"If I had made my debut with 'Kyunki ...', I would have registered with audiences faster"

He may be known today as the newest hunk on the block, but Rajeev Khandelwal did not come to Mumbai with dreams of making it big as an actor.

Unknown to many, Rajeev is in reality a documentary filmmaker who has made several docudramas on the Indian Army, the life of the aged, and women's labour in the country.

Today, however, it is playing Sujal in Star Plus' new late night opus Kahiin To Hoga that is keeping him busy. Not surprisingly, Rajeev has also spawned a growing female fan following, thanks to his ambitious, egoistic, hotshot dude act in KTH.

Receiving a constant stream of gushing calls has become de rigour, and he acknowledges, albeit in a slight vain vein, that the female adulation is a part of his life now.

Vickey Lalwani caught up with the 'happening' star of tellyland to find out what makes him tick.


Was yours a planned foray into television acting?

No way, I am a B Sc (Chemistry) from St Xavier's, Ahmedabad. Brought up in an army background, I started my career in television as a production assistant. Soon, I began writing and directing documentary films. Till date, I have written about 30 documentaries on various subjects.


Really! Tell us something about the documentaries.

Documentaries that I penned and directed were on issues like old age, women's labour and the Indian Army, among many others. I have a special fascination for the Indian Army. After the Kargil war, I was keen on making something that would showcase the army and hence made one documentary on the subject. Most of the films I made were aired on Doordarshan and were of 30 minutes duration. I did not produce all of them, though.


So, how did the transition from production to acting happen?

Well, I had shot a pilot for a show based on an army backdrop. It didn't find approval and I ended up wasting lots of time and money.

Now that I look back, I think I shouldn't have done it at all. Not only was I vague about the tricks of the trade, I was positively clueless about the content that the mainstream channels would be interested in.

"What kept bothering me was the fact that despite starting of with KHKH, I still had to make my mark"

How did you bounce back?

While I was trying to sell that project in Mumbai, I managed to sell myself (laughs). I was selected to model for a few commercials- LML bikes, Gilbey's Green Label Whiskey, Kodak Express and Videocon refrigerators.

Thanks to those opportunities, I recovered most of my lost money within no time. At this point, friends advised me to try my hand at acting. I went in for some auditions at Balaji Telefilms. Luckily, I was selected. I badly needed the money to recover the losses that I had incurred in the making of the pilot. My ad assignments were quite a boon, but they still had not wiped away the entire deficit.


Usually Balaji actors manage to become semi celebrities within no time, how did you manage to keep a low profile?

Guess it all depends on the popularity of the serial. If I had made my first appearance in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, I would have registered with the audiences faster. My cameo was in Sony's Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat. Today, this show is doing well - but I shot for the initial thriller episodes, the inaugural series. It was a great experience. I shared the frame with some great artistes like Rohini Hattangadi and Smriti Malhotra. My first shot was with Smriti. Mind you, I didn't goof up (laughs).


So that's how you started. Then?

Offers started trickling in, but I already signed Kahiin To Hoga. Since it was a daily, that required a major chunk of my time, I didn't want to take up more projects. I didn't want to focus on too many things during the initial stages of my career. Besides, I knew that I was playing a character which would make an impact. Unfortunately, Kahiin... did not flag off as per schedule. That was a trying period.

I was in a dilemma, unsure of what to do next. A catch-22 situation, to be precise. And, people who remembered that I had appeared in KHKH began asking embarrassing questions like 'Kyon Bhaiya, Chale Nahin Kya? (Oh, so you didn't click?)'


Didn't you take a raincheck beforehand? Were and are you bound by a contract with Balaji Telefilms?

No. I am free to take up other projects as and when I please.


"Late-night shows don't generally do well, I knew the content was good, but I thought what if the people refused to change their viewing pattern?"

A still from 'Kahiin To Hoga'

You said that you knew your character in 'Kahiin...' would make an impact. What made you believe so?

This is something very new. The character Sujal I play has loads of attitude. Tell me one young actor in a TV show, so far, with so much of attitude.


How close is Rajeev to Sujal? Do you really have an attitude? And how do you define 'attitude'?

Pretty close. Like Sujal, I am a reserved guy. But frankly, I don't like the word attitude, it has a lot of negativity attached. Here, people equate aloofness to attitude. They begin saying that he is proud, egoistic.... Sooner or later, they start saying that the guy has an attitude. This is unfair. How can anybody start chit-chatting, gossiping and laughing with everyone?


How did you react when you first learnt that 'Kahiin...' would be aired in the 11 pm slot?

I guess, I was very nervous and apprehensive. According to the general perception, late-night shows don't do well. I knew the content was good, but was afraid of viewers who may not want to change their viewing pattern?

Later, however, I consoled myself and maintained a firm belief in Balaji Telefilms. The production house has a successful track record and I waited. Waited with bated breath, for nearly six months to hear about the launch. What kept bothering me was the fact that despite starting of KHKH, I still had to make my mark. I couldn't afford a failure at this stage. It would have been a major setback.

You seem to have had a good time doing some very romantic scenes with your co-star Aamna Sharif (Kashish)?

(smiles) I know those scenes have become the talk of the town. That's because Aamna and I share a wonderful chemistry. To be honest, I did get turned on when those sequences were narrated to me. But when it came to doing those in front of the entire unit, it was a different story altogether.

Still from Gilbey's Green Label ad
"I don't want to copy any actor, howsoever successful he may be"
Did you have any formal training in acting?

I don't believe in formal training. Acting is an intrinsic art. These classes might polish an actor a bit, but they can't ingrain the seeds of acting.

So, do you watch serials to imbibe something?

I don't watch any serial mainly because I know if I do, I would start imitating someone. It's a natural thing to happen. We all get influenced by each other, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. I don't want to copy any actor, howsoever successful he may be.


How important is a director to you?

Quite important. I want him to help me get into the skin of the character. He has to keep a close eye on me in the initial stages of the show and correct my flaws as per the character demands. However, I don't believe that the director has to enact the scenes for me. Else, I wouldn't be able to improvise.


No formal training in acting. Don't watch much television. How do you manage to convince the director?

Since I have written and directed documentaries, I can relate to the scriptwriter and director very easily. I have a fair idea as to what they want from me as an actor. It's a case of 'knowledge gained does not go down the drain'. Importantly, I am not too sensitive.

I don't mind if people point out my flaws. For instance, there was this drunken scene recently where the creative guys felt that I had gone over the top and they let me know. Thanks to them, I could better my act.

Going back to your character. You don't share a very good equation with your father (Deepak Parasher). But I guess that part has not been fully delved into...

Your guess is right. That's because he (Parasher) has not been good to my mother.
But even that aspect has not been touched upon?

You are right actually, but I wouldn't be able to comment on that. It should be coming up any moment. But I really have fallen in love with my character. The fact that it has every possible human shade- love, anger and jealousy, makes it even more attractive. It is also one reason why I relate to the scriptwriter and director.
On behalf of your female fans, let me ask you one last question. Where do you think your sex appeal lies?

In my eyes.

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