RR: He told me we would work together and work out something. Then we met at a screening and he told me this idea and I was super-thrilled. It is so rare to work with Vikramaditya Motwane and a script like this. I was so happy.
BOI: What was it about the character Shaurya that made you want to be a part of the film?
RR: I don’t think we have many survival dramas, not even in world cinema. So I thought this would be a great platform for me to explore and discover many things. With this character, I knew I would be really pushing my boundaries as an actor.
BOI: Can you tell us something about the development process? You got the email and you called him. What happened after that?
VM: I got the email, I called the writer and told him ‘let’s do this’. Then, suddenly, he disappeared. Again, there were two to three emails that arrived in my inbox and I called him in and another writer, Hardik Mehta, and I told them to work together. I would keep going in to stir the pot, you know, like cooking, just to throw in some masala. We reached a stage where we had developed quite a bit but something else that I was working on did not happen and my schedule changed. So I called up Raj and asked him, ‘What are you doing next month?’ He said nothing, so I said ‘chalolet’s shoot this.’
BOI: As a director, what did the story unlock in you?
VM: Just the fact that no one had done something like this before. It’s an exciting story, a guy stuck in an apartment, in a highrise building in Mumbai, without food, water or electricity. It’s a subject which can only be made now. Here, now and just now… this story couldn’t be made five years later because this building will be full of people, and we couldn’t have made it five years ago because the building did not exist then!
It’s such a here-and-now subject that the film had to happen now. We scouted for a venue all over the city and eventually ended up shooting in Prabhadevi, bang in the middle of the city, the heart of the city. It was a 35-floor building caught up in a typical court case. There is no OC (Occupational certificate) over there and someone is scamming somebody else over there. It’s a classic case and the guy gets inside and then some crazy stuff happens. Such a cool idea, it is so topical.
BOI: As an actor, what did the film unlock in you?
RR: I think just the fact that we were doing something like this was quite a high. As an actor, I always look for exciting work and scripts. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Trapped is all about this one guy who is stuck in an apartment for three weeks, without food or electricity. It’s a very performance-driven role, a challenging part, and as I said, just to have him (Vikramaditya) as a director, it was a double celebration for me.
BOI: When you play a part as complex as this one, what kind of research did you do for this role?
RR: Apart from the character sketch, it was quite an organic process for us. We did not really plan or rehearse very much. The film required me to be in the moment, to live in that moment, and then to explore and discover the truth, which is something I, as an actor, always look for. We were lucky that we were shooting the film in sequence, and by day ten, since I was not eating or drinking properly, my body was naturally in that shape. I was mentally in that position where all I could do was react to the circumstances.
BOI: What is more difficult… to get into character or out of it?
RR: I enjoy getting in but to get out is a tough process. You tend to miss that life, you tend to miss the entire crew with whom you spent so much time together, like a family trying to make something new and special. Once you are out, it’s very natural to miss the whole experience.
BOI: What is it about this film and character that you miss?
RR: As I said, I missed being on the set with these amazing people, where everybody’s energy is focused. The whole experience was beautiful.
BOI: In the film, just one actor has filled all the frames. As a director, what are the inputs that you used while setting up the frames?
VM: The story is about a guy who is stuck in a house. We weren’t worried too much that it could start looking monotonous. It isn’t as long as you follow the story as you should. We didn’t really have to worry about the frames. Since the story is about him, you just have to follow him. As long as the drama and emotion are correct, everything seems natural. Nothing else is important.
BOI: Do you think it is the right time for films like these to be made?
VM: Absolutely! When you look even at commercial cinema these days, the subjects they are making, whether it’s Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar… films like these were not attempted 5 to 6 years ago. Even regional cinema has grown tremendously. Smaller commercial films like Neerja, Kapoor & Sons are being watched, they are getting a lot of appreciation and also minting money. So I think our audience has grown a lot. Nothing is really niche any more.
BOI: What kind of team effort went into your film?
VM: Anything that works towards telling the story, whether it’s my work or my cinematographer’s work, the music director’s work… everyone is equally important and everybody is working towards one purpose, which is telling the story. So, for example, if you go, ‘Ohhh, what a great shot!’ or ‘Ohhh, what great background sound!’ If somebody says that, at that point of time, it means it’s not working because we all want to feel what Shaurya is feeling… everything should work towards that end. You want everything to be as good as it can be but it should be so subtle that you don’t realise it’s actually there. That’s my way.
BOI: The trailer has released and you have watched yourself in that role. What were your thoughts?
RR: That all the thought that we put into in the film was so worth it.
BOI: While shooting the film, did you ever feel so emotionally or physically exhausted that you couldn’t take it any more?
RR: No, nothing like that happened but there were moments when I had blacked out because I was drained out of energy and deprived of food and water. But I would sit back, take a moment, and go back to shoot.
BOI: As an actor-director combination, how did you build your team?
RR: I think filmmaking is team work and the director is the captain of the ship. Everyone follows his vision, the way he wants to tell the story, and we are all contributing whatever we can. Especially in Trapped, I think everyone was focused on telling the story of Shaurya’s journey. We want to keep the audience engaged and we want them to get involved in Shaurya’s story.
BOI: How do you keep your budget intact?
VM: I am also the production guy. That’s one of my strengths and my company’s strengths. We have made films like Masaan, Udta Punjab, Trapped, Lootera and Queen.
BOI: How are you going to market a film with a subject like this?
RR: We are trying to hit the digital space and digital audience because everyone is on the Internet these days. I think the trailer has also done its job and people have loved it and are curious to know more about the film.
BOI: What kind of release will this film have?
VM: The film will release in 351 screens across India.