Vinod Rawat opens up on Pushtaini, his jugalbandi with Hrithik Roshan, and more | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Vinod Rawat opens up on Pushtaini, his jugalbandi with Hrithik Roshan, and more

ByKhushi Pal
Jun 22, 2024 08:05 AM IST

In an exclusive interview, actor-filmmaker Vinod Rawat opens up on the making of his debut film Pushtaini and being acting coach to Hrithik Roshan.

Having worked as an acting coach for Sonam Kapoor, Sushmita Sen, and Hrithik Roshan, Vinod Rawat took it upon himself to master his craft and step in front of the camera instead. Less than a year after his debut feature film Pushtaini went houseful at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, actor-filmmaker Vinod Rawat is gearing up for the film's release in theatres on June 21. Set amidst the backdrop of the stunning mountains of Uttarakhand, this slice-of-life movie tells the tale of a struggling actor and his resilient journey of self-discovery. In an interview with Hindustan Times, the debut actor-filmmaker opens up about Pushtaini, being an acting coach to Hrithik Roshan and much more. (Also Read | Aarya director Vinod Rawat reveals Rajkummar Rao appeared in his film Pushtaini for free)

Vinod Rawat in a still from his debut film Pushtaini.
Vinod Rawat in a still from his debut film Pushtaini.

On his film Pushtaini

Pushtaini is an amalgamation of deeply personal experiences inspired from Vinod's life. This story of grit, success, fear and determination delves into issues including migration and a complex father-son relationship. The seeds were sown in his early twenties when, like most youngsters, Vinod found his father to be his enemy. Only a few years later, a wiser Vinod understood the intricacies of this bond, which soon became selfless and unconditional, two emotions depicted in the movie as well. Having migrated from Uttarakhand in search of better possibilities, Vinod found himself back amidst the simplicity of the mountains during the pandemic, giving him time to reflect upon his experiences and recurring thoughts. Recalling the film's conception, he shares, "Covid was a sad time. It brought people back to their hometowns and made them reflect on their lives. I had been having these thoughts for years before the pandemic. And they kept recurring, I felt, if God is giving me these thoughts, there is a reason for it." Vinod plunged into this feeling, and within months, the script for the film was ready. “We started writing in August 2020, and by October, we were on the floor ready to shoot.”

On sharing screen space with his family

As an acting coach, Vinod has assisted professionals and non-actors. But for Pushtaini, he worked closely and shared the screen with his family members. Did it help bring authenticity to the film? Well, for Vinod, it was more of an exploration. "I wanted to explore ye kaise ho sakta hai? I have been working with non-actors and professionals for the last 10-12 years. I wanted to explore the combination of actors and non-actors. Secondly, I thought the energy I have with my family is different, right? As an acting coach, I know the skills and tricks to make them act, at least I think so. But the energy part of it, and the backstory that I have already had with my family for the last so many years, was something I wanted to explore. There were challenges in teaching them the dialogues as they come from such diverse and different fields, but there is something that you feel when they act, which I can't explain in words. The rawness of their dialogue delivery is so beautiful. Actors are trained and have a similar way of delivery, and you get used to hearing that. But when you hear my bua, niece and jiju talk, it's so soothing."

Taking the leap with a theatrical release

A feature film released in theatres can come with challenges and fears. But much like the reel-life character, Vinod had to overcome the fear of failure in real life, too. "I keep saying that my whole agenda is to come out of fear. Even the movie is about a guy who has to overcome his fears. I was scared that nobody would watch this movie. I thought, let's release it on OTT instead. But then I found a producer, Ankit Gandhi, and opened a production company. He encouraged me to go ahead with a theatrical release. Zyada se zyada flop hoga, but at least karke dekhte hai. The movie received such a good response at MAMI. All the shows were houseful. But then again, the 'free-of-cost' and the' film festival' factors were there. So yes, there was a lot of back and forth of thoughts but then we decided that we must take it forward. Most importantly, in this process of making the film and releasing it in theatres, I have learnt a lot. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't know the process, and that is a learning in itself."

While Vinod has found his footing in the industry as a coach, as a debut filmmaker and actor, it was important for him to have that leap of faith. In a beautiful turn of events, he found support in his pupil, Hrithik Roshan, who is presenting the film. With a relationship spanning eight years and six films (War, Vikram Vedha, and Fighter, among others), Vinod recalls the moment when his student came onboard as a presenter.

"I have never asked for help. He (Hrithik) really loved it. He laughed, he cried and he said I made a beautiful film. But that was it, I didn't release it then. He kept asking me the status of the film and was eager to contribute in whatever way he could. I said, 'I don't know.' He told me he wanted to present the film because he really loved it. He said he isn't doing it for me but he is doing it for Pushtaini. Because it is a film that should reach people. And I just thought it was so beautiful...jabh aapke kaam ko aapse zyada izzat milti hai."

His 'jugalbandi' with Hrithik Roshan

On his relationship with the actor, he adds, "Mai Hrithik ke saath seekhne ke paise leta hu sikhane ke nahi. Because I am learning so much from him. He is a collaborator. Acting is a riaaz. You have to keep practising. Take a look at Guzaarish, Lakshya, these are beautiful films of Hrithik. He has the acting sense. What I am doing with him is jugalbandi. You collaborate with an actor, do a jugalbandi and develop 9-10 different ways of doing one scene. And then decide which one to go with. Amazingly, he has not taken acting for granted. Despite reaching where he is, he believes in practice and does not take acting for granted. So I am constantly learning these values from him."

While Hrithik is presenting the movie, Pushtaini also has another special element: a cameo by Rajkummar Rao, with whom he learnt theatre together back in FTII. From attending classes together to sharing a frame, Vinod says, "Dosti relationships se kahi ooper hoti hai. Both of us have earned this friendship. It's the same as it was back in the theatre. We used to have creative discussions back then regarding scripts and performances. When I finished Pushtaini I went to Rajkummar first. I told him I'd written this script and asked for his opinion. When he read it, he said he wanted to do this role. I never approached him for the role, but he wanted it. He knew if he came on board, I would get support. But he did it because he believed in the script. I even told him I don't have the money to give him but he said ek kaam karna mujhe 4-5 zorr ki hug kardena aur mai samjhunga mujhe paise mil gaye."


Vinod Rawat and Rajkummar Rao in a still from Pushtaini.
Vinod Rawat and Rajkummar Rao in a still from Pushtaini.

More to come after Pushtaini

One might now call Vinod a 'Jack of all trades', having added the title of an actor, producer, and filmmaker to his long list of talents. But does it ever create a creative conflict within oneself? "I know people say you have to focus on one thing. But in my case, it's so beautiful that everything is complimenting in every department for me. This is my truth. And even after this I will continue to work as an acting coach because this is something I love doing and I learn so much. It's a school for me. But in December I will make a new film as an actor-director. I have a producer now to take care of that department so I can focus on the creative aspect. This is the truth of my journey and I enjoy it. I don't have a specific route to follow. I feel whatever comes my way is Godsent, and I will take that with me as I go ahead on my journey."

Vinod is brimming with the zest to explore more with his craft. He already has multiple projects in the pipeline, including a second feature film he intends to shoot in Uttarakhand featuring local faces. For Vinod, the mountains are calling, and the storyteller in him must get going.

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