By Murtaza Ali Khan
NSD Alumnus Rakesh Chaturvedi Om has had a long association with theatre. He has also directed two films, Bolo Raam (2009), starring the likes of Om Puri, Naseeuddin Shah, Manoj Pahwa, and Padmini Kohlapure, and BHK Bhalla@Halla.Kom (2016), which starred the likes of Rasika Agashe, Yashpal Sharma, and Manoj Pahwa. In the capacity of an actor he has starred in films like Padman, Adrishya, and Parzanai. In the recently released Bollywood blockbuster Kesari, which is based on the Battle of Saragarhi, he essays the part of the primary antagonist opposite Akshay Kumar.
In this interview, he talks about his character in Anurag Singh’s Kesari and how he prepared for it, his experience of working with Akshay Kumar, and his upcoming projects.
Murtaza Ali Khan: Tell us about Kesari as well as your character in the film.
Rakesh Chaturvedi: Kesari is based on The Battle of Saragarhi which was fought in 1897 between 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and around 10,000-12,000 Afghans. The Sikhs were led by Havildar Ishar Singh. That character is played by Akshay Kumar. On the other hand, I play an Afghan cleric in the film. My character plays a critical part in the entire chain of events revolving around the battle. Just like Ishar Singh, mine is also a historical character. I have tried my best to portray it in the best possible manner. Also, I feel the film does great justice to it.
MAK: What kind of preparation did you do for the part?
RC: The director Anurag Singh worked closely with the actors. We all had to work very hard in order to prepare for our respective parts. We had a month-long workshop during which we not only tried to deeply understand our own characters but also tried to develop an understanding of the characters that were to be played by others. This allowed us to visualize the film even before the shooting started. And so the rest of the tasks became much easier.
MAK: You have previously worked with Akshay Kumar in Padman. How was the experience of working with him in Kesari different?
RC: Akshay Sir is well known for his jovial nature. But when it comes to work there are few who can match his intensity. This time around I found him to be more serious than last time. Perhaps, his role in Kesari demanded it. Somewhere I felt that he had internalized his character’s feeling and emotions so well that it was reflecting on the outside as well. Every day when we started shooting at 7 in the morning, Akshay Sir already used to be ready with all his heavy makeup/getup. He would even skip lunch to ensure that the shooting did get interrupted. Working with him was a great learning experience for me. And, of course, it was great fun as well.
MAK: In the trailer of Kesari, Akshay Kumar’s character can be seen calling you a liar. Ever since it has given rise to some very interesting memes on the internet.
RC: Well, I believe that the memes are a reflection of the attention that Kesari has been receiving all around. It really feels good to know that people have enjoyed the particular scene so much. These days even before anyone else the social media gives its verdict and in case of Kesari it really has been overwhelming. I am truly grateful for the love that the film has been receiving.
MAK: What are your upcoming projects?
RC: After Kesari, one more film is lined up. It is titled Dhoort. Also I will soon be working on my next film as a director. It is currently in the pre-production stage. The shooting is expected to start in the month of October in Uttar Pradesh.
Murtaza Ali Khan is an independent film critic based out of Delhi, India. He is the editor-in-chief of A Potpourri of Vestiges and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has also contributed to The Hindu, The Quint, Wittyfeed, etc. He is on the guest panel for live discussions on the television channel News X. He is Films Editor at Café Dissensus.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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