While in the UK this summer, I had a chance to interview Purru Raaj Kumar, son of legendary actor Raaj Kumar (of “Mother India”, “Pakeezah”, etc fame). As for Purru, he made his debut in Bal Bramachari and then went on to be seen in character roles in movies like Mission Kashmir, Umrao Jaan, and most recently, Veer. We discussed all things Bollywood from the black and white days to modern times. Purru proved to be a very insightful and smart man, who still has the potential to leave a strong mark in Bollywood. Read on below for the full interview.
Purru: The pressure is always there – sometimes for good reasons, especially if the parent has done very well. For example, my father was in the industry for 40 years. So, that’s 40 years of work and recall value… can’t compare that to a newcomer or anyone who has done lesser films. I realized that early on in my career – that to keep the comparison to a minimum, would be good for me to do roles that were against the tide so to speak… one of the bigger reasons to do shades of grey etc etc…
UA: How did you maintain a sense of normalcy while growing up?
Purru: (*smiles*) Normalcy, while growing up for us – thankfully – was helped by the fact my parents kept us away from the glare of the industry. One of the biggest advantages was to grow up without having to feel any sort ‘pressure’ that we were kids of anyone famous and there has to be some sort of behavior or expectations or any sense of protocol to follow. We were kids and kids do all sorts of foolish things… Having said that – I wonder what’s the difference when you grow up (*smiles*)
UA: Who was your biggest inspiration and guide when growing up? What is one your favorite memories from your childhood?
Purru: I doubt I have any one particular inspiration. It’s a mixed bag of events, people, parents, friends etc. etc. One of the ‘bestest’ memories in a series of happy memories are the ones spent on family vacations in Kashmir. We used to go in a HUGE bing bang – family, aunts ,uncles, family friends and their families…almost like this mini army of crazy folks… (*laughs*)
UA: Your father is one of the few actors who can boast of being in one of the first films to be sent to the Oscars (ie Mother India). I liked his acting in Pakeezah even more, but his repertoire of movies has several classics in it, so there are so many good choices. What is your favorite movie of your father’s? (if it’s hard to pick one, you can list more than 1)
Purru: The fact that Mother India went to Oscars was stupendous. We are talking 1958ish here. I hear it was like one of those “Diwali came early” feelings for the crew. (*smiles*) Pakeezah is one of my favorites too! There was Lal Patthar, 36 Ghante, Waqt, Bulundi, Saudagar, Hamraaz… (*trails off*)
UA: Your father worked in an era when Indian Cinema was still developing. Indian Cinema has come a long way since then. However, today, in my opinion, depth of storyline and soulful lyrics have been stripped away for cinema that is reliant on special effects and a more western feel. Do you feel Indian cinema is moving in the right direction. Or, do you think we need to return to a more Indian feel?
[Indian] Cinema has grown by leaps and bounds. Look at the worldwide reach. It’s huge! I feel so proud of it and so honored to be a part of this industry. At times, I do of course feel nostalgic, like anybody else I guess, but we do need to realize the changing tastes and attention span of the audiences across the globe. At one time 3, 3 and a half, long films were a norm. Today, hmmm, I don’t think there is much patience left to see long hindi movies. I can understand that, but on the other hand it is difficult to tell a story like Umrao Jaan or any other period film in a short span of time, don’t you think? I would like to believe there is a market still for this kind of cinema. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong or…
UA: Your debut movie, Bal Brahmachari, was with fellow star kid, Karisma Kapoor (Raj Kapoor’s granddaughter). Did you feel a comfort level with her since she too felt the pressure of living up to her family legacy? Do you think we will ever see you pair with Karisma again? What do you remember most about your debut film?:-)
She was so helpful to me I remember. Considering she was already in many films and far more comfortable in front of the camera than a newcomer, she used to give tips on the timing of the shot etc. So sweet, really! I was kinda nervous, being my first film and all- believe it or not – the whirring sound of the camera can make an actor nervous to start speaking his/her lines. Of course after a while, you don’t notice it, but on the start hmm kinda nerve racking (*smiles*) I… I had to speak 3 lines of dialogues. Got it right in the rehearsal shot, but once the camera started my first dialogue was —– Huuuuuuuhhhhh _(*laughs*) Don’t know if we will be paired again…can’t say! The whole experience of shooting, acting etc. was bizarre and fantastic. Never faced a camera in my life, and finally realized…Sooooo this is what my father does for a living, huh? Hmmm niceeeee…I think I will love this profession (*grins*)
UA: You’ve acted with other such contemporaries as Hrithik Roshan (Mission Kashmir), Abhishek Bachchan (Umrao Jaan), Aishwarya Rai (Umrao Jaan), and most recently Salman Khan (Veer). Also, you worked with several other star kids in L.O.C. Kargil – (ie Kareena Kapoor – Raj Kapoor’s daughter, Saif Ali Khan – Sharmila Tagore’s son, Esha Deol – Hema Mailini & Dharmendra’s daughter, etc.) Do you think actors today have the same dedication to the art of acting as those in your father’s time? Did your father ever give you advice about developing a good work ethic and how to choose a good film?
Good work ethic is important is any field and important… I like to believe most actors have it. Nothing to do with if either of your parents was in the industry before you. Actors today, I’m told, are far more ‘stressed’ out than the time of our parents. I mean look at the economics of the industry now. Earlier there was a far more relaxed approach to work – more time was taken, etc. etc… Dedication I’m sure is the same if not more. Competition is greater… there is more importance given to box office etc. etc. See –it’s bound to be. Times evolve. Now is this good or bad- I’m not sooo intelligent to answer that…
UA: I found it interesting that you majored in economics and psychology at Gettysburg College. Did you enjoy studying in the US? Psychology is a field that is closely related to acting, as actors have to truly understand the mentality of their characters. Do you think it helped you to understand your characters better?
Psychology helps you understand your surroundings better. I feel you observe more, understand a little better why people behave the way they do…small things. You don’t have to study to know this. I mean…life teaches you too (*smiles*). I guess I was simply curious to study it. School life was study and fun… AND fun… (*laughs*)
UA: You’ve been selective in choosing films, but when you have chosen them, you’ve picked interesting roles. When you choose your movies, what criteria are you looking for – ie is it based on scope in the script, the director, co-actors, etc.?
For me, it’s based on all of the above and of course I try to do the best with what comes my way. To be a part of a good film is always fun… and with it, if you get great characters to play, it’s super! By characters I mean any role – can be the lead or it doesn’t have to be.
UA: What projects do you have lined up for the coming year? Which actors and directors do you really want to work with (whom you have not yet worked with)?
Purru: Hmmm, it’s like asking me – Purru, I’m taking you to a candy shop, BUT you can choose ONLY one candy! I wanna work with as many directors and co actors as I can ya… more the merrier… coming year working on two scripts! Let’s see how they turn out!
UA: Many actors today are moving from acting to other aspects of film – ie direction, production, singing, etc. You too have opened your own production company – Kristal Image Entertainers. How did you come up with the name? Will you be releasing any movies soon under your production house? Do you think we will ever see you as a director (in addition to producer/actor)?
We were just trying to find a name which was not very ‘entertainment industry’ alone, but also did other things and Kristal somehow fitted the profile…production, maybe? Let’s see…then again its just a natural progression for an actor nowadays. I guess we are in long line of actor-producer category… Hmmm… direction I don’t know… I don’t think I’m that talented to direct a film, and besides, one needs a particular kind of temperament to direct a film…I’m too hyper I guess! (*laughs*)
UA: I think your best facet is that you have so many interests and have not limited yourself to one small niche field. In addition to acting, producing, you also are known for your love of fashion. Who are your favorite designers? How would you define “fashion”? 🙂
I really can’t define fashion for you…it’s just a feel… I mean it’s always wonderful to see a person develop their own style. It’s the uniqueness which I’m attracted to. It’s like an extension of yourself in some/many ways. You don’t have to wear uber expensive clothes to look great it’s how you put your look together which is super to see. There is a sense of grace and beauty to someone who has their own ’style’. I have a long list of favorites- D&G ([Docle and Gabanna]), Jean Paul Gaultier, Rohit Bal, JJ Valaya, Valentino… I know these are brands! (*smiles*) I’m great with h&m, zara, breshka etc etc..anything which catches my eye… it can be ‘rasta ka mall’ – all good.. 🙂
UA: In addition to being a good actor, you’re also an avid sports player and have done charity boxing events. You’ve also done a lot of rock climbing! Do you think you may want to climb Mt. Everest of Kilimanjaro at some point? (*grins*)
Hehehehehehehehe..WOW..of all the things now, you want me to climb Mt. Everest?? It’s a thought (*smiles*). I will have to give up everything and become a professional rock climber then…soooo the choice is clear…I think I better remain an Actor! (*laughs*)
UA: The media is often useful for creating one’s image, but the media may often distort how one truly is. Do you feel the media has done a good job representing who you are to the masses? If not, how would you describe yourself to your fans – ie who is the real “Purru Raaj Kumar”?
I don’t know…to be honest I have not worked towards creating any sort of image for myself…which I think is counterproductive…some nasty things have been said in the past… I kept quiet… I think it was stupid of me to keep quiet but I’m usually non-confrontational by nature… I’m just an imperfect guy trying to entertain people who I love…and I love all.
UA: Any other message for your fans and readers of UrbanAsian.com?
Make a positive difference…do something…anything…and share a bit more. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
Photography – Soozana Puvanenthiran
Styling – Opulent Mng