The mystery-thriller film Gaslight, in which Rahul Dev plays a cop, will start streaming on Disney+ Hotstar March 31 onwards
With more than 100 films to his credit in a career spanning 22 years, Rahul Dev is a prominent name in the entertainment industry. After an illustrious modelling career in the 90s, the actor has worked across Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi and Punjabi film industries, to name a few. Most recently, Rahul played the character of a crass, Haryanvi-speaking cop in Suniel Shetty’s comeback actioner Hunter Tootega, Nahi Todega, streaming on Amazon miniTV. Incidentally, in his next outing - director Pavan Kirpalani’s mystery-thriller film Gaslight, starring Sara Ali Khan, Vikrant Massey and Chitrangada Singh - Rahul once again assumes the character of a police officer. This time, displaying a rather polished personality though. Gaslight is slated to release on Disney+ Hotstar, on March 31.
Ahead of the movie’s release, Rahul indulged in a candid conversation with OTTplay, where he spoke about why he picked contrasting cop characters for the back-to-back releases, what impact does the OTT boom have on the career of senior actors, his future projects and more. Excerpts:
Q. You were recently seen as a Haryanvi-speaking police officer in Hunter Tootega, Nahi Todega, and you are a cop again now in Gaslight. Was it a conscious decision to take up similar roles?
A. Even though both were cops, these were two totally different characters. While Inspector Hooda [Kartoos] in Hunter Tootega, Nahi Todega is a brash Haryanvi person, who is in your face and known for his tongue-in-cheek comments. There’s nothing mysterious about him, what you see is what you get. He is very transparent in that sense. Whereas the cop that I play in Gaslight, Ashok Tanwar, is a very polished man. He has hobnobbed with the royals when he was schooling; like somebody who would go to Mayo for his studies. His lingo is also distinctly different from that of Hooda. There’s a designation change as well - Ashok is a Superintendent of Police. So, the way he conducts himself is totally different. Hooda is pretty much a dishonest person, who is out there to create trouble. Ashok, on the other hand, is a really good man. He is earnest and sincerely going about trying to solve a mystery.
Both are contrasting personalities, and that’s the reason I wanted to play these roles. I enjoyed both a lot. I am originally from Delhi, so it was quite interesting to play a cop speaking Haryanvi - a language that has a natural crassness and a laid back feel to it, and at the same time it is humorous too. That said, sometimes it can be enduring to put on an accent that is humorously provoking.
Q. Tell us about your experience of working with the team of Gaslight…
A. Frankly speaking, I genuinely enjoyed every day on the set of Gaslight. It’s one of those sets that brought with it a lot of fun, as well as a lot of seriousness towards work. The kind of approach that Sara [Ali Khan] came in with. Then, there was Vikrant [Massey], who I have deep respect for after watching his work over the years. There’s a sense of sincerity he brings to the set. He would be out there saying “silence, silence, everyone”, which normally the third or the fourth AD or sometimes directors do say. And then, we had the wonderful Sara herself. It was nice to have an angelic face trying to do her job so sincerely. You have to understand that the story rested on her shoulders. She had to take it ahead. It’s a pretty big risk for someone so early in her career. Gaslight is not a commercial, mainstream kind of a film. The narrative has the element of intrigue and mystery in it. Although the film has several other characters, the mystery is resting quite heavily on one person. Similar to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock novels, Gaslight too has an ensemble cast, something that adds to the mystery of the plot.
It was a sincere set and I particularly enjoyed working with [director] Pavan [Kirpalani] and [writer] Neha [Sharma]. Neha was initially a little careful about the alliance. But as an actor, I try not to change lines for anyone, because a lot of work has gone into getting a line to the table, in the first place. Many drafts are written. Sometimes you write 40-50 drafts, only after which the final thing reaches the actor. Then, of course, there are the readings, within which also lines change to make things work better. But when it comes to working on this project, Neha gave me that comfort to change things around a bit and in a way contribute towards the script as well. I enjoyed that creative comfort and the luxury that both my director and the writer gave me.
Another person I would love to mention here is recordist Anirban Sengupta and his team. If you’ve seen the promo, you would realise that I’m the only one who has not been dubbed. It’s just a direct sound from there, and he’s cleaned it up. And, I think he has done a fantastic job. I don’t know how he has done it, but It’s natural and nice, and I quite enjoyed it.
Q. What do you see as the biggest change that OTT has brought about in recent times?
A. First, I would just say, thank god for OTT! The biggest change that the digital medium has made is that it has brought us closer to the audience. The audience doesn’t want to see anything mediocre anymore. Simply because, when they were fed up for two years at home during the lockdown, the only best friend many of them had at that time was their television set or their phone. Even amid a sense of fear, people have watched dollops of content online. During the time when people were mostly homebound, there was a lot of exposure to films and series in different languages, thanks to OTT. So naturally, the standard of viewership has gone up really high. They no longer want to see that average dishoom-dishoom kind of stuff, unless it’s told in a very entertaining manner. See, cinema is always going to be larger than life; it’s escapism.
So, it’s fantastic to have a more educated audience today to cater to. The whole scene has changed. There is better acting, while stories have become deeper and more meaningful - be it Airlift or Gangs of Wasseypur. Of course, there’s also the Rohit Shetty style of films which is prevalent, because cinema, like I said, is larger than life. It’s like, you can make a painting and be part of the canvas in any way you want. It’s far more adventurous than to remain in a very restrictive space.
Q. Do you think the industry now belongs to actors and not just stars?
A. Thankfully so, right! But let’s not be unfair to the stars either. Let’s analyse the business, and the people earning their livelihood through this together. Say the producers, writers and directors, who are putting a project together and taking it to actors. Let’s also look at the people who are consuming it. Because the viewers are watching and paying for it, one whole industry is running. If you look at behind the scenes also, there’s so much going on. There are caterers, vanity van staff, photographers, social media team and more. So, we need the stars to create the momentum. What Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan did recently, we need that for the industry to run. Producers will invest extra in a film only when they are sure that he is also getting more in return, because at the end of the day, it’s all about business. So, we need the stars.
And it’s just an Indian phenomenon. It’s the same even in Hollywood. Be it the James Bond franchise, the Marvel franchise or a Tom Cruise film, these movies do well because of the stars. Of course, there are films that have a great story and probably also give you a deep sense of satisfaction, but when it comes to business, they may not be the best performers.
Now, it also depends on what you enjoy doing more. I come from commercial cinema, and I am grateful to the universe for giving me the kind of opportunities now that probably didn’t come my way earlier.
Q. Your future projects…
A. My next is releasing on April 14. It’s a Punjabi film. I have worked in this industry after a gap of 11 years. And then there is 1920. It’s part of a horror film series. The first movie was directed by Vikram Bhatt, while the sequel is helmed by his daughter Krishna Bhatt. Vikram has produced it. I’ve seen Krishna taking piano lessons on the set of the 2003 film Footpath when she was just 13. So, it’s wonderful to be part of a film now directed by her. And even though it’s a gen-next project, the story of the film is written by Mahesh Bhatt. So, there’s literally three generations of the Bhatts involved in it.
After that, there is an Amazon Prime Video show, titled Adhura, that I am doing. The series is produced by Nikkhil Advani’s Emmay Entertainment. Meanwhile, I’m also part of a Sameer Nair project, which I am really looking forward to. Later in the year, I might be part of Nikkhil’s upcoming political thriller drama series Freedom at Midnight. Then, I am also part of a Lionsgate collaboration, called Nanda Devi.