Gajraj Rao: You’ve Definitely Seen Him Much Before Badhaai Ho

Bollywood

Gajraj Rao: You’ve Definitely Seen Him Much Before Badhaai Ho

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I

t’s a wonderful time to be Gajraj Rao. The actor – in his late 40s – has starred in two comedies this year, essaying starkly different characters. In Abhinay Deo’s Blackmail, Rao was Chawla, a private detective devoid of a conscience who double-crosses and blackmails his clients with a genial smile. And in Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho last week, Rao essayed Jeetender Kaushik, a fifty-something ticket collector for Northern Railways and the patriarch of a Delhi family, whose wife gets pregnant.

In the film, Rao effortlessly straddles three roles – a romantic husband, a mild-mannered father, and a responsible son – offering us a peek into the different inner lives of all his personae. If as the middle-class government servant, he hesitates before tipping generously, then as the father of two adult sons with diminishing authority, he’s exceedingly earnest in his efforts to impress his elder son’s girlfriend. Rao becomes Jeetender Kaushik – a man accused of loving and making love to his wife, rejecting the societal expectation of being merely an asexual caregiver – with such heartbreaking sincerity that it’s impossible to not be moved. It’s a feat that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Badhaai Ho opened to unanimous appreciation (you’d be hard pressed to find one unflattering review) and housefull theatres, despite competition from a millennial-oriented Namaste England. In its very first weekend, Badhaai Ho has earned almost 50 crores.

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