Rapper Badshah makes his acting debut with film Khandaani Shafakhana
The rapper's video for the new single Paagal recently dethroned K-Pop heavyweights BTS, by crossing 75 million-plus views in 24 hours
- Published 30.07.19, 7:00 PM
- Updated 30.07.19, 7:00 PM
- 6 mins read
In real life, the only thing that gives away Badshah’s position as one of the country’s biggest Punjabi musicians is a metallic hologram LV weekender bag his manager carries. The rapper, whose video for the new single Paagal recently dethroned K-Pop heavyweights BTS, by crossing 75 million-plus views in 24 hours, is gearing up to make his acting debut this Friday. The film is the quirkily named Khandaani Shafakhana where he plays Gabru Ghaatak, a Punjabi popstar. In a chat with The Telegraph in Mumbai recently, Badshah talked about the professions he aspired to as a kid, the advice Diljit Dosanjh gave him about acting and the kind of films fellow musician Guru Randhawa should make.
Sonakshi Sinha, who stars in Khandaani Shafakhana, said that you’d called her a few years back for advice on whether to take up acting.
(Smiles) Yeah, she’s the culprit. It was about two years ago when I called her saying there were a lot of offers and I didn’t know what to do. She told me to do it but I didn’t know how to act. She said I’d learn and as luck would have it, this became my debut opposite her.
What kinds of films were coming your way?
I was offered Vicky Kaushal’s role in Lust Stories. And now when I see him in that role, I know I could have never done it. He’s a genius. The other one was also a Dharma Productions film, Good News — the role which is being played by Diljit (Dosanjh). With the Lust Stories role, I thought it was a joke... why would Karan (Johar) be serious?! Why would he want to cast me?! And then he tried to convince me, but I felt weird because I didn’t think it would go with my image, being a rapper and all that. Good News was almost done, but it just did not happen.
How did you become a part of Khandaani Shafakhana?
I’m really fond of Mrigh sir (Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, one of the producers of the film). He’s such a great guy and an amazing storyteller. They narrated the script to me and I really liked the role... it was exciting. The setting was great — there was Choocha (Varun Sharma) and Sonakshi, who are both great friends of mine. Then Bhushan Sir (Kumar of T-Series, one of the producers) also said that I must do this film. I wasn’t very sure because there was a lot happening in the music space and I was quite busy. But then I thought this is an opportunity to work with the people I love and that’s what got me excited.
Was it easier because the character seems to be an extension of who you play in your music videos?
In a way, yes. The character is similar to who I am but he is 10 times louder... and he’s a proper bitch! You love him at times and then hate him extremely as well, but you can’t ignore him — he’s in your face. That’s what I loved about it. It gave me an opportunity to play a bitch which I sometimes really want to do in real life! (Laughs) There are times when I just want to tell people to get lost and I got to do that in the film.
Everyone knows that you love fashion. Was it fun to get into the character’s look?
I was really apprehensive because I’m very particular about my look. And the look in the film is very loud, with fur and all that. But someone told me that when I’m acting, I need to forget about looking good. If I act amazingly, I’d automatically look good. So, I just decided to cater to the character and what they had designed was spot-on. It’s exactly how a loud musician from Punjab, who’s made it big, would look. They got the image right — if I had to do it myself, I’d do it exactly like this. It’s all true to character, even his accent and the car that he travels in.
Before the offers started coming in, did you ever have any interest in acting?
Which child doesn’t have a fascination for Bollywood? I was always fascinated but never thought of myself as an actor — maybe a DJ, an astronaut, a basketballer, an administrative officer, definitely a musician. But never an actor. I never took myself as seriously as all these people did. So, I was happy and knew I was putting myself in safe hands. That’s the only genius thing that I did.
Did your actor friends such as Sonakshi and Diljit have any advice?
Yes, I went to Diljit paaji. He told me to just be myself. I told him that isn’t helpful because it’s cliched and everyone says that! (Laughs) But then he said not to try and imitate anyone because people love me for who I am. He told me to read the character and be him. It took me an entire week to understand what he meant but when I finally got it, I knew he was right. That’s what he does — he brings his own charm to every character that he plays. Sonakshi also told me not to stress about it and that we’d be done with the film before we knew it. And it’s true — I didn’t even realise when the trailer dropped.
As a newcomer, what was the toughest thing for you while shooting?
Hitting all the marks and getting the angles right. I thought it was only acting... I never realised there were so many technicalities. All of this was a mess in my head. I learnt my dialogues and came thinking all I have to do is deliver them, the camera and everything else would take care of itself. In one scene, I am supposed to tell Sonakshi a joke and she’s supposed to laugh. But when we shot it, there was no Sonakshi! I was all alone. I was looking at a pole and telling a joke to it! (Laughs) These things, I had no clue about. But then I learnt.
There was this shot where I just had to slide into the frame because the camera was moving back and it had to look like I was already standing there. It was a very technical shot and it took me two hours to get it right. These were the kinds of things I might have done better had I attended some classes.
Do you want to act more now?
I’d be lying if I said no, but I don’t know what to do next. I was talking to Kartik (Aaryan) who’s got a very good script sense. I like every script that comes to me. It’s something I need to work on and take the help of people like Mrigh Sir. Like everyone else, I want to do the right films. I’d love to act and challenge myself, I think acting is a great way to do something that you can’t do otherwise. That’s what I enjoy the most about it.
And music continues?
Of course! So far, I’ve given up on some good film offers because of my music. Music will always be primary for me and if someone wants to work with me despite that, I’m okay with it. But if someone comes and tells me to drop my music and give 36 days for a film, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. This film was just five-six days of work.
What kinds of movies do you like watching?
I loved Stree... that was the best film last year for me. A film has to be enticing but not necessarily very deep. Like I didn’t get A Star is Born... it depressed me. But when people praise something a lot, I begin questioning myself.
When I watched Stree, there were no reviews out yet and I thought to myself that this might just be the best film of the year. It became one of the best films of the year. I also loved Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho. I could relate to Badhaai Ho because I’ve lived in flats like that with those kinds of people around and it feels relevant in a quirky way. Andhadhun was completely fictional, which was amazing as well.
Who else from the music community who’s not acting do you think should give it a shot?
I think Guru (Randhawa) should act. He should do a romantic Aashiqui sort of film, where he’s driving an open car in Switzerland and singing a song. Neha Kakkar should also try her hand at it, I think she’s very expressive. They should be paired opposite each other. I can direct and produce it.
What’s happening with you for the rest of the year?
A lot of things. I’ve launched a music channel, Aaho, that’s doing well. It’s India’s first urban music channel. I produced a Punjabi film that flopped and I lost a lot of money. I’m also into the restobar business — I’ve just opened Dragonfly at JW Marriott near the Mumbai airport. And there’s my music, of course.
With so much going on, how do you focus?
It’s important to get the right people to work with. You find them and let them do their jobs. It’s clearly working for me.