Thursday, September 06, 2007

BOLLYWOOD ROULETTE BY RAHUL BAZAZ

Actor exposes Bollywood underbelly in novel

New Delhi : Though he didn't go very far as an actor, Rahul Bajaj has achieved success with his first novel Bollywood Roulette: Inside the Struggle, which exposes the underbelly of the Hindi film industry.

Rahul, who used to be an investment banker in New York, came back to India to take up acting as a profession, says after publishing such a story, he has no hope of getting any roles in future either.

The book was released last week and has become a bestseller.

In a freewheeling chat, Rahul, who achieved success as the main lead in UTV's Kabhi Hero Kabhi Zero, as well as in Balaji Telefilms' Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, spoke about the book, which is based on his own experiences in showbiz.

Excerpts:

Q: Firstly, Bollywood Roulette is an interesting title. How did it come about?

A: Bollywood Roulette was my title of choice as soon as I had finished writing the climax of the novel. At various points, the editors came up with names they thought would be more commercially viable. I think outsiders who come to Bollywood to 'struggle' are playing a dangerous game of roulette, and that thought is not foremost in their minds when they begin their pursuits. I wanted that thought, that sense of danger, to be upfront.

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Q: How long did you work in the industry?

A: I devoted about two and a half years of my life to being a professional actor. Part of that was being a drama student before jumping into the 'struggle' where I would go knocking on doors seeking work. The ball got rolling after an executive producer at UTV found me lounging in the waiting area and asked me to audition for the lead role in Kabhi Hero Kabhi Zero for the upcoming Hungama TV channel.

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When Kabhi Hero... aired on television, Sandiip Sickand, the then creative director at Balaji Telefilms, invited me to audition for a role in Balaji's flagship Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii.

Q: Have you now 'officially retired' from Bollywood?

A: I think I will never go back to being a professional actor in television or film. I made a conscious choice to give that up. Also, I think after this book nobody will give me a role even if I changed my mind! I have many friends who are still on the 'inside' so I guess I will remain connected to Bollywood through them at least.

Q: Your book is something of an exposé of the dark underbelly of Bollywood - casting couch, underworld links and film family dominance. How much of this is based on your experiences within the industry?

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A: The phenomena represented in the book are very much based on my firsthand experiences in Bollywood and those of other close friends and colleagues who have experienced the 'struggle'. The specific incidents, characters etc. as characterised in the narrative are fictitious or used in a fictitious manner; but the underlying phenomena are real.

Q: You trained with Barry John. In your book the drama school 'guru' figure plays an important role in your story. To what extent do you credit John with your success as an actor?

A: The fictional character of Guruji in the book is very much inspired by John. I am deeply indebted to him. He took me under his wings at a time when I wasn't sure what direction I wanted my life to take. He is a real master of the art of acting and I agree with Shah Rukh Khan that John is the best acting teacher in the world. Incidentally, it was John who encouraged me to write.

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Q: Your career path begins in a similar way to Shah Rukh Khan's.

A: In a gurukul sense, Shah Rukh and I are brothers - we share the same guru, or theatrical father - Barry John. Beyond that similar beginning, I don't think I'm even a patch on SRK!

Q: The climax of the story is set against the historical backdrop of the 26th July Mumbai floods. Were you personally affected by this event?

A: I was in Mumbai on 26/7. I was lucky I got back home before the flooding got out of hand. My most distinct memory of that day is that I remember reading in the papers the day before 26/7 how plans had been drawn up to transform Mumbai into Shanghai.

Q: What next?

A: Right now I'm just basking in the warmth that Bollywood Roulette: Inside the Struggle is generating. It gives me immense satisfaction when somebody tells me "after reading your book, I look at Bollywood in a very different light".
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