Actor Rajeev Khandelwal, who made his debut with the critically-acclaimed terrorist thriller Aamir in 2008, hopes the new year bring in more content-driven films. He has already made a head start with Table No 21, releasing on Thursday.
“I just want to be associated with films that have a good story and have a long shelf life ... I promise Table No 21 will change the way thrillers are perceived in Bollywood,” said Khandelwal. The four-film-old actor also claims that he will never enlist the support of a powerful Bollywood actor or producer to forge ahead in his career.
“That would mean I will have to share that success ... that won’t do,” he said.
“When I was in 9th standard, I was gutted when I couldn’t go for an audition for a play. As a child, becoming an actor was all I could think about,” said Khandelwal.
Directed by Aditya Datt, Table No 21 will compete with Dabangg 2 starring Salman Khan and released on December 20, which is continuing its dream run at the box office.
“I don’t want to be lost in the crowd. I don’t like to be like others,” he said.
Excerpts from our chat with Khandelwal ...
Tell us about Table No 21.
It’s a taut thriller that’s compelling and is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seats. It will redefine the way thrillers are perceived in Bollywood. Without giving much away, it’s a story about a couple who win a romantic vacation package to Fiji and are lured into playing a deadly game. This film will make you think and keeps you guessing.
Salman Khan’s Dabangg 2 is playing in cinemas now. Do you think Table No 21, made on a modest budget with rising stars, stands a chance of luring the crowds?
How does it make a difference? How can you compare one film to another film? For me, a film made on a modest budget backed by strong content should recover its cost and earn profits for producers.
There are some Bollywood films that are made to work on different business models. Some are made just to earn money and then there’s the other kind of cinema that blends art and business. I am busy with the latter model. Remember, my first film Aamir was made on a tight budget but it made three times its investment. If you spend Rs500 million (Dh33 million) on a film and make Rs1 billion, then you make just twice the investment. Whereas I had rather be attached to a film that is made on a budget of Rs30 million and makes Rs90 million. Never go by the perception created by these big numbers.
Table No 21 is being directed by your Will You Marry Me? director Aditya Datt. Partly shot in Fujairah and Dubai, Will You Marry Me? was declared a flop. Did you have any apprehensions when being directed again by Datt?
Will You Marry Me? was not ruined by the director. It was ruined by the film’s producers because the director wasn’t given the resources to begin with. There were many things that were promised in terms of technicians but the producers didn’t deliver any of it. A film’s fate is never always the director’s fault. As an actor I could not walk out of the film because I was contractually obliged to finish the film. What I could possibly do was to stay away from the promotions. I did that. I knew the film was not good. Plus, I didn’t expect the film to do well. To set the record straight, I didn’t disown the film. We weren’t dishonest about our work. It had a shoddy release and I cannot lie to the audience talking up a film when I know the reality. With Table No 21, it was different. We have good producers on board and Aditya [Datt] is good at what he does. This is going to be a masterpiece.
Will you break into dance in the thriller?
Sorry, we didn’t have time to run around trees. The situation was too tense in the film for us to have a dream sequence.
In an earlier interview, you claimed that you don’t need godfathers in Bollywood. Were you always so defiant?
I am not aggressive but I strongly believe that nobody needs a godfather in Bollywood. Only those who are insecure about themselves look for godfathers to boost their career. Those who are secure and have a great amount of self-belief will never need them. I am happy that I have no godfather because then I would have to partake my success from films like Aamir and Shaitan with them. I want everything for myself. I want to learn from my own mistakes.
Have you faced resistance in this highly clannish industry?
I have faced resistance, but there’s some fun in that. What’s the point in victory if you don’t have any roadblocks along the way? It hasn’t been smooth sailing but I am extremely happy at where I am right now. When I look back I just smile at the way I could do daily soap operas like Kahin To Hoga, a reality TV show like Sach Ka Saamna and films like Aamir. How many of us could boast of excelling in all those three spaces? I don’t think I am a great actor yet because I am still learning the nuances of acting. If I could change anything, I just want to do a few more films in a year.