From participating in Mr India contest to walking the runway as a model and from acting to television production, multi-talented Rahul Bhat has done it all in his career. After staying away from the silver screen for more than five years, the actor returned to his first love with Anurag Kashyap’s critically acclaimed film Ugly, which did the rounds at various national and international film festivals, including the very prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Last seen in Sanjay Patel’s Union Leader, Bhat is now gearing up for the release of perhaps his career’s most important film Daas Dev, which is helmed by award-winning filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. Our Mumbai correspondent recently spent 15 minutes with the actor to know more about what drew him to Daas Dev, his experience working with Sudhir, and whether or not he will go back to television, where he started his acting career from. The actor also talked about surviving in showbiz without any godfather and what else attracts him apart from acting. Excerpts…
This is the first time when you are collaborating with Sudhir Mishra. He is a prolific filmmaker with many great films to his credit. How was your experience working with him?
Sudhir sir is the master of his craft. He has made so many great films which we still remember. He is an award-winning director. From his vast experience and knowledge, I have learned a lot. I think he is a dream director for an actor because he does not intrude into your craft, instead, he supports you. He pushes you. He pushes you to do something new. He pushes you to do something interesting and exciting. He pushes you in the right direction. When a rocket goes up in the air, leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, there is a propeller which pushes it to go to the Mars or the Moon or wherever the destination is. He is like that propeller.
Does he welcome ideas and let his actors take liberty while doing particular scenes or he sticks to his script and you will have to do what is written there on the paper?
He is totally open to ideas. He gives you immense freedom. He does not confine you to a certain kind of a space. He lets you fly and go as long as you are going the right direction.
You started your career from films and then took a long break before venturing into television production. Now you have returned to films again. How did all this happen?
I started my career from modelling. I first participated in Mr India and then did Heena for almost five years. Then I did a movie with Umesh Mehra who was a big director back then. He had directed Khilaḍiyoṅ Ka Khiladi, International Khiladi, and so many big films. I did Yeh Mohabbat Hai with him. Then I did Nitin Manmohan’s Nayee Padosan. After Nayee Padosan did fairly okay, I was getting the work I did not really feel like doing. I was getting offered films which I didn’t believe in. They were being offered by directors who were not exciting enough for me. So, I took a break from films. Accidentally, I started my television production house. It kind of took off very well. We did a lot of successful shows like Tum Dena Saath Mera and Meri Doli Tere Angana. We also did a lot of work for Doordarshan. I didn’t act in those shows; I just produced them. After eight years while doing TV, Anurag Kashyap offered me Ugly. He said, ‘Come on, do acting again! The moment he offered me Ugly, I shut my television company. I said, ‘Enough, I will have to concentrate on my acting’ because primarily and basically I wanted to become an actor. So, that’s how I came back to acting. And of course, after Ugly, Fitoor happened followed by Union Leader and so many films. There are many films in the pipeline also. So, let’s see what happens. Future looks exciting though.
Will you never revive your television production house, even if something great comes your way?
It depends. Right now, I am totally concentrating on my acting. It depends on the opportunity. If the opportunity is right and time is right, then why not? I am open to everything.
Coming back to Daas Dev, what drew you towards the film – the script or the director sitting next to you?
For me, the first thing is the director because it’s very logical and very clear that if the director is right, his script will be right. He wouldn’t pick up a wrong script. If the director is Sudhir Mishra, will he take up a stupid script? Never. Then why should I bother about the script? I know the script must be good. If the director is Anurag Kashyap, he will do a good script. Why will he pick up a bad script? Do I have more understanding and talent than him in terms of scripts? Do I understand a script more than an Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra, Vishal Bhardwaj and Imtiaz Ali? No boss, I don’t. So, let me work with these directors because I know their scripts must be very good. However, my part is very important for me. I want to play main parts. I want to play the right parts. I am not going to play any random character.
As you just said that you don’t want to play any random part. Was that the reason you did not take up many projects in the past?
In the past, I had gotten all the main parts but the scripts and directors were not good. But now, the directors who are approaching me are good and so are the scripts. So, I feel I am in the right space right now.
There are two gorgeous ladies in the film – Richa Chadha and Aditi Rao Hydari. How was your experience working with them?
It was great working with them. They are so talented, beautiful and nice. They are very professional.
You came from a different place and became a part of the industry. Tell me from your experience that is it really difficult for an outsider to come here, survive and leave a mark?
It’s really difficult for anybody, be it an outsider, insider or whoever it is. It doesn’t matter. It’s very difficult. Yes, whoever is an insider gets the first opportunity because of his father or grandfather. But remember, his father or grandfather must have been an outsider one day. Some outsider had come from somewhere and started.
This industry is cruel. It’s very straightforward. If you are good, it will salute you. If you are not good, it will ask you to make way for somebody else that is more deserving. So whether you are an insider or an outsider, you will have to prove yourself.
Apart from acting and production, is there any other arena of filmmaking that attracts you?
Direction and writing attract me a lot. All actors think they are writers (laughs). They think they know the craft. Unfortunately, they might be wrong. But I am writing something on Kashmir. It’s called To Hell With Heaven.
Will you ever go back to acting on television?
Yeah, I don’t have any problem, but only when something really great is offered. A lot of television offers come to me almost every day. They are offering me big money also as TV has become so big over the years. I don’t accept them because, right now, I have many films to look after. But if there is something really exciting, I might be interested.