Rahul Bose his passion for sports, activism, and the heartbreaking images of migrants struggling to go home during the coronavirus crisis.

globalmovie     30 Jul,2020         No Comment

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Bollywood actor Rahul Bose was one of the guest speakers on India Today e-Mind Rocks Youth Summit 2020. The actor has starred in a number of films including Jhankaar Beats, The Japanese Wife, Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Dil Dhadakne Do, among others.

Bose was recently seen in Bulbbul, starring Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam and Parambrata Chattopadhyay. The film, produced by Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films, released on June 24.

In conversation with India Today Television’s Shiv Aroor, Rahul Bose talked about his latest release, sports, his other films, sports, activism and more.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

How do you feel about the success of Bulbbul? You have a double role in it

It feels wonderful on two levels. One is that people have appreciated the movie. There will always be some people who don’t like a piece of art which is great. More power to them. But in the main, most people were surprised by its aesthetics, texture, quality of storytelling, technical finesse. But beneath it all by the fact that it is a simple fable that many of us have heard from our grandmothers. I am overjoyed on the level that Bulbbul has met with success outside of what the supernatural lovers would love. It’s not really a horror film so I won’t say horror lovers. But I think

it has crossed to people who otherwise wouldn’t gravitate towards supernatural films.

The second and the most obvious reason why I am happy is because people have appreciated my work. That is not the only reason though. I have done as good, if not better, work in the past, which very few people have seen. Whether it is The Japanese Wife or I Am. Both of which I consider to be very satisfying performances for me, but people didn’t watch them because of many factors, most important being that the publicity budgets are low. And if there aren’t famous people on the poster, people don’t come to cinema halls. So, that is one reason.

Another reason is Covid-19. There is nothing competing for Bulbbul’s attention, aside from other stuff on OTT platforms. There is a lot of attention is thereon anything new coming out, especially on a big OTT platform. Then another reason is that it is not a shabby performance, so I think I am happy.

Without any spoilers, there is one scene in Bulbbul where assault your wife in the film. It is stuck in many people’s mind. What was shooting that scene like?

So the scene has turned out to be mythic. But it was never that way for me. I was just playing Indranil. But with the Raja Ravi Varma’s painting of Jatayu and the Sita haran at the back, and the fact that you see the entire scene in an oval swing, a mirror from old with a frame, it is such a beautiful image. The combination of the art direction, the production design, the lighting, the camera work and what I was made to do, with the flex of blood, was extraordinary. The toughest moment for me came before. The script says that Indranil sees the pieces of paper and the fireplace and from there the words Bulbbul and Satya flutter up, which reaffirms his growing jealousy and possessiveness. And then he confronts Bulbbul and smashes her feet to pulp. Now how do you go from anger and jealousy to incoherent rage and violence. That bridge is a 20-second bridge, with no words. That was the challenging part for me.

You have several films to your credit including Dil Dhadakne Do, Pyaar Ke Side Effects, but in Rahul Bose’s filmography there is also The Japanese Wife and 15 Park Avenue. How does your approach change as you move between independent and the commercial worlds of Hindi Cinema.

The change is only in pitch. That is actually the director’s job. You have to tune yourself to the pitch at which the film is being played. If I played Jhankaar Beats’ Rishi at the pitch of Bulbbul’s Indranil, it’s gone. I’ll be lost. It will be like what the hell was I doing in the movie. So it is a question of understanding the pitch that everybody is at. Hence, Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Jhankaar Beats are at a heightened pitch. Shaurya is two notches lower, The Japanese Wife is a completely realist one. So, you have to pitch it correctly.

Second thing is appetite. I have always been a creature of appetite. After doing three comedy films, even if the fourth one is stupendous, I would be like ‘I don’t want to do it. I want to do something hard’. I think the one that sticks out of the entire filmography is Dil Dhadakne Do, because I was not driving the film. I was nowhere near it. There were five superstars in the film. I wanted to work with Zoya and it turned out to be extremely fulfilling. She is one of the best directors I have worked with.

All of that notwithstanding, Dil Dhadakne Do was a choice I made because I really wanted to work with Zoya. And I knew that the budget of the film demanded big actors so this was as good as it was going to get. But otherwise I asked myself that if my character wasn’t in the movie, would it still be the same? And if the answer was no then my character was playing a vital part in driving the movie. So the oscillation between art and commerce is in people’s heads when I release the film. When I am making it, as long as I pitch it right, my approach to the character, building the biography and understanding the world of the character, all my work for Indranil in Bulbbul and Pyaar Ke Side Effects’ Rishi, is exactly the same.

Mr and Mrs Iyer is a timeless film. People take different things away from it even now. Is that the film that most people talk to you about in conversations or is it Jhankaar Beats or anything else?

I have got the most fame from Bulbbul. Prior to this, Jhankaar Beats is a massive favourite with everybody who today is I guess 30-35. Because they were around 15 or 18 when the film released. Mr and Mrs Iyer is a favourite of people who are today maybe 35-50 because it appealed to an older demographic. Both films have hit on their initial goodwill exponentially. In that respect it is

great. The only downside is that when you do bad work, it haunts you forever (laughs).

 How liberating was your experience on the digital platform.

In what way can it be liberating creatively? The fact that you can bash a man’s skull without censoring it? or that you can show two people making love without censorship. I am just postulating. I made a film called Everybody Says I’m Fine in which there was a love-making scene between Rehan Engineer and Koehl Purie. There was zero nudity in that scene. Just their eyes, and the hands are shown. No skin. Yet, the censors asked me to cut that scene saying it is too erotic. I think that intense emotions like violence and sex are best imagined. So, I have never felt constricted making Everybody Says I’m Fine or Poorna, for the screen. If you need skin show or too much violence in a film, you are not really telling a great story, are you? 

Coming to sports and Rugby, you were part of India’s National Rugby Team. How hard was it, playing Rugby and still being in films. Do you still take time out to play?

Yes I still take time out to play. At the peak of my Rugby career when I played for India between 1998-2009. That was the time that my acting career was at the peak as well. I did films like Chameli, Jhankaar Beats, Shaadi Ke Side Effets, The Japanese Wife and so on. You only shoot one, or maximum one-and-a-half film a year. So I used to centre my filming schedules around the time of the tournaments that I played. And I would never tell the filmmakers that I was playing those tournaments because every contract banned me from playing Rugby, otherwise they wouldn’t get insurance. And I would lie blatantly and shamelessly. But, they would get to know because it used to be in the papers and then I would say no that isn’t me but someone who looks a lot like me and share my name. 

What needs to be done to draw youth to sports other than cricket? Not saying that there aren’t champions in other games but given the comparison of cricket to the others…

Every sport that you want to attract the youth to has to be a national game. If you aren’t on television, forget about it. Rugby is not on Indian television. Since it is not on TV, it doesn’t or barely exists.

The second thing is that we feudalise everything in this country. If my head hits a book, nothing. But if my foot hits the book, something. But my feet have served me so well in my life. Without them I will be broke. Literally and metaphorically. So if even that’s being feudalised, then sports was always like, first studies, then family time, then holidays and then sports. Or if you get this much in your studies, you can play during the summer vacations. If you don’t, then tuitions. So when you have that kind of an attitude, then nobody is going to gravitate to any sport. And if they do, it will be the sport that is a part and parcel of the child’s life which is cricket, it is like it is played by all boys so that is fine. But if he is trying to get into tennis, rugby, football or hockey, then people feel like it is eating away their child’s time. So I have started talking to lots of parents and say that if you are obsessed with your child’s academic performance, here is why he/she should play sports.

Number one, it makes you concentrate sharper and harder which is great for your child’s studies. Number two, sport relaxes you hence the child sleeps few hours but sleeps deeper and number three, sports teaches you how to handle pressure which is what you need during exams. And a lot of parents agreed. Then they ask about the time, I tell them an hour is ideal.

These are the two main reasons- not being on mass media, not attracting the kids and the idea that sports comes last in life. And finally, the thing is that the youth are not going to find a way of making money through sports. It is very difficult. But at the same time if for instance rugby was a sport that would make me eligible for a job (for example) in the state health department, then it automatically becomes a magnet.

I and the Rugby Federation have been working very hard to get sponsors so that we can pay our national players. We have never paid them and now I can proudly say that we have finally gotten a sponsorship from Odisha state that will be announced in a big way. Our players, women and men, will be paid for camps as well as tournaments. Then we are looking for affiliations to national games, school games and police games. This is so that all these youngsters can think of a job after this. We also need to treat men and women equal in every game across the world.


What is on your mind these days. You are an activist and there is so much happening in the world and the country. What is occupying your mind and keeping you up at night?

The images of Indians simply trying to go back home, without a shadow of doubt. The thought of them dying on platforms, the road, exhausted two kilometers from home. It makes me wonder after 70 years, where have we come? Civilisation. I am not talking about economics and railways or the GDP but if we can’t stop and feed, clothe or shelter the Indians who are just trying to go home. Or just let’s not stop them, let’s facilitate them. I am not making a political statement here. Indians died in hundreds trying to go home in 2020. I have never heard of someone dying on a train unless they have a deep illness. It’ll take months to process those types of images.

The country was in a lot of turmoil before Covid. And we were expecting a lot of turmoil during Covid because of Covid. But this has nothing to do with that. This is Indians trying to get home. Whatever the reason, drought, famine, unrest, nostalgia, it could be anything. How do you say that one of the founding tenets of survival, happiness and joy is notpeople recognising people’s journey to go home. Especially when you are lost, tired and fear losing your family. How does that even play out. It is just a horrible mirror shown to us. I am not saying don’t play rugby or do Bulbbul. But we are all connected. This is not patriotism. Everybody’s sorrow and joy reflects through the prisms.

We all breathe a sigh of relief when someone gets home and feel terrible that he didn’t make it and that is his child. Covid has come in phases in everybody’s life, first phase is when people are thinking I am going to do my cooking videos or write a new book etc. Then you go uncertainty, then disillusionment and then worry. But to see this

What challenges do you think filmmakers and actors will face while making films going forward?

Manifold. On the exhibitor’s side, it is a terrible challenge to leave one seats or two seats is a deathblow. Which producer, who spent hundreds of crores making the film, will want the full box office to be 40% of what he or she was going to get earlier? And which exhibitor will be able to afford that given the high rentals, especially in our major metros. Also, which family is going to go. All of that is going to play heavily. Yes, it will come back after the vaccine comes.

Coming to the shooting side, there are two aspects. The producers, the largest amount of working capital that is frozen in the industry is today. There are so many projects that are starting. You hire a studio for three months and two weeks into it, it is gone. This is a harrowing time for producers. For instance, if I have to start a project should it be now? If I hire Mehboob studio for three months and somebody in the team gets Covid in the first ten days, maybe the government would shut the place down. Or the studio or the Bandra residents might. Or even my lead actor might not come on sets. Right now there is no insurance. No matter how many precautions you take, at the end of the shift people go back home. To Dharavi, Prabhadevi, or Goregaon etc. So, who knows what happens where? You can’t keep testing everyone, every day. It is a really tough time. I am a worst-case scenario type guy and when this all began, thinking about cinema, I thought to myself that it will take one year. I talked to some very big producers and they said that it won’t be a year and that once things open up, they will start shooting. That March has now turned to July.

The final part is actors, the challenges on the sets. The light meter guy, the sound guy, all of they are masked but not me (the actor). You wear the mask to prevent someone from getting your infection. But if before the shot I am not masked, I can’t do that. Forget about intimate scenes, it is these little things. It is a tough time.

Why are you not seen more often on the big screen. Do you link not being on the big screen much to Nepotism?

I have a lot to say about that and it is the most unexpected answer that you will get from me but I won’t be saying it now because it will be taken out of context. I will write about this in six months time when it is no longer in fashion. And I am going to write why I think what I think. But, I have never in my career suffered from Nepotism, this way or that way. Yes, Aparna Sen has worked with me thrice and Santosh Sivan and Dev Benegal have worked twice. Is that because… why? What do they gain from me, you know what I mean? If there is an example of a guy who is around 27 years later, then you know, draw inspiration. I am going to put out my views in a very strong and nuanced way but they aren’t those that people will expect from an independent actor who has not been from a powerful family.

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