Like many others, Rajeev Gupta had to forego his passion for acting to concentrate on his family business. But destiny had other plans
I am originally from Delhi and was involved with theatre since my college days. But I had to join the family business. By then, my friends, Saurabh Shukla, Manoj Bajpayee and many others, had moved to Mumbai as they were working in a film called Bandit Queen. The movie was a super hit and most of my friends stayed back in Mumbai.
In 1998, Tigmanshu Dhulia was writing Dil Se. The unit of the film was from the South as it was Mani sir’s (Mani Ratnam) unit. But Maniji wanted a Delhiite for the role of a driver in the film, someone with a Delhi accent. When Dhulia was writing the script, he came to Delhi and told me about the role. I was very happy to accept it. That’s how I discovered I could act. After that, I worked with him in some bestseller TV series, and Haasil and Shagird.
Haasil was a turning point because after that film, I received many calls from the industry and there’s been no looking back. I have done Charas, Monsoon Wedding, Bunty Aur Babli and Paan Singh Tomar.
I have realised one thing – no matter how small your role is or how many scenes you have in a film, you should enjoy the role. When I was offered Monsoon Wedding and Bunty Aur Babli, I was very excited to meet Mira Nair and work with Amitabh Bachchan respectively. All I did was stand still in those shots. I had no real role. In Haasil and Charas, I had a maximum of two scenes but still I enjoyed doing them. A director should know how to use his character artistes. After Paan Singh Tomar, I have met many directors and the narration goes like this: ‘Imagine you’re Man A, Man B or you can be Man C too….’ This means the director doesn’t know which character he wants me to play. I never want to do something
From Haasil to Charas to Monsoon Wedding or even Paan Singh Tomar, I have always played a cop with a Haryanviaccent.
Changing scenario in theatre
At the risk of sounding clichéd, we were very different back then. In our day, we were actively involved with theatre. We did plenty of shows and took theatre very seriously. Theatre has given us actors like Manoj Bajpayee and Irrfan. Today, thanks to television or easy money, youngsters who join a theatre group want to get into films or television after just two years of stage experience. Even kids who audition for ads dream of making it in films the easy way. Budding actors assume that a couple of stage shows make them actors. This is not the case. Everyone is running after easy money because there’s no money in theatre.
I have completed Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns and am now shooting for his Bullet Raja.