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“I wanted to play this character as a tribute to my grandfather”

Model-turned-actor Rajniesh Duggall, who debuted in Bollywood with 1920, will soon be seen in Syed Ahmad Afzal’s upcoming thriller Laal Rang. Duggall will be essaying the role of a senior police officer, SP Gajraj Singh, who challenges the protagonist of the film Shankar played by Randeep Hooda. In a quick chat withBox Office India, Duggall talks about his character and his experience.

Tell us about your character. How did you prepare for it?

I play Superintendent of Police Gajraj Singh in Laal Rang,which is based on a true story. Gajraj Singh is one of those educated Haryanvis. He took the IPS exam and became an officer. Basically, in the film, I am a threat to Randeep’s character because mine is the only positive character in the film; all the others have shades of grey. This guy is out there to fight with whoever is running the blood bank racket.

My main preparation was to have a background story for my character so that it would be nuanced, and then, obviously, language. I am not Haryanvi so it was important for me. I discussed it with writer Pankaj Matta and Afzal, and later I also spoke with an assistant commissioner of police in Haryana. So, to get the language right, I worked with them and thought of words to add that comic element while I kept a poker-face, cop-kind of expression.

As you said, the story is based on a real life event as is your character. Did you speak with anyone involved in the real story, maybe some of the victims?

No, Afzal did not discuss the names or reveal the identities of the real people as he did not want to get into any sort of trouble. So this is not a 100-per-cent true story. The crux of the story, the mudda, is true, the story about the blood racket is true, with the rest woven around it.

What challenges did you face while portraying your character?

Language was definitely a challenge even though I am from Delhi and I have Haryanvi, Punjab and UP friends. Also, Punjabi is my mother tongue, so even my Hindi has a bit of that Punjabi, Multani tone. Haryanvi is very different, especially Rohtaki Haryanvi, and even my character speaks in a polished language because he is a well-educated SP. It was fun!

How closely do you relate to your character?

I relate to his righteousness because I am like that in real life, I believe in fulfilling promises. Not many know this but my maternal grandfather was a Superintendent of Police in Haryana. So when this script came to me and the character of an SP was discussed, I wanted to do it as a tribute to my grandfather. I told Afzal that my grandfather was an SP and that he was a very righteous man. I told him he was a terror in his zone because, in those days, there was a lot of underhand stuff on the Delhi-Haryana border.

What was your experience like, working with Randeep Hooda?

Randeep has a theatre background and draws on his life experiences. As an actor, he is very receptive. He is a great actor, for sure. Then, having an equally great director and co-stars elevates the entire scene. At the end of the day, it is not how you perform, it is about how the scene turns out that matters. I would say that he is great, in that sense, he is like Aamir Khan.

Can you share your experience of working with Syed Ahmad Afzal?
I’ve known him from the early days when he was a writer. I was the only one in our friends’ circle who knew that he was writing a script. I also knew he was very passionate in his writing and in his visualisation. That was another reason I felt I had to work with him after I heard and read the script. Also, it just felt right. All of us have already told him that we want to work with him again.

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