Actor Rajpal Yadav: Tears and laughter emerge from the same place

Actor Rajpal Yadav: Tears and laughter emerge from the same place

The actor speaks about his latest OTT release, Kaam Chalu Hai, his understanding of comedy and why he feels it is like a game of cricket

There is a certain middle-class charm in the comedy of Rajpal Yadav that makes it relatable. Working largely in multi-starrers and acting as an agent of comic relief, Yadav has always stood apart through his scenes, most of which have become singularly memorable. Be it his energetic portrayal of a fisherman getting entangled in petty lies in Priyadarshan’s Chup Chup Ke (2006) or the blabbering pandit who loses it when he sees a ghost in Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), he is inimitable in his ability to create hilarious spectacles. 

What truly elevates his screen presence is an acute understanding of physical comedy, where along with the delivery of dialogues, his facial expressions and body movements add an extra layer to the humour. However, his virtues are not just restricted to comic roles. His recently released, Kaam Chalu Hai, on ZEE5, has him playing a serious role that is based on a real-life person. In a pivotal scene in the film, we see Manoj Patil, played by Yadav, sitting near the pothole which killed his daughter. Again, he expresses the pain felt by the character without saying a word. Speaking about the scene, he says that he was worried that people would laugh at it as they are not used to seeing him in serious films. For that reason, he had to make sure that there is authenticity in his expression. “It is really an important scene in the film. It is a moment when even your tears dry up and nothing remains to say.” He feels that certain aspects in acting are instinctive and it is difficult to put the process into words. “The motive is just to make sure that if I have to make you laugh, I am able to fulfil that completely and, whenever there’s a chance to touch your heart during a vulnerable moment, I should be able to achieve that as well.”

Further, he doesn’t believe in the dichotomy of comedy and tragedy. For him, they come from the same place. “Jahan se aansu hai, vahi se hansi hai (Tears emerge from the same place from where laughter does)," the actor says. “Just as tears cannot be faked, similarly, laughter cannot be made up. A fake smile can be easily caught and it can break the rhythm of the scene completely.”

Comic timing is like a game of cricket, according to Yadav. “It is like hitting the ball at the right time,” he says. “If you are able to make the right impact at the right moment, the ball will hit the boundary. Otherwise, you will be bowled. In comedy too, you either fall flat or strike the right note; there is no in-between. If timing is understood, then one can hit a century in every match, just like Tendulkar.” He credits reading books and observing people for making him a better actor. “If someday, I hit a century, I have to wake up and start from zero the next day. That’s where I try to keep myself up-to-date with the changing times, both as an actor and a human being.”

Along with that, it is also important for him as an actor to work in films that are bringing stark reality to the forefront. This is his second collaboration with Palaash Muchhal after Ardh (2022), which told the story of a struggling actor in Mumbai who dresses up as a transgender and asks for money. Working in Kaam Chalu Hai was crucial as he has a personal connection to potholes. He met with an accident due to a pothole on the street, when he was a child, leading to a fracture. He says that every Indian has complained about potholes at some point in life and yet little has changed. “There are various reasons why potholes exist and through this film, we are trying to say that, if we take it upon ourselves to fill these potholes, then a lot can happen.”

Yadav finds it necessary to create a balance of entertainment and social relevance in films. “I am a commercial actor. Ninety percent of my films have a huge cast and are meant to be complete entertainers,” he says. “Apart from being an actor, I am also a citizen and everyday things affect me. And some films give me a chance to experiment and put in extra effort. In the times of flourishing entertainment with Instagram influencers and reels, having this alternate voice in films becomes crucial,” he signs off.

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