After making his mark in Bollywood and south Indian cinema, Rahul Dev is showcasing his considerable talent in web series
Best known for playing tough-looking baddies in Hindi cinema, Rahul Dev is set to complete 20 years in the film industry in 2020. Dev, who is exploring new avenues on the web nowadays has been involved with many big budget movies down south over the past decade. Currently he can be seen in a completely new avatar in ALTBalaji’s latest web-series ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ starring Harsh Beniwal, Nikhil Bhambri and Divinaa Thackur.
In this interview, Dev talks about his character in ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’, the impact of the Coronavirus in the long run, the underlying differences between OTT and cinema and more.
How did you get associated with ‘Who’s Your Daddy’? Is there anything specific that made you say ‘Yes’ to it?
Well, I got a call from a casting director friend named Kunal M Shah where he shared the synopsis of the story, which got me interested. For me the most appealing part as an actor was that it was going to be a comedy. Also, having already worked for an ALTBalaji show I felt good about the association. I am really proud of ‘The Test Case’ and am glad I was part of it. So that’s how I got hooked to ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’
What is the show about? Also tell us about the character you play in it.
The show mostly deals with relationships with a fun and comic angle. I play the character of a retired army personnel named Prem Singh Barnala. He is a widower and someone who is pretty straightforward and simple to the extent of being naïve. The story of the show revolves around him and the relationship he shares with his street-smart wheeler dealer son and his at times hyperactive mother. As the story progresses the character develops a certain understanding with his son and his mother and finally starts being receptive of the changes in his life.
You have previously worked in the AltBalaji series ‘The Test Case’. As an actor associated with cinema for about two decades how do you differentiate it with the web?
I will complete 20 years in the industry on December 21 this year. Most of which time I have spent working in mainstream commercial cinema. Though, I have also worked in smaller budget films which are closer arthouse films like ‘Kyon?’ in 2003 for the late Kalpana Lajmi. I have mostly worked with larger than life directors like Santosh Sivan, S.S. Rajamouli, Siva, and Prabhu Deva, among others. Now, the reach of this kind of cinema is larger than, say, other formats. To explain this better, the thing with the OTT platforms is that you get to watch a certain show on a certain platform. So it’s not that the same show is running on all the available platforms. You also need to access a platform using devices and an internet connection. But there is no denying that it’s a very fast, progressive, and growing medium as opposed to cinema.
The outbreak of Coronavirus has suddenly brought the world to a standstill. How does it personally affect you? How are you spending your days? Do you see any silver lining?
Well, the way I see it, this is nature’s way of reclaiming itself back from humans who have been abusing it. I follow Greta Thunberg as one of the youngest people in the world actively involved in spreading awareness about climate change.
I remember earlier days, fruits used to taste different. The mangoes had different shapes. The apples had different shapes. And each apple would taste a bit different from the other as they mostly came from organic farming. Today there is so much use of chemicals in farming. This abuse by human activity has taken a heavy toll on the environment. I really feel this abuse has to stop. The ongoing situation has made us sit up, rethink and reboot. Acting or whatever your vocation it takes a very small part.
Since I have a lot of time these days it has allowed me to watch a lot of stuff for which I earlier had little time for. I am reading more scripts and making more elaborate notes than ever. As an actor it has allowed me to rethink as to what actually I want to do whenever the situation becomes normal. I have a very positive outlook towards life and I am sure this is only a matter of time before we get the world back. It’s all going to be alright. But I am sure that it will definitely create something within each person to respond to the planet in a more thoughtful manner in the second innings.
AltBalaji has managed to carve a niche in the web space. How do you look at the role played by AltBalaji in exploring the potential of the medium? What’s the way forward? Also, tell us about your favorite AltBalaji shows.
I would like to look at ALTBalaji as a leader in the OTT space as far as India is concerned. I have great respect for Ekta Kapoor. She is a woman of great enterprise, creativity, and strength. I consider myself really fortunate to have been associated with ‘The Test Case’ which was one of the first shows produced by ALTBalaji. At the time it was still ambiguous as to where the journey was going to go. Of course, Netflix was playing a big part globally but for an actor and an average person there wasn’t much awareness about the true potential of the web and how creative this can be. What we need is more thoughtful and creative content in the thrill and the relationship zones. I would love to see them go deeper and explore the nuances. ‘The Test Case’ and ‘Bose: Dead/Alive’ are two of my favorite shows.
In recent times there has been a growing emphasis on characters. How do you look at the changing scene? Also how important is casting according to you?
I think the change is terrific. It presents the opportunity to watch people play parts made for them or parts which challenge them as an actor depending upon how you have been cast. But there is another side to it as well, sometimes, the casting agents are more adventurous. They can help you get close to a part that you really want to participate in even though you don’t really fit the bill. But I would like to give you a simple example. When you look at mainstream cinema where lots of money is riding with you, just imagine that a north Indian Punjabi like me has done more than 50 films down south. I am talking about various languages and these are not small films.
That means when you are a little alien to the region but if you can convince those people that you can camouflage yourself and you can appear as a Tamilian, or a Malayali, or a Telugu person then I think you have done your job as an actor. Otherwise how am I an actor if I play a north Indian Punjabi in every film that I do? So I really wish that sometimes I can have this heart to heart with a casting agent. Sometimes it is difficult for them to imagine me in the role of, say, a guy from UP. What they fail to realize is that if as an actor I can pull off those south Indian characters then naturally I am bound to do better playing a UP guy as at least I have a much better command over the language.
(Cover image: Rahul Dev in the show Who’s Your Daddy)