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What actor Aditya Rawal learnt from his debut film Faraaz with Hansal Mehta

This interview was first published in The Telegraph Online by the same author.


He had set out to be a sportsman and then veered towards the arts, enticed by the prospect of a long journey into self-expression and self-exploration. The son of actors Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Sampat, Aditya Rawal reveals a mature soul at a young age. Aditya, who stars in Hansal Mehta’s film Faraaz as Nibras, who led the terror attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in 2016, tells us about this exciting phase in his career.


What were your parents’ reactions after they watched Faraaz?


They really liked the film. They understood what Hansal (Mehta) sir and the writers were trying to say with the film. I’m truly grateful that they liked my performance as well. My mother said that she was proud of me. My father said, ‘You should consider yourself fortunate that you got to be a part of a film that you’re proud of so early in your career.’ So, it meant a lot to me.


What was the most challenging part of getting into the skin of Nibras?


It is an actor’s job to make the audience believe what you’re saying. In a way, it is your job to believe in what your character is saying or doing. Nibras is far away as a person from what I am in real life. To believe in what he was saying or doing required a big emotional shift for me, which I honestly didn’t know whether I was capable of. But under Hansal sir’s guidance, I think I pulled it off effectively enough.


What was Hansal Mehta’s brief to you for the character and performance?


Hansal sir got me interested in the film and the character. We have seen a lot of jingoistic terrorists in films. They are one-note characters who are monotonous in the way they speak or behave. Hansal sir wanted to show that beneath their brutality and rage, these terrorists were lonely, lost boys. They were vulnerable at a wrong time in their life and somebody put an arm around their shoulder and took them down this path. These boys are not from underprivileged families where they had to pick up guns to feed their families. These boys are from privileged or semi-privileged homes, are well-educated and had prospects in life. Yet they got radicalised and went down this path. That makes it even more tragic.


Were you able to switch off easily from the character at the end of a shoot day?


We shot the film chronologically because it’s a story of a night set in one location with the same people. So, there was no need to drop what you had picked up that day. In fact, you’d hold onto that so that you could use it the next day. I think our film was better because we shot chronologically. What we learned on Day 1 could be used on Day 5. And you can see that progression in the film as well.


How did you unwind after the film shoot was complete?


As I’m gaining experience as an actor, I am figuring out my process to unwind. You always learn about how to get into the character. You have to also learn how to get out of character. I’m lucky in this regard because I write films and plays. So, the moment I’m done with something, I take a couple of days off before I jump into a new story and a new world. The best way to disengage from something is to engage with something else. So, that’s what I try to do.


How was the experience of working with Hansal Mehta?


I could write a booklet on it! Hansal sir gives freedom to everyone without compromising his vision. He has amazing man-management skills. For many of us in the cast and crew, it was our first film. He did not straight-jacket anyone. He allowed us to express ourselves freely. That aspect of filmmaking was a revelation for me.


Did your father give you any advice or pep talk before you started filming for Faraaz?


Acting is one thing and being an actor is another. Acting is how you make choices, and how you prepare for and play a character. Being an actor is how you navigate the professional space, how you present yourself, and the larger life decisions you’re going to make. Those are the things that I seek my father’s advice for. As for playing a character, it is the writer and director’s vision and you have to cater to that.


How did your creative journey start?


As far as finding our path is concerned, that’s just the ethos of our family. There was never any question of our parents giving us a platform. We had to find our own way to find what we wanted to do professionally.


As for creativity, my mother is a true all-round artist. When we were kids, on Sundays, we’d often be doing some painting, sculpting, workshops, history lectures, or watching a play. As I grew older, I started acting in school and college plays. I enjoyed writing and reciting poetry. While we didn’t go to our parents’ film sets, we went to watch the rehearsals of their plays and joined them on tour.


I was more interested in sports. I played cricket. I played football professionally. I was the captain of the Mumbai University team. I joined the national camp twice. That looked like becoming my profession going forward. As a player, I’d train for five-six hours a day. But in the remaining hours of the day, I started writing plays and screenplays. I got the right kind of feedback, criticism and motivation from the right people enough to keep going. I also started acting on stage professionally.


But then came a point in life where I had to decide between sports and art. I decided to jump into film and theatre. I realised that as an artist, your journey of self-expression and self-exploration will only end when you die. And this prospect of a long journey was very interesting to me. I am happy that I chose to be an artist.


Which actors do you look up to?


I look up to Rajkummar Rao. He has done so many different roles and he has gone from strength to strength. He is still in touch with his roots. He dives into characters that are difficult to play. He is a massive inspiration to me.


And directors?


There are so many but Abhishek Chaubey, Zoya Akhtar and Achal Mishra to name a few. I love the Coen Brothers’ films too. They’re fantastic. As for theatre, I love Martin McDonagh’s plays.


What are you working on next?


There are a bunch of things that I’m excited about. I’m starting an English play with Adhyam which will go up in mid-April. I have acted in an Amazon Prime Video show that will be out later this year. I have written a play which I, Zahan Kapoor and other young actors will perform together. I wrote a film produced by Jio Studios that will also be out soon.

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