Rohan Mehra: Mombasa to Mumbai
There is another star kid on the block, but he is more like an outsider. Rohan V. Mehra, son of late actor Vinod Mehra and homemaker Kiran Mehra, grew up never meeting his father and not knowing how he charmed the audience. If that’s not enough, as a child he planned to become an investment banker because in Mombasa (Kenya, where he grew up), “every child”, he says, “dreams of becoming a banker or a professional in the investment business”. A chat with The Woods:
The Woods: Baazaar was ready last year and the release got delayed. How nerve-wracking was it, as a newcomer, to wait for the release?
Rohan: As a newcomer, you have so much energy and prepared for anything. So, maybe it was not as difficult, though frustrating. But then I kept reminding myself that the product we made was really nice. That thought of having a good film just kept me going.
- How did this film happen?
- Funnily enough, some time ago, I put a photo of mine on Instagram. And Gauravv Chawla, who is the director of our film, saw it and called me up. He asked me if I would be interested in an audition for his film. The film I auditioned for ended up never happening, but he called me back for Baazaar.
- Rohan, you have a complication with the name. There is one more actor called Rohan Mehra. So even when one Googles your name, he appears at this moment. How do you plan to deal with that?
- Let’s not discount the work he has done. He has done really well for himself and for that I must congratulate him. But yes, it is a little difficult to explain to people that there is one more Rohan..
- About Baazaar, the first thing that comes to my mind, is its similarity with Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.
- It sounds familiar when you talk about the premise but there are so many films like that. And again what we usually do is, when we have a familiar story we like to tag it.
- I believe you grew up in Mombasa!
- Yes, I did. Mombasa, a small town in Kenya, east of Africa. It was amazing. Very simple lifestyle.
- Would that also mean that you did not grow up watching too many Indian films?
- You know, two things you can guarantee when you go anywhere in the world — potato and Indians. And you have to remember that running a cinema is a business and you have to cater to demand. The richest people in Mombasa were the Indians and they demanded Indian films.
- We cannot not talk about your father. You never really got time with him. But I am sure you watched his films. Probably you discovered your father through other people’s memories.
- Yes, it is a strange situation. Having not met my father, he passed away when my mother was pregnant with me, and I was taken to Kenya where I grew up with my grandparents. I did not feel the lack of something because my childhood was great. When I moved to Mumbai when I was 21, I started meeting people who knew my father and I started discovering this man through others’ experience of him. And stories that people would tell of him.
- So, when was the first time you experienced his stardom?
- I am not the person who would go out and tell people my father was an actor. I find that very strange. But people who knew him would speak of him. And initially, it felt like wow! I did not know how to react.
When worlds collide
Acting, Rohan says, was a faraway dream at the start. “I knew dad was an actor as my mother used to tell me about him. I watched his films like Bemisaal, Anurodh and Ghar. When we came to Mumbai for holidays, a lot of people spoke about dad. Like him, I enjoy photography, music and films. Much later I shifted to UK for a job and there I realised that the world is really big. I started writing and directing short films. It was later in 2012 that I shifted to Mumbai and joined an acting school. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Khamoshi made the biggest impact on me. Much later when I came to Mumbai I assisted him for Bajirao Mastani.”