Aditya Rawal: I am less brave and less cynical than my father Paresh Rawal – Exclusive – Times of India
You’re a busy artiste with lots of work but you’re doing it all silently. Why?
Maybe it’s my upbringing or attitude but I’ve always been preferred to put my head down and keep working. Movie promotions are part of our work but otherwise there’s no need to beat your own drum. If you enjoy the process of your work, then you don’t worry about other things. Your reward is in the doing as opposed to how it’s perceived by others.
Yesteryear actors used to say that sometimes it took them a lot of effort and time to get out of an intense character. But the new breed of actors seems to deal with such situations far more efficiently. What do you think has made a difference?
I think it definitely takes time. But you can slowly get out of character. Sometimes, you want to make it sound better, so you glorify things. I am a bit wary of such practice. Some things are said only for effect. But it is true when you play an intense character like Nibras, you take time to disengage. For me, it is a mixture of time and diving deep into something else. Also, you try to refresh your palette as an artist.
My father shared a trivia in an interview about Naseeruddin Shah. Naseer saab left everything else to play one small role in Peter Brook’s play in Paris for one year. My father asked him why. Naseer sir said, “I wanted to see whether the principles that I’m working with are still relevant in today’s time or not.”
If artists of that stature are trying to keep themselves upgraded at this stage and age in their life, toh hum kis khet ki mooli hain? I am starting rehearsals for an English play, which will be a good way to refresh again, getting on stage after a few years’ break.
How did you start your journey in films?
Although I started as an assistant, I knew that I wanted to write and act. I used to write and audition as well. I worked as an assistant only on one schedule as an intern. After that schedule got over, I got a chance to write with Ketan Mehta sir. I co-wrote the script of Panipat with Ashu sir (Ashutosh Gowariker).
I had written a play that got produced in New York. I sent it to Ashu sir to get feedback. He liked it so much that he offered me to work on the screenplay that he had in mind. So, I started working with him. It’s a screenplay that I am proud of. Hopefully, that screenplay will see the light of day soon.
When I finished that screenplay, Panipat was greenlit. So, he got me on board to work on the Panipat script and I co-wrote it. I learned so much from them.
I have noticed a common thread between Ketan sir, Ashu sir, and Hansal Mehta sir — despite their achievements, their passion, humility and focus is undeterred.
How important is the commerce of films for you?
I am a deeply passionate person. When I am doing a play or film, I think about it day and night. I don’t know what life is if I’m not following my passion. I am deeply passionate but I’m also cognizant of the responsibility that I have as a creator. As a writer or director, you have to understand the viability of the story and what the platform is for the story.
If you’re thinking of making a niche drama on a 50-crore budget and releasing it in theatres, you’re a fool. Likewise, if you’re making a superhero budget then you have to maximize its potential to justify the budget and platform.
How are you different from your father Paresh Rawal?
I am less brave and I’m less cynical than he is.
Do writers get their respect and monetary due today?
I think things are changing for the better. People are realizing the value of writers and are moving in the direction of giving writers their worth, whether it’s time, money, attention, or publicity. But we have a long way to go. Above that its on a level of humanity. As a producer, if I value my writer and I want to have a long-time collaboration with the writer, then I’ll pay him well and treat him well. If a writer is desperate, then he will work for the producer at a much lesser fee. That’s an unfair and harmful practice.
In the west, if you are a part of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA), there’s a certain minimum amount that a writer gets paid. In India, the Screenwriters’ Association of India (SWA) has proposed a minimum wage for the writer based on the film’s budget, but that’s only a recommendation. It is not implemented because we do not have enough power as writers. It’s there in the US, and you can see the results on the screen. Having said that, I think we are moving forward and change will happen.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have done an OTT show that should be out in mid-this year. I have a play that will be staged in mid-April. I am also talking to a few people to start shooting for a couple of films and shows. I have written a play which will feature Zahan Kapoor and I, along with two more actors. We are proud of the play and we want to get it out at the earliest.
What did Paresh Rawal mean when he said that he doesn’t have enough money to launch you?
He was just joking when he said that. We never had that outlook only. At home, nobody said that they will give us a platform to shine. We always knew that we had to do it on our own.
Who was the one to first spot your talent as an actor?
I was interested in sports. I was the captain of the football team of Mumbai University. I was selected for the national camp twice. I was doing well for my age. But the writing bug had already bitten me.
In my acting journey, one person that I am most grateful to is casting director Taran Bajaj. There was an open audition for the role of Choocha in Fukrey which Varun Sharma eventually played. Honey Trehan was casting for the film and Taran Bajaj was his assistant. I did a 2-minute scene with him which went up to 6 minutes as we improvised. Taran Bhai must have liked it. So, when Taran Bhai did his first film as an independent casting director which was Bamfaad, he called me for it. I was not sure about it but he told me that I could do it. So, I met the director Ranjan Singh Chandel and auditioned. I did workshops and it’s a part that I am proud of. The film was reviewed well and got a good response. I was so amazed by the quality of the casting director that he noticed the actor’s capability when the actor himself wasn’t aware of it. I am grateful to him and I don’t think my journey wouldn’t have been so rewarding had it not been because of Taran Bajaj.
Why do we not see more of your mother, Swaroop Sampat on the screen? What keeps her busy?
My father is a fantastic actor. But that is the one thing that he does very well. Other than that, he doesn’t even know how to heat up water in a microwave. But my mother is an absolute allrounder. She did her Bachelor’s Degree in fine arts. She became Miss India. She was successful as an actor in films, theatre and television. When my brother and I were born, she took a hiatus from work and raised us. When we were old enough, she did a Ph.D. from the University of Worcestershire. Then she became an educator. She teaches children through drama. She is a published author. I have co-written a children’s book with her. She holds camps across the country and trains teachers how to teach with this method. She is part on the government level of designing certain syllabuses. She is so busy doing such rich, rewarding work.
As for acting, she doesn’t want to do it just to keep herself busy. She does it when she feels deeply affected. She played an interesting part in The White Tiger and Uri: The Surgical Strike.
What’s your ultimate dream?
You have asked an existential question. I look at my grandmother who is 91 years old. She worked as a cancer pathologist for most of her life. But even now at her age and limited physical ability, she has a zest for life. She wants to learn new things. If I can live that long and have that passion for life, then I’ll think I have lived a good life. That’s my ultimate dream.
Does the writer in you ever best the actor?
Not at all. Being a writer makes me a better actor and vice versa. But when I am acting, I am an actor. That time, I throw away my writer’s hat. I only try to execute what the writer and director have envisioned. If I have written something then I’d hate an actor interfering in it. I respect the same in my maker too.