After Sairat, and its warm reception by the critics and box office alike, a plethora of scripts and film offers came Rinku Rajguru’s way — the young actor refused them all. “I got such a wonderful start with my first film, I felt I had to live up to it. Everyone wanted to do a Sairat, but I wasn’t interested in repeating what’s already done. I wanted to do something new, something that would improve my own work [as an actor],” she explains.
Post Sairat, Rajguru’s studies continued. Interestingly, Kaagar’s release date was pushed from February 14 this year as it clashed with her 12th standard board exams. The young actor also, “worked a lot on [herself], read a lot, and lost the weight she had to gain [for her Sairat role]”, she shares. Was she always an avid reader? “I was never too fond of reading! I was just too young (in 8th and 9th grade), and it was my age to eat, drink, and play,” she laughs. The unexpected acting opportunity with Sairat, made her grow up quickly, “I had to be mature when I realised the importance of the chance I got. I had to make the most of it!” exclaims Rajguru.
When asked about her interests outside of acting, the young actor rattles off a long list of activities, “Dance, reading, drawing, singing songs, watching films, making rangolis, drawing mehndi …” I am amazed and ask how she has the time to do any of this. “I draw when I am free, when I am home I am always cooking something, and I read in my free time.” Between her board exams and making Kaagar, she has been even more stretched for time, but still squeezed in time to read Daya Pawar’s Baluta. She’s devoured classics such as Mrityunjay, Vanavas, Anne Frank’s Diary of Young Girl, she tells me in eloquent Marathi that I struggle to keep up with.
For both films, Rajguru has played characters that are well beyond her own age. “Sairat was very difficult. I had to be a friend, lover, daughter, wife, mother, all at once. But my team was always very supportive and helped me learn. I had to be a child’s mother when I myself was a child!” she laughs. Adding, “Since Sairat happened accidentally, I had to suddenly become very responsible. I thought, this is the only shot [at acting] I’ll ever get, and even if I die the work is going to live on. So, I had to give it my best, regardless of how much time it took.” The evidently focused actor shares that learning to tackle Archi’s multidimensional character in Sairat, on the job, as well as the technical aspects of filmmaking, helped her immensely in the Makarand Mane-directed Kaagar that releases today. She credits Mane, “with consistently guiding” her in their “collective effort”.
Rajguru and Mane, who are from the same village in Maharashtra, Akluj, had been in touch ever since they both won awards at the National Film Awards in 2017. Rajguru got a ‘Special Mention’ for Sairat, while Mane’s film Ringan won Best Marathi Feature. “Kaagar came to me after a long wait. I heard the story and I loved it. The subject is beautiful, and at its heart is a wonderful story of passionate love, as also of friends, of relationships, and of a joy that slowly unfolds,” she shares.
The main reason for Rajguru taking the film remains its “multi-layered” female protagonist, Rani, and the focus on her journey. “In the village, there is a certain tradition. A woman’s life is defined by the kitchen, her child, and confined to the home’s four walls. Every time she steps out, she must cover herself up appropriately. A mother should always keep her head covered. These [norms and customs] are endless! There is a lot that is forbidden, just by virtue of being a woman. This is where Rani comes from, but circumstances compel her to cross the domestic threshold and enter politics as a leader. She is driven to do something for young girls like her who dare to have aspirations, and for women in general,” says Rajguru.
So, do Archi and Rani have anything in common? I ask. She concedes that both films have a rural setting, but the characters are completely different: Archi is outspoken; headstrong enough to propose to a guy. Rani is nothing like that. She’s very quiet and reserved; her family is completely different. She is confident and strong but always thinks before she speaks, acts, or takes decisions, unlike the impulsive and hot-headed Archi.
Playing a political figure had its own difficulties, but nothing that hard work and research couldn’t overcome. “Kaagar delves deep into the social issues, such as farmers’ problems, that background politics”, says Rajguru. Does working on the film have implications for her personal politics? “I guess [politics] is a very crucial aspect of all our lives, so we must all pay attention to it,” she says. Considering we are in the midst of a national election, she adds, “Voting is important and it can herald a lot of positive change”. For her, “Kaagar is an important film that people of all ages, even kids can relate to and learn from.”
Before Sairat happened, did she act or even think of it? “Never,” says Rajguru, who was happy being at school and with her friends. Back then, she wanted to be a doctor but now, “acting is the clear choice”, she says. Given the nuisance that celebritydom brings, especially in schools and colleges (Rajguru had to be escorted by the police to her recent board exams), taking arts was a “more practical choice”. But, “Education is very important and I will complete it,” she asserts. Not everything about being a celebrity is bad though, “I love the fact that a girl like me from a small village, who no one knew, is now recognised and loved by the whole world. I get to meet so many new people,” she shares.
What’s next? In a few months’ time, Rajguru will have a another film on acid attacks release, whose title is still under wraps. What about all the press on her being in Manjule’s next, Jhund alongside Amitabh Bachchan? “I can’t say anything. You better ask Nagraj Manjule if I am in the film or not”, she smiles.