Actor-director duo Rajkummar Rao and Hansal Mehta have delivered acclaimed films such as Shahid, Citylights, Aligarh, Omerta, and also the sports drama Chhalaang. The duo has always spoken highly of each other. But there was a time when the filmmaker was apprehensive about casting Rao in their first collaboration, Shahid. It was only on the insistence of casting director Mukesh Chhabra that Mehta agreed to meet the actor.
In an interview with Mashable India, Mehta revealed, “I was not ready to meet him (Rao). Anurag Kashyap and Mukesh Chhabra told me to at least meet him once. I said, ‘Mil kar kya karun, paise vaise bhi nahi mil rahe picture banane ke (Why should I meet, I am anyways not getting money to make the movie)’. How will I be able to make the movie with Rajkummar Yadav, he was then named that.”
But, Chhabra was confident about Rao and one day he called Mehta to inform him that the actor was standing outside his office. He told the filmmaker, “Acha ladka hai, chai pilaa kar bhej dena bas‘. (He is a nice boy. Just offer a cup of tea and send him away).” Then, Rajkummar Rao walked into Hansal Mehta’s office and they talked for over an hour. After their meeting, the film director was convinced about casting Rao in the biographical drama. “I look for a vibe when I cast a person. I cast him because I liked him. There was something very beautiful about him,” he said.
The critically-acclaimed Shahid is based on the life of lawyer and human rights activist Shahid Azmi, who was assassinated in 2010 in Mumbai. Rao’s titular role in the movie got him a National Award for Best Actor and Mehta won the National Award for Best Director.