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On a role

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By Be it acting, script-writing, rugby or social work, Rahul Bose revels in each and every role he plays, says Sushmita Biswas
  • Published 11.03.06

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of actor Rahul Bose? How about intense, serious or intellectual? Bose hates these tags and has been trying desperately to shed them.

But in the fast-moving world of celebrity, Bose has always stood apart. Not a common man’s hero, Bose’s films are always talking points regardless of how they do at the box office. So whether it’s Mr and Mrs Iyer, Jhankaar Beats, Chameli or Mumbai Matinee, his films are luminous and textured.

If 2005 saw Bose teaming up with Konkona Sen Sharma in Aparna Sen’s 15, Park Avenue, 2006 will see him in various avatars. Right now, the actor is looking forward to the release of his first Bengali film Kaalpurush directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, which got critical appreciation at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s a film about the relationship between a father and son and explores the different layers of their relationship.

Bose plays the son opposite Mithun Chakraborty who’s his father in the film. Says Bose, “It’s a film which has been made more in the tradition of Ray. I am proud to do this role as it has lots of shades to it and is surely one of the most challenging pieces of work I have done. It’s a multi-layered film, which gives lots of food for thought.”

Dumping a successful career in advertising in the 1990s, Bose started out in films with Dev Benegal’s English August. Since then, he has always sought out roles that offer him a chance to display a wide range of emotions. The case in point is his second Bengali film Anuranon directed by Annirudh Roy Chowdhary starring Rituparna Sengupta, Raima Sen and Rajat Kapoor.

Back in Mumbai after shooting for the film in Calcutta, Bose gushes about the film which is a story of four friends. “It’s made in an art-house style and set up in contemporary urban Calcutta. I play an architect who has a tremendous life-force and the film shows how that energy affects the lives of others when he disappears all of a sudden,” he explains.

His own mantra for success is to make the character look justifiable and to do everything to make it believable. That’s also the reason why he’s opted to do a period film like Kerala directed by ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan. Set in 1937, Bose will be playing a Malayali villager along with Nandita Das and a host of other British actors. “I had to learn Malayalam, which was not so easy but I managed it. This will be radically different from all the other movies I am doing,” he admits.

Mention Bollywood and Bose insists that he’s averse to multi-crore masala movies. Though he had a brush with commercial cinema in Govind Nihalini’s Takshak, which also starred Ajay Devgun and Tabu, he says that the medium doesn’t excite him. But he’s open to romantic comedies like his recent film, Pyaar Ke Side Effects opposite sex siren Mallika Sherawat, which he’s currently dubbing. “If you ask me the reason why, I will only say that it’s been a calculated move. Though Bollywood films are boring, I preferred to do this one, as it will have me in the central lead. It’s the closest I can go to a formula film. It is one of the few scripts I’ve come across that has wit as opposed to just plain comedy,” he explains.

Acting opposite Mallika Sherawat has also been a great experience he says. “She is spunky, witty, well-read and is forever willing to improve on her acting skills,” he adds. Working with his co-stars has never been a problem with Bose and he’s worked with some of the industry’s most glamorous ones like Sameera Reddy in Kaalpurush, Kareena Kapoor in Chameli, Rinki Khanna in Jhankaar Beats and Koel Purie in White Noise. He clarifies, “I don’t go by who’s my co-star. It’s my character which is of prime importance to me and the director.”

There’s no denying that Bose is often the first choice when filmmakers need a superlative performance. Also, he’s now making a foray as scriptwriter of Whisperers, an English film and is quite charged up about it. Directed by Rajeev Virani, Whisperers is a dark, psychological thriller that has Bose and Manoj Bajpai in it. Working with Bajpai has been a great experience for Bose as the former is also known for his passionate acting. “The film deals with the world of power, money and politics and how they affect these two men,” he says. Bose had earlier directed his own film Everybody Says I’m Fine, which had Koel Purie, Pooja Bhatt and Boman Irani in it.

Dubbed as the Aamir Khan of parallel cinema, Bose is choosy about the films he signs. He insists it’s the script, which is crucially important when selecting a film. “A film’s success doesn’t depend on the star cast but on how well it’s written,” he points out.

Besides acting in films, Bose is also passionate about rugby, which he has been playing for quite some time. He got hooked on to the game while studying at Cathedral School in Mumbai and he believes that rugby has helped to keep him grounded. He will be playing in the coming Tri-Nation Rugby Tournament between India, Thailand and Malaysia in July this year and in the India versus Pakistan match in November.

Beyond films and rugby, Bose takes pride in the fact that he’s an informed citizen of India and therefore lends his support to social issues like gender equality and violence against women. He was actively involved in social work in the Tsunami-affected Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “I am now actively involved in a series of initiatives in the islands of which education is the first priority. For this, we have collaborated with Akshara Centre, an NGO, which is working out the modalities,” he says. Besides this, Rahul is also the ambassador for the Spastic Society of India and is on the advisory board of Breakthrough, which fights for Human Rights through media and entertainment.

One of the issues that is uppermost in his mind today is that of witnesses turning hostile in the Jessica Lal murder trial. He has strong opinions about the case. “There are certain things that we need to concentrate upon like evolving a proper witness protection scheme. Secondly, trials should be time-bound in order to keep up the momentum of the case and lastly, we should have a fair and fearless police force,” says the actor with a conscience.

Photograph by Pradip Adak