Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala, UTV
Rajeev Khandelwal makes his screen debut with Aamir
Rajeev Khandelwal, yet another television star transitions to the big screen, leaving behind a saga of controversy, the most significant being his on-off relationship with his mentor Ekta Kapoor. The soap queen had launched him through her saas bahu serials and ensured that he warmed himself into the hearts of his audience, nee women of all age groups, who were quite taken in by his good looks and well groomed persona.
Playing the part of a regular doctor, who has worked hard to emerge out of his middle class moorings to make a future in the UK, he returns to India where he has his mother, two sisters and a younger brother. Ah, yes, he happens to be a Muslim but a secular one, with a Hindu girl friend and a conviction that he is the master of his destiny.
How this conviction is blown to smithereens is seen the moment he alights at the Mumbai International airport and finds a larger force dictating his every move and action. His eyes seek out his family members who had promised to receive him at the airport, in vain, his luggage gets whisked away in an unfamiliar taxi, a mobile phone is forcibly thrust into his hands and the moment he takes his first call on it, he is left with no choice but to follow strange directions by a voice at the other end, with whom the only connection is that of a shared religion.
What follows is a bizarre sequence of events, a la Phone Booth where Colin Farrel was trapped in a phone booth by a sniper, only here it is Rajeev who unwittingly plays out a part that has been written for him by a terrorist outfit. Sucked into their nexus to do their bidding, he is forced to cast aside his questions, simply because he has absolutely no choice in the matter.
The sheer helplessness and agony of being at their mercy and of not comprehending the larger picture is brought out well by the actor, with a face that is emotive and sensitive. To give him credit in his debut film, he does not ham or over act. In a very subtle and if one may say dignified way, he plays the part of a regular guy trapped in very frightening circumstances.
He has the screen presence and versatility to play a range of roles, though it is the dark brooding or angry young man parts that will become him. What comes across with an eerie intensity is the fact that what happens to Aamir, could happen to any of us. The shock and disbelief of being so very vulnerable to external forces, in this case terrorism and jingoism is brought out succinctly.
Quite the lone ranger who carries the film on his slim shoulders, he could work on his dialogue delivery and voice modulation. In some intense parts, his voice streteches into a shrill monotone that is jarring.
Racy and barely of 90-minutes duration, it makes for gripping viewing. At the end of the day it is a brave film. The launch pad of television’s golden boy, sans a glamorous heroine, item number, raunchy songs. In fact there are no overseas locales. Come to think of it, the hero does not even get a chance to display a designer wardrobe. It’s a singular black suit that he dons through the film. A movie that challenges the adage, you are the master of your destiny, to tell you in no uncertain terms that destiny is a matter of chance and certainly not choice.
In dialogue with Rajeev Khandelwal
Television made Rajeev a household name as he portrayed the roles of ‘Sujal’ in ‘Kahiin Toh Hoga’ and ‘Rajveer’ in ‘Left Right Left’. He has for now quit TV to try his hand at films.
Your debut film Aamir releases today alongside big banner release, ‘Sarkaar Raj’ starring the Bachchan family. Are you apprehensive?
There couldn’t have been a better day for me. We grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan’s films and now to see your film, that too the first one, share screen space with the big release of the season, is a happy feeling. I am glad the producers did not change the release date.
Did it bother him to be in a film that had no leading ladies, item songs and a strong supporting cast?
This is a very different film and it is the strong script that is its backbone. There is a newness about the film that brings with it a freshness which I hope will click with the audiences. A lot of futures are hinged on the movie, given the fact that it has a debut director, debut music director and debut actor.
How was it portraying the role of an ordinary man leading a regular life?
From the filming point of view, it was a challenge. There were scenes we shot in the middle of the road with people and traffic during peak hours. At times I wasn’t even aware where the camera was placed. There were people walking down the pavement and I was asked to shout and cry. I guess what made it easy was that I am a regular guy and all I had to do was follow my director.
Television gave Rajeev immense popularity as Sujal in Kahiin Toh Hoga as well as Rajveer of Left Right Left but he has no plans of entering those sets anytime in the near future. ”I want to do films and I will be disappointed to do television again. I cannot sail on two boats at the same time.”
With inputs by Aroma
The film releases today across India