Rajeev Siddhartha is an Investment Banker turned theatre artist who is currently playing a badass assassin on the popular Indian TV series, 24. Team MissMalini had the opportunity to interview him and ask him about his career, being a villain in 24, and working with a superstar like Anil Kapoor. Here’s what Rajeev had to say!
Team MissMalini (TeamMM): Tell us about your role in the series. How is Bala’s character and what do you like/dislike about him?
Rajeev Siddhartha (RS): Bala is initially introduced to the viewers as a highly trained assassin. As the story unfolds you discover that he is the son of the LTFE chief Ravindran who was presumed to be killed in a secret operation spearheaded by Jai Singh Rathore (character played by Anil Kapoor). The plot to assassinate Aditya Singhania and kill Jai along with his family is masterminded by Raja, who is Ravindran’s trusted aide and Bala. Bala takes matters in his own hands when the other terrorists assigned to do the job fail to do so. In that sense Bala is one of primary antagonists of 24. For him, the mission to assassinate Aditya Singhania and kill Jai Singh Rathore is extremely personal.
Bala is a guy in his 20’s whose vision of life has unfortunately been coloured by the death of his family in a brutal manner at the hands of Jai Singh Rathore. He probably was an emotional person growing up, however owing to that incident Bala has become cold, ruthless and single minded in his vision to take revenge for his family. On the surface he may across as calm and composed, but within he is seething with hate towards the people who took his family away from him.
I like absolutely everything about Bala’s character. He is single minded, a complete badass, gets to ride the best of bikes, wears the choicest clothes and has women falling for him left right and centre. I am sure any guy in his 20’s or 30’s or probably even older would love being Bala for a day (minus all the bloodshed of course!)
Team MM: Did you watch the original 24 series? If yes, were there any tips you learned from it?
RS: No, I have not seen the original series. After I got cast in the Indian series I was tempted to see it at many points but refrained from doing so, as there was slight chance of it colouring my perception. I will probably watch it now!
Team MM: Are you anything like Bala in real life?
RS: Hahahahaha! I wish! It’s funny because before auditioning for 24 I was going through a phase of a bit of self doubt and insecurity and then I got the opportunity to audition for 24 for a character who is basically fearless, single minded and has unparalleled confidence in his abilities. And I got the part! It was the universe’s way of helping me imbibe these qualities. And I do hope these qualities stay me and hold me in good stead in life.
Team MM: What’s the best thing about playing a villain as opposed to a hero?
RS: No added pressure to gain the empathy of the audience! And let’s say if you do succeed in doing that, it’s a welcome bonus. Besides, I would like to think of Bala as more of an anti-hero, he is just out to avenge the murder of his family. In other words, he feels he has been wronged, and must seek justice through his own means.
Team MM: Who is your favourite onscreen villain?
RS: I have two actually. Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York and Colonel Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds.
Team MM: How is it working with a huge star like Anil Kapoor? Did you interact with him a lot – on the set and off?
RS: I am truly grateful to Mr. Anil Kapoor for bringing 24 to India. His courage, his vision and his commitment is unparalleled. I shot for a couple of days with him and just observing him in action is pure pleasure. His tremendous energy and enthusiasm is contagious and you can see why his career has been so spectacular for over three decades. I am fortunate that I got to work with him at such an early stage of my career.
In fact at the success party of 24 I told him that I wish I can have as much passion and commitment after so many years of working in the industry. He was extremely humble and had some nice things to say about my performance. I am grateful to have worked with him.
Team MM: Which is your favourite Anil Kapoor film?
RS: Pukar; however for me right now he is Jai Singh Rathore. 24, for me, is actually more than a film. So, can I say 24?
Team MM: Do you think the face of India television is changing with shows like 24?
RS: Absolutely! I believe we are a country that can appreciate intelligent television content. 24 is miles ahead in every department as compared to any show presently, and many years later it will be looked upon as the initiator of quality television in India. It has set a benchmark and hopefully production houses and television channels will make an honest attempt to raise the level of television content in India. It took the vision of Mr.Anil Kapoor and Colors to create such change and become pioneers for Indian television.
Team MM: Do you think the role of a villain in movies and TV shows is evolving especially with Aamir playing a villain in Dhoom 3?
RS: It has been in the process of evolution for a long time now. Shah Rukh Khan played villainous characters/anti-heroes early on in his career. Then John Abraham got his career kick started because of Dhoom and now we have Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3. Yes, now villains are not caricatures as they might have been in the past, and are well written parts. Also, as actors we look for interesting and challenging characters and being a hero or a villain or an anti hero is not so much of a consideration. It’s more about characters than just “hero” or “villain”. Everybody has shades in them, and it just so happens that in the context of a story the villain has slightly more darker shades than the hero.
Team MM: What are your future plans? Are you interested in Bollywood or are you planning on continuing with television?
RS: As of now I am doing two plays with Lillete Dubey – Adhe Adhure and August Osage County. Both very powerful scripts and I get to play two completely different characters – one a rebellious young character with tremendous angst and the other a 37 year old unemployed “loser”. Theatre and working with Mrs. Dubey and Dr.Mohan Agashe has really helped me in honing my skills as an actor and given me the opportunity to play different characters.
I am keener on doing films from now onwards, having said that, if another television opportunity comes across which is at par with 24 in terms of the quality of script and people attached to it, I would love to be part of it.
Remember to catch Rajeev aka Bala on-screen this weekend on the finale episode of 24!