Is it important for you to play the conventional hero?
Not at all! Thanks to the growth and changes in our cinema, one can be a successful actor without being a leading man.
Do you think a small-town guy like you could've made it without Ram Gopal Varma's support?
First of all, I never considered my city to be small. I feel the town which gave birth to my parents who in turn gave birth to me cannot be considered small. It's because of them and that town that today I can lead a five-star life in Mumbai. I was lucky to get to act. I was happy to do my scenes with any and every one without forgetting my lines. That kind of positive thinking has got me where I am -- from that walk-on part in "Shool" to a small role in Ramuji's "Mast" to the leading man in "Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon".
That's where your craving for the leading man's role started?
Shall I tell you one thing? If you're far-seeing you can do anything. My journey of 40-45 films so far has been very rewarding. A main role is every actor's dream. I'm grateful to Chandan Arora for letting me do the main lead twice -- in "Main Madhuri..." and now "Main Meri Patni Aur Woh".
To me it's more important that the characters I play are interesting than the fact that I am the main lead. It could be a three-scene role as in "Paheli", but audiences should like what I do. The number of scenes doesn't matter. How I do them is what matters.
How conventional a hero can you play with your unconventional looks?
See, if on one end you had Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan as superstars, on the other end you also had Sanjeev Kumar. Just like Sanjeev Saab, I'd like to think I've my own place. If Sanjeev Saab was alive he'd have been happy to do my role in "Main Meri Patni Aur Woh".
Natural born scene-stealers like Mehmood, Shatrughan Sinha and Arshad Warsi fail when trying to be the conventional hero...
Shall I tell you something? There's no confusion in my mind about what sort of an actor I want to be. To run around trees singing songs isn't my dream. And I know my limitations. The world's most famous actor Charlie Chaplin was never a conventional leading man. But he's my true inspiration, though I've never imitated him. I think I've been loved for what I am.
"Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon" wasn't a super-duper hit. But on Zee TV it's got the highest TRP ratings. Out of 250 films per year it was perhaps one of the films that wasn't forgotten. That character gave me life. If I was a conventional hero I wouldn't have got to play the roles that I have.
But conventional heroes feel threatened by scene stealers?
No, no! Salman Khan has no problem with me. He always gets me a good role in his films. I've no problems with Shah Rukh (Khan) either. I don't want to think about threatening anyone. I just want to be honest to my work. I've only benefited from my position as an all-purpose actor. David Dhawan loved my work in "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" so much that he said he didn't want anyone else for a role in "Shaadi No.1". Arrey kar denge sir!
I want to do equal justice to films by David Dhawan, Shyam Benegal, Priyadarshan and Ram Gopal Varma. I remember I shot for "Hungama" and "Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon" together. I had to laugh for one and then cry for the other. When audiences laughed and cried with me, I knew I had won their love. I've made audiences laugh and cry in realistic levels in "Main Meri Patni Aur Woh".
What do you play in "Main Meri Patni Aur Woh"?
On a flight to Chandigarh to promote "Main Madhuri..." we discussed the idea of a joker from circus... his personal life and grief. "Main Meri Patni..." is the story of the inferiority of a common man. I remember during my days at NSD (National School of Drama). My friends used to measure me before the taller girls. I used to say that one day I'd be so tall they wouldn't know where to look. In the film, we've dealt with a similar situation in the protagonist's life. It's a film I believe in completely. And we couldn't have chosen a better actress to play my wife than Rituparna Sengupta.
What more of Rajpal Yadav in coming months?
You'll get to see me in out and out leads in Priyadarshan's "Malamaal Weekly" with Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Riteish Deshmukh and another film with UTV with Pareshji and Shahid Kapoor. I look at myself as a student of acting. Whatever position I wanted, I think I've achieved. There're enough people who want to see me. I want to play at least 500 characters.
How does your wife cope with your busy schedule?
My wife is studying in Dubai until September 2006. We keep visiting each other. She's a Canadian Gujarati. She's a very good human being and a wonderful student. When we met during the shooting of Anil Sharma's "Hero", we felt we had known each other forever. I went out for an ice-cream, met her and we became man and wife. We talk at least thrice a day. We're carrying on a long-distance marriage quite successfully.