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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Harshvardhan Rane gets candid about his Bollywood career

‘I ran away not just from my home but also from a society that kept telling me what is possible and what is not’

Priyanka Roy  Published 19.08.21, 12:20 AM
Harshvardhan Rane

Harshvardhan Rane Sourced by the correspondent

In a career spanning 15 years of talking to film folks almost every day, Harshvardhan Rane is perhaps one of the most down-to-earth actors I have interacted with. humble, level-headed, easygoing and honest, the 37-year-old looker — who impressed on debut with the 2016 film Sanam Teri Kasam and has now grabbed attention with Taish and Haseen Dillruba — engaged in a freewheeling video chat with The Telegraph from Ranikhet where he has been stationed for a while. We spoke on success and failure, Harsh’s passion for acting, his instinct for survival and much more.

The buzz around your performance in Haseen Dillruba hasn’t died down. Given the length of the part, has the overwhelming response caught you by surprise?

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You are right. I am surprised. When I was offered the part, I was in that phase when I wasn’t getting a lot of work. When I am offered a film, I close my eyes and think of certain things... who is making the film and who are the people supporting the film. Vinil Mathew is a director with strong emotional intelligence, he makes some of the best advertisements. Aanand L. Rai sir was backing the film, so that was another tick mark. Taapsee Pannu and Vikrant Massey are such great actors and I knew that unke saath mein khade rahunga toh kuch seekh hi loonga. To top it all, the narration was mind-blowing. I couldn’t guess the ending, honestly... main shayad bahut hi zyada buddhu hoon! (Laughs)

I knew that the part was this much itself... what I do with it and how I bring it alive would depend on me. What they did promise me was presentation. They told me that I would be showcased very responsibly. When someone as big as Aanand sir says things like this, you will know that it’s not flaky. I felt I was in good hands. The fact that they included me in all the promotions of the film, given how short the part was, is something I hadn’t expected, honestly.

When we had spoken before the release of the film, Taapsee had said that the roles are reversed and that the man, in this case your character Neel, was the one being objectified. Your chief purpose was to be eye candy, but you made him more than a prop. How did you manage that?

It means so much for an actor if the audience can see beyond their physicality. I am so happy that you said something like this. My father, who is no more now, was a person who stood the risk of being easily misunderstood. But when you got to know him well, you could see the layers within him. That impacted me a lot as a kid, that one should never judge others by appearance. That could be Neel or anyone else. There is always a story behind every appearance.

For Neel, it was important for me that his human side should be shown, and that’s what Vinil Mathew did from Day One. Zyada mujhe expectation nahin thi kyuki woh dus-pandraah minute ka role tha and my limited screen time became a challenge for me. When you have a larger part, there are scenes designed to justify your character. I didn’t have many scenes to establish and justify Neel... sab mujhe fatafat karna pada. From the first scene I had to get going. Agar dialogue nahin hain toh kuch aankhon se kar do. Aankhon ka nahin hain toh gesture se kar do. If even two people out of 100 noticed what I have tried to do with the character, then it’s an achievement for me.

Has Haseen Dillruba helped in increasing your visibility as an actor?

The biggest compliment for an actor is when a piece of work gets in more work. After Haseen Dillruba, I have got offers from people who I wouldn’t have ever thought would message me. I had kept everyone prepared beforehand with, ‘Zyada kuch expect mat karna, sirf chaudah minute ka role hain.’ And then, once the film released, everyone was like, ‘Come on, the impact is much more than just 14 minutes.’ And for that, I would give credit to the director, how it’s been edited, the music.... At the end of the day, everyone wants to only give credit to the actor, which I think is unfair, but yes, I have benefited a lot from that film. Compliment thankfully kaam ke roop mein convert hua hain. I have a lot more opportunities now.

You have been doing consistently good work. I thought you were very good in Taish last year. In the industry, for someone still finding his footing, do praise and promises always translate into work?

You are right in asking that question because words and action are two different things altogether. I have actually spent a large part of my life thinking ki jo words miley hain woh action mein kab convert hoga. Most often than not, it doesn’t happen.

But since Taish, I have to admit that I have been getting way more warmth, if not as much attention or films. By that, I mean a lot more warmth from film-makers, and that is a huge conversion for me. Also, DCA (Dharma Cornerstone Agency, the talent arm of Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions) signed me after watching Taish. Now that I am getting a lot more work, my focus is solely on building on it.

Is it possible to have a plan in a job as unpredictable as this?

I don’t know if I have a plan, but I always believe that one’s intention should be correct. If your intention is a plan, then you have a plan. My intention is to never say die. On top of that, if one is disciplined, persistent and if one doesn’t let negativity affect you, then that is a nice intention to have. Yahan pe plan nahin kar sakte, that’s true. If plans worked here, then everyone would make Rs 100-crore films (smiles). There are some films that don’t get respect despite earning Rs 300-crore. Intention is very important in this line of business... planning toh MBA mein karte hain! (Laughs)

Have you always had this never-say-die attitude?

I think I have some defect... mere dimaag mein koi wiring ka problem hain jahaan pe mujhe nahin hoga’ samajh mein nahin aata. I always think, ‘Dekhte hain kaise hoga.’ For me, the number one instinct has always been survival. Human instinct is primarily about survival. This instinct is very predominant in me. When something doesn’t work out for me, I first figure out why it didn’t happen and then start working on it again. It doesn’t mean I will be successful a second or a third time, but I will keep at it.

It’s just that people around us sometimes force us to believe that yeh nahin hoga. Aise logon se main hamesha bhaagta hoon. I am not a numbers guy, I don’t put things into slots, for me stuff is always free-flowing... for me, formula isn’t the way to always do things.

When you started out, you did all kinds of jobs, including being a waiter, courier boy, working at an STD booth, at a cyber cafe, assisting a DJ and then working at a call centre. What was it about this dream and passion of being an actor that kept you going through the years?

Again, the fact that people told me that I wouldn’t be able to make it. Even as a kid, I would go out of my way to prove that things could be done if one tried enough. When it came to acting, many told me, ‘Yeh kya hain? Yeh toh koi profession bhi nahin hain.’ I was asked questions like, ‘Who do you know in Bombay? How will you survive?’ I just wanted to get out of Gwalior. I ran away not just from my home but also from a society that kept telling me what is possible and what is not. That’s what I am still running away from... people who have no vision, no faith, no belief....

Yes, I have done all these jobs you mentioned, and then some more. And I don’t look at it as any sort of struggle. Anyone who leaves home without a financial cushion has to do every kind of job. Every job I did was a training ground for me, a free school for me. Everything for me is a learning curve. Nowadays, I learn new words... someone told me recently that these are referred to as blue-collar jobs (smiles). But for me, it was all about survival. I just stuck to the basics of earning the physiological needs of roti, kapda makaan. At that time, that’s all we needed. Ab toh usmein iPhone aur Wi-Fi bhi add ho chuke hain (laughs).

Why I wanted to stick to my dream of being an actor? Apart from the passion, it was to counter the lack of trust and belief that people had in me and the kind of doubt they had about this career. I keep making these notes throughout the day (holds up a bunch of scribbled notes for the camera) to keep reminding myself that the reasons have to be right for what I am doing. Greed, laziness, ego or insecurity don’t define me as an actor or as a person.

When people don’t believe in you, it’s heartbreaking. And so when anyone does anything, even if it’s a Reel of a few seconds on Instagram, I applaud them because I believe no one has the right to crush anyone’s dream.

Sourced by the correspondent

I believe you once delivered a helmet to John Abraham and now you are acting in a film (Ambush) produced by him. Do you believe in fate and destiny and life coming full circle?

Yeh sab samajhne ke liye dimaag chahiye jo mere paas hain nahin (smiles). I don’t read a lot but I have read about the rule of 10,000 hours. If you think, focus or practise anything for 10,000 hours, it somehow happens for you. When I delivered the helmet to John sir, I couldn’t tell him that I wanted to be an actor. I had a face full of pimples then and my hair was long and oiled, just like it is now (laughs). I didn’t tell him anything, but I kept focusing and thinking about it and working towards it. Aur mujhe lagta hain ki mere dus hazaar ghante poore ho gaye aur mujhe unki picture mil gayi (smiles).

You have a passion for carpentry as well as a lot of other skills. Are they self- taught and how do they contribute to you as a person and as an actor?

After doing my first film in the South Indian film industry, I was only being offered negative roles. I didn’t want to do them and because of that for three years, I didn’t get work. Financially, I have been broke many times, I am still broke sometimes and now I am an expert at being broke! (Laughs) There was a time when things got so bad that the assistant I had hired after my first film had to feed me for six months.

For survival, out of the blue, I picked up carpentry. My father used to work with wood and as a child, I picked up a lot of those skills and I started carpentry as a part-time career. I started buying old furniture from Nampally Station (in Hyderabad) and retextured it.... Ameer logon ko distressed look bahut pasand hain (laughs), toh main woh karke unko bech deta tha. Usse mere khaane-peene ka ho jaata tha. That taught me a lot and even today my WhatsApp status says ‘Carpenter.’ That always gives me the assurance that I may not get as much success, but I will not go hungry ever. That was liberating because I was using my hands to survive. My father was very multifaceted, his workmanship was very good. His handwriting was very clean, even if he would fold clothes, he would do it with utmost attention....

You really must miss your father. He seems to have had a huge influence on you....

I do miss him, and all boys, all their lives, wait for the nod of approval from their dad. I miss that nod.... (Pauses for a long while and tears up.)

I am sorry, I didn’t mean to make you emotional. Moving on, everyone is talking about how there is something about Harshvardhan Rane. What do you think is your x-factor?

I think only Elon Musk can answer this! It’s called x-factor because no one know what it is. I don’t think I have any

x-factor, to be honest (smiles). I do know that I lack networking skills. Sometimes, I don’t understand what people want me to do.... I don’t connect with many people, but with the people I do, it’s for life. My best friend Minnakshi, who I live with now, used to be my girlfriend in 2004. That’s a friendship for life, as well as the relationship I have with her mom. The people who fed me when I was hungry, those who gave me work at the beginning of my career, those who spoke to me nicely when I was down... I can never forget them. Abhi main vada pao toh nahin hoon ki sabko pasand aa jaaun! (Laughs)

People used to think earlier that I was arrogant because I wouldn’t network much or talk much. Then they realised that I am inherently like this. It took my relatives 20 years to say, ‘Yaar, tu sahi tha.’

I have a certain way of doing things. Even on social media, I do my stuff and move away. I don’t have the bandwidth to be on social media the whole day. I have been on a diet for the last eight years now. It comes to me easily....

You diet every single day?!

Yes. I am not blessed with some Greek or Italian genetics and I have to work hard to remain in the shape that I am. I call it the cinematic side of fitness....

So if you had to eat something you haven’t eaten in the last eight years, what would that be?

Ghee and rice. Rice, roti, potatoes, bread and biscuit, all snacks have been off the menu for me for eight years now. My body doesn’t support cheat days....

How do you handle female attention?

I don’t think there is much (smiles)....

Of course there is....

Crushing on me isn’t ideal. Who would want a partner who loiters in the jungles day after day? That person has to understand me. I can’t punish someone like this... that I just take off for three-four months at a stretch.... Which girl would want someone like that? After Minnakshi, I was single for about 12 years and then I dated someone else for a bit. But I am not the most ideal person to date.

Earlier this year, you sold your bike to buy oxygen concentrators. It was a very selfless act. Why was it important for you to do that?

I realised over the last year that material assets mean nothing. Hum saans lene ke liye marr rahein hain! It was an eye-opener for me. Who would have thought that we would struggle for oxygen one day? I don’t have that background of being able to donate to charity, cheque likhne ka culture nahin hain mujh mein. During the second lockdown, I would see my bike lying in front of my house every day and so I decided to sell it off and purchase a few oxygen concentrators that people could circulate and save lives. My gesture won’t change the world, but I hope it inspires people to look inwards and try and do their bit.

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