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Rajeev Khandelwal won praises for his brilliant act in Aamir, but somehow the actor couldn’t keep the momentum going in movies. While he has been much loved for his shows like Kahiin To Hoga and Left Right Left, he is yet to enjoy similar success in Bollywood. Ahead of the release of Fever, caught up with the actor for a freewheeling chat. Excerpts:  

What is Fever all about?
Fever is about someone trying to find out who he is and he only has a few leads. All he knows is his name and that he has committed a crime. It’s a very scary situation for him because he doesn’t know whom to trust. It’s a very intelligent story. When I was given the narration, the first thing I asked was, “Is this story original?” The director assured me that it’s original but I still went ahead and did my own research.

What is the problem if you do a remake?
I had done Aamir and later, I got to know that it’s a remake. After Aamir, when people started saying that it is a remake, I wished that it was an original. Even though it was better than the original, it still takes away some of your efforts. For example, when Aamir’s remake was made in South, it just felt nice to know that my work has inspired somebody.

You have quite a few intimate scenes in Fever...
I have intimate scenes with all the 3 actresses – Caterina Murino, Gemma Atkinson and Gauahar Khan. But our Indian society is still hung up on the idea of intimate scenes. Even in 2016, we are caught up with how many kisses there are in a film. After working with these international stars, I realised the difference between how we deal with intimacy and how they deal with it.

Go on...
I remember Caterina and I had to shoot our first intimate scene. She was so casual about it. She was in her bathrobe and she was like, “Ok Rajeev, this is what we are gonna do. So let’s shoot it.” I, on the other hand, was unsure and apprehensive. Before shooting such scenes, we always say, “Can we please have a minimal crew?” But these international stars don’t even make that demand, they treat it like any other scene.

How does your wife deal with you doing intimate scenes?
She is a very confident woman. She doesn’t weigh me by what I do on screen. She instead weighs me by what I do in real life. She isn’t an insecure person at all, not the type who will come to the sets. In fact, she gets bored when she comes to my shoots. I remember she came to Switzerland when I was shooting for Fever. She had planned a 10-day trip but she left after 8 days as she got bored.

Coming back to your career. Where have you been for so long? We saw you in Reporters, then we saw you in a few films but then you disappeared again.
My last film was Samrat & Co, which hardly anyone saw.

What went wrong?
I think Rajshri (the producers) went completely wrong. I think it was a very well-made film. I hate to say this but the marketing and publicity went completely wrong. At least, the film should have properly reached the audience.

So did you speak to them?
As we neared the film’s release date, I was making calls to them telling them that it is going wrong. They were like, “Yeah, we are taking care of it.” And usually, you don’t doubt the Rajshris. Plus, I’m not big enough to question a production house that has been in the industry way longer than I have.

After that, you did the TV show Reporters which also didn’t do well...
That’s fine. It did very well in some other places.

Do you think the marketing went wrong there too? The show was a crime fiction story but was sold on the kiss between you and Kritika Kamra. The essence of the show did not come out...

I disagree with that. The show got a TRP of 0.4 consistently, which was shocking for a 9pm slot. Our assessment was that at 9 pm, the remote is with the women in the house and they like to watch saas-bahu shows. Or they watch shows like Kawach and Naagin which they find very easy to understand because they believe in ghosts, spirits and reincarnation. But the youngsters in the house logged on to YouTube to watch Reporters.

Do you watch TV now?
No, I don’t watch TV shows but I know what’s happening. I think the content has become more TRP-driven. I have seen a couple of shows that are simply aping one show that worked. Yeh chal raha hai, toh hum bhi aisa hi karte hai. If we think the standard of television has deteriorated, then it’s because the audience’s tastes have deteriorated. If you think the standard has gone up, then it’s because the audience’s tastes have gone up. It’s directly proportional to what the audience wants.

Like movies need marketing, actors also need marketing. But you’re not doing that...
Yes, because the way you have to market yourself in today’s day and age, it doesn’t go with my personality.

Can you elaborate on that?
Actors of the previous generation weren’t omnipresent. There was this mystique to them. Mr Bachchan or Vinod Khanna or Rishi Kapoor – they were all loved because their films worked well. They weren’t selling themselves. For me, it’s a vicious circle. The day you start marketing yourself, you won’t know where to stop. And I won’t be able to cope up with that. Today, in the media, everything is paid for. You have to buy spaces. I’d rather make a creative space for myself where a niche audience enjoys my work.

But money is an important part of life. If you do less films, how will you sustain yourself?
If you know how much is enough for you, then you are sorted. If you’re the kind who thinks that I need to change my car because people have seen it for 3 years now, then you’re in trouble. For me, I have enough. If I do Reporters, I am sorted for years because I know what my needs are. You will not see me doing a film just for the sake of money. I’m still driving the CRV that I bought in 2006. My friends say, “Why do you still drive this car? You’re an actor, tujhe toh badi gaadi leni chahiye.” But I don’t think like that. I still go to my gym on a cycle. I see people from the industry coming to the gym in their snazzy cars, when they live just half a kilometre away from the gym (laughs).

Talking about your personal life, do you see yourself embracing parenthood soon?
Yeah, I think maybe next year. Our parents have been pressurising for the last 3 years. I just want Manjari to be mentally prepared for it. We both are looking forward to becoming parents.

Image Source:  Manav Manglani, Indiaforum & Pvrls

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