'Whatever good is happening with Newton is my mom's blessings'
...says Rajkummar Rao whose latest release Newton has been selected as India's official entry to the Oscars
Rajkummar Rao lost his mother while he was in the midst of shooting Newton, a political black comedy which has been locked as India's official entry for the foreign language film category at the Academy Awards. He says, "Whatever good is happening with Newton is because of my mom's blessings. I really believe in that."
The Drishyam Films movie, produced by Manish Mundra and directed by Amit V Masurkar, features the National Award-winning actor as Nutan Kumar aka Newton, a rookie but sincere government clerk who is sent on election duty to a Naxal-controlled town in the conflict-ridden jungles of Chhattisgarh state in India.
Newton had its world premiere at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Art Cinema award in the Forum segment. It also bagged a jury prize for Best Film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
Rajkummar says, "Winning in Berlinale, in Hong Kong and then to get such an amazing response, reviews and now to be India's official entry for Oscars... My mother is right up there and keeping a check on me. Her blessings are always going to be with me, I know."
"I absolutely believe she's my guiding star," adds the actor, who was shooting for Newton when he received the news of his mother's death in March last year.
Hoping that Newton goes further in the Oscar race, and eventually wins, Rajkummar says it stands out because it's a very Indian film. "I'm happy people saw that Indianness in Newton. It has a global appeal and it's so universal in nature, but still so rooted and grounded (in India)," says the actor, who debuted in Hindi filmdom with Love Sex Aur Dhokha, and has since won critical acclaim for movies like Shahid, Citylights, Aligarh and Trapped.
His last release before Newton was Bareilly Ki Barfi, which gave the audiences and critics a chance to realise Rajkummar's range as an actor as they got to see him in a completely different avatar than his previous outings.
"My process of choosing scripts remains the same. Of what I read, whatever excites me is what I will continue to take up," says Rajkummar, who was born and raised in Gurugram, and studied acting at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.
Some critics have gone to the extent of hailing him as the Naseeruddin Shah of current times. Laughing at the comparison, the actor humbly says, "Naseer sir is one of the finest actors of our country. We have only one Naseeruddin Shah and we are very proud of him."