Decoding an actor’s keedaa
Rag Mayur talks about working in Keedaa Cola, his relationship with acting and comedy and more…
Rag Mayur had many detours before carving a niche as an actor. He worked as a software engineer. Tried his hand at direction. Worked as a film journalist for the now-defunct platform Chitramala. After a memorable start in the OTT film Cinema Bandi, which was followed up by an appearance in Modern Love : Hyderabad, the actor was recently seen in Tharun Bhascker’s Keedaa Cola. The actor talks about his craft and journey in a freewheeling chat with Cinema Express.
Keedaa Cola opened to mixed reception. What kind of reception did you receive for Lancham, the role you played in the film?
Thankfully, the reception I got has been unanimously positive. The character I play is loud and extroverted, and quite unlike my real life persona. I was afraid that my performance could go over the top. But the people who reached out to me to talk about my acting found it natural and relatable.
Could you take me back in time, and talk about how you got to be a part of this film?
I wanted to work with Tharun Bhascker for a long time now, almost a decade. I used to watch his short films back in the day, like Junoon and Journey, and I always admired his journey, how he made films together with his friends. Around that time itself, I left my day job to dabble in acting and filmmaking, and after a point, I decided to focus full time on acting. I have also auditioned for Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi. Cut to 2021, Cinema Bandi happened. It was also when Clubhouse was a thing. My paths with Tharun have crossed again, on that platform. I must have caught his attention then, because I later went on to work with him in ad films and also auditioned for Keedaa Cola. Funnily enough, I got confirmed for Keedaa Cola on the same day I got turned down for ENE.
If not for Lancham, what other role do you think you could have pulled off in the film?
I am more like Vaastu (played by Chaitanya Rao) in the real life, minus the Tourette’s Syndrome. I have a lot of fears and inhibitions as a person, so Vaastu resonated with me a lot personally. You could say there is a 70% overlap with my personality and that character.
You have played a string of comic roles to date, be it in Cinema Bandi, Modern Love : Hyderabad and now, Keedaa Cola. How did you approach each of these roles differently, despite them demanding the same set of emotions?
To begin with, the fact that I could do comedy was a revelation to me. In my short film days, I have only done serious roles. The reception I got for playing Maridesh Babu in Cinema Bandi gave me confidence, till then I did not see myself as someone with comedy chops. It took me a while to realise that how you play a certain role depends on the director’s style, skill and involvement. For instance, Tharun’s comedy is droll, filled with one liners that land fast. To answer your question, the key to playing roles differently lies in the actor understanding and adapting themselves to the director’s vision. My performances are all a result of thinking, “Ok, how does Tharun want to make his audience laugh? How does Praveen (Kandregula) want to make his audience laugh? and so on.” The directors also do the same, in fact. They look at their actors and finetune their writing accordingly. It works both ways.
You have spoken a lot about your directors, and you have also mentioned earlier that you tried direction when you were starting out. Do you wish to return to direction, maybe, say, after you establish yourself as an actor?
You never know how your life may pan out in the future, this is especially true for a creative person. I am not sure, I may pick up filmmaking. There are no conscious plans for now, though.
The industry is a harsh place for most people, you have spoken about insecurities and rejections. How do you deal with the mental toll that comes with being a film actor?
I don’t feel much pressure from work, it is my personal life that gives me stress. I have worked as a software engineer for a decade before becoming a full time actor. If things go south for now, I can always fall back to my former day job. I do my best, to get good roles and whatnot, but beyond that, I don’t get worried. The industry is an overwhelming place for sure, but I have not faced any major setback so far.
Could you speak about your future projects?
I am reuniting with Praveen Kandregula for his next project. There is a film with Naresh titled Veeranjaneyula Viharayatra. It is a road trip drama centred on a dysfunctional family, like Piku. Then there is Gandhi Thatha Chettu, a children’s film directed by Padmavathi Malladi, where I will be playing a negative character.