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Exclusive! Rajesh Khattar: OTT has created its own stars now

Rajesh Khattar will soon be seen in Sony LIV's web series, Avrodh 2.

  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 02.21 PM, Jun 22, 2022

Exclusive! Rajesh Khattar: OTT has created its own stars now
Rajesh Khattar (Instagram).

Rajesh Khattar is coming back on OTT. He is all set to play the lead antagonist in Sony LIV’s upcoming show, Avrodh 2. The actor, who has been around and explored all platforms, talks to OTTplay about what the switch to OTT has been like, why it is a boon for him, why he stood by and played the character in Avrodh 2 and much more.

Excerpts from the interview…

How are you? How is life treating you?

Life is treating me good. Under any circumstance, I would say the same thing because you have to manifest it for it to be good. It's been really good, thank you so much.

Having been in the industry for so many years and having worked in the various platforms, how would you say OTT has brought about a change?

It has brought about a good change. Language is not a barrier anymore and the exposure is immense. People would talk about Hindi film industry, South film industry and Bengal film industry but now it is Indian film industry because of the exposure through OTT. It's wonderful. In today's times, you can watch a Malayalam or Bengali film with subtitles. These films would often be confined in one region and not get a wide release. So, even if you wanted to watch those films previously, you couldn't. However, thanks to OTT, every kind of cinema is available everywhere. The choice has become wider.

Has it been a boon for you much like other actors?

I would say yes. It has given me a wider space to do varied characters. In cinema or TV, an image would be overplayed. An actor gets confined and doesn't have much of a choice because you can refuse the role twice but eventually, the third time, you have to end up doing that role (because acting is your source of income).

I feel the best part is that the Box Office pressure has been taken off thanks to OTT. Makers, producers and directors have become more bold in their choices of picking up different characters and giving them life. Now, there's no pressure of assigning the one character to a particular person. Now, we even have newcomers on OTT who are doing extremely well at the moment. They have got massive acceptance by the audience. OTT has created its own stars now.

While you spoke about the Box Office pressure, there is again pressure on OTT too. Here, the numbers are in million views. What do you think about this trend?

That is inevitable. No matter what you do, it eventually boils down to business. Makers and actors work so that the audiences view their work. If you know your work is reaching the wide audience, there can't be anything better than that. It goes on to 100 plus countries. It's a wonderful thing which has happened.

Even the makers are getting eyeballs they are looking at. With films and TV, if the audience doesn't know what a show is, they can never go back and watch it because it is out of theatres or especially, TV screens. That is not the case with OTT. Things are available to you 24x7. It is because of the convenience for the viewers, that the show or film gets more eyeballs.

If you go to a TV show function and somebody gets best actor award, you wouldn't even know who that person is. Then you get to know that person is a show's lead and that show is extremely popular. The trend was also such that if you haven't seen that show, then you know nothing.

Previously, people would confuse actors with characters and an Amjed Khan was a villain for life. Today, that scenario is very rare - probably in a series about a military. Although now people are more aware and do distinguish between actors and characters, did you still somewhere readily agree to play one of the lead antagonists in Avrodh 2? Were you scared that what if the trend came back and you become hated for life?

No, not really (laughs). I know this because right after Avrodh 2, I play a very decent character in my next project. The brilliant thing is that even the audiences have evolved a lot, na. They also know that a person is simply acting.

Previously, people would think that the actors were also bad humans. This was the mentality when Praan saab and Prem Chopra saab were acting in full-fledged roles. The times have changed, writing has changed, scripts have changed. No character any longer is black or white. They are grey. They are more relatable, humane and you understand that every person is good as well as evil in some ways. Through web series, you get a span when you can show what are the good bits about a character and what are the bad ones.

I remember reading an interview in which Amjed Khan said that everybody benefitted from Sholay except him and Ramesh Sippy. This is very intriguing, why? They have worked in such brilliant projects even after that but the audiences didn't accept them. Why? Throughout their lives, these two had to hear that what they worked in are good projects but don't match up to the level of Sholay. You shouldn't become so iconic also that it becomes your undoing.

Countering that point, when people set a milestone, shouldn't they cross that and provide something better than the previous one?

That's correct. However, you cannot plan the milestones you cross. If one could plan it out, then every film would be Sholay, right?

What did it take to get into the character? Do you have an accent too? It has become a stereotype now but we haven't seen anything like that in the trailer. You tell me, what was it like, going about this character in Avrodh 2?

This character is not stereotypical at all. Wait for it. It is going to be very interesting. I'm expecting and anticipating that it will be a binge-watch. The base of this story is very different. Generally, there is RAW involvement and all of that. Here, there is demonetization - to destabilize the country economically. This is an absolutely new take. The premise is different and the intrigue factor is there. There isn't anything stereotypical. If the premise is new, it has been tackled differently too. Here, you should expect the unexpected.

You were in the news when your wife spoke about bankruptcy. Did anyone reach out to you? Are you in a better phase today?

(Laughs) That was blown out of proportion. This is the perfect example of how rumours spread so fast that it can be tagged as the truth, when there isn't an iota of truth in that.

Thankfully, I was better, am better and am getting better by the day. All she said that we faced what every person during COVID-19 times faced. I was hospitalized, she was hospitalized. So, it was a setback. That's it.

At first, I was laughing at the matter. However, when relatives started calling me, then I had to issue a statement. Nothing of the sort. God is kind. Everything is fine and we will be better. It was a weird incident.

Back then, I joked about the incident and asked people to start Rajesh Khattar Relief Fund (laughs). On a serious note, I don't talk about this but since this has come up, let me tell you I was rather helping people out financially during the entire duration, in whatever capacity I could. It was an extremely difficult time for all of us and everyone did whatever they could.

After reading so, I was confused whether you were offered Avrodh 2 during that time?

No, not at all. Nobody gives projects like that in this industry. Avrodh was offered to me when I was hospitalized. After that, I got jaundice, which lasted for four-five months. Health-wise, I was really down. When I had gone to do the trials for the look, I had a setback in my mind. I looked like a shadow of myself at that time. Since the shooting was delayed for two-three months, I got better and it was just fate that I got the project.

Do people recognise you as Shahid Kapoor's step-dad or Ishaan's father? Have you faced incidents where people just came up to you and asked, are you their father?

Obviously, it happens. I'm known as Ishaan Khatter's father and I'm really proud of it. I love that feeling. I remember Ishaan was with me on a shoot and people would come to click photos with me. Ishaan would volunteer to click the picture and I would ask these fans to click a photo with Ishaan because he has started working in films and they would regret not taking selfie with him and that is what happened. God has been very kind.

It is tough to survive in the industry, especially for as long as you have. What kept you going?

I would give a little bit of credit to myself. I kept on reinventing and widened my horizons. I wasn't only acting. There was a time when I wrote daily soaps and films. I also do dub Hollywood movies in Hindi. Now, I dub South Indian languages in Hindi. I also have a company that does brand promotions. With time, I kept on finding other investment options. Thanks to that, I got the choice to refuse the work I didn't want to do as an actor. If acting is where your income comes from, then there comes a time when you have to take up all projects that come your way. I'm grateful to the makers and the audiences who want to see me. I took a break for eight years and did three back-to-back shows. I was loved for them and received awards for the roles too. I got awards and rewards both, thanks to the audiences.

Your upcoming projects?

I want all of my projects to release now. It is starting with Avrodh 2, which is so great. Next month, I have a show on Zee5. There is another show on another OTT project too. Most of my shoots are done and the projects are in post-production. Now, all I'm waiting for is audience reaction. I'm doing different characters and things. I'm trying to do something which I believe the audiences will love. So, I'm excited that all of my projects are due for release. I have three films too, one with Abbas-Mustan as well. I hope the second half of 2022 will be as exciting for the people watching it as it is for me.