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The French connection

Published Jan 26, 2014, 7:09 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 8:05 am IST
Rahul Vohra is a popular face on television, in theatre and has also acted in films.

To paraphrase an old French expression, ‘It is never asked for, it is never refused and it is never worn’ but that doesn’t stop one from being thankful about it The award is dedicated to all the lost and forgotten artistes of India and the world at large, with whom I have had the honour of working over the years —  the weavers whose hands create what I wear, the classical musicians who launched me on an auspicious note, the folk artistes who taught me tenacity and self-belief and the craftsmen whose aesthetics build the nation’s image,” says actor Rahul Vohra,  who was bestowed the prestigious award of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) for his contribution to cinema and theatre. Apart from him, the other Indian actors who have received the honour include the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Nandita Das and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

His salt ‘n’ pepper hair, deep baritone and a charming personality make one immediately warm up to him. If you are a true blue film junkie, his face will be familiar. Be it as SRK’s friend at the Nasa in 'Swades', as Kapoor in 'Bheja Fry 2' or a part of the ensemble cast of Mira Nair’s 'Monsoon Wedding' and Kamasutra. A popular name in Delhi’s theatre circle, Rahul Vohra might not have a prolific career in Indian cinema, but his talent has got its due on the international platform.


“It is  a unique honour and one that is very rare, not often awarded to foreigners. So of course, I feel humbled. But I have never worked towards getting awards and am not going to start now. While this distinction is an amazing moment in my life, it is by no means the end of the exquisite journey, which only gets more exotic and demanding. A lot more needs to be done yet,” says Vohra, who is a founder member of the famous theatre group Chingari.

The actor began his journey from the capital, where he studied economics in Delhi University and did his Masters in French from JNU.


So was he always inclined towards acting? “Yes, of course! As a six-year- old, I knew I was going to be an actor! I could climb the stage, any day. That is where I live, I exist and I am. It’s like God gives you a boon to lead many lives in one lifetime,” says Vohra. And like most actors who have done both theatre and cinema, does he also feel the former is more fulfilling? “The pleasure of being able to make people travel without physically moving them, hearing their heartbeats resonate with yours and observing your emotions echo in their souls is all a part of theatre. That connect is a passion-filled spell, as if time ceases to exist. It could go to anyone’s head in an instant, and yet, one learns anew each day.  There is a whole sense of linearity of time and narrative in theatre. Whereas in cinema, it could go from anywhere to anywhere, let’s say, we may start by shooting the end sequence! But that is an even more complicated and fun game,” he explains. He adds after a pause, “I would go by the popular notion that theatre is an actor’s medium and cinema a director’s.”


The actor has a steady fan following in France, owing to the musicals he has created for the audience, not least among them Bharati, his touring stage show that drew appreciation from all quarters. “My links to France go back to 1982 and I have been involved in French cinema for some time now. So I am a Francophile. France is a  country that wants to know more, it is a country that gives you the space and says, ‘Show me what you can do, I’d like to see what you are doing’. It is obviously a Mecca for artists from around the globe, especially Indian artists. They are one of the few people who never see it through the eyes of exotica,” he says.


Talking about his experience of acting in cinema, Rahul shares, “Swades was a dream in many ways — shooting in Nasa among the space stations with a top superstar on a theme very dear to me and that too with an Oscar-nominated director. It will be etched in memory for long. Monsoon Wedding was the biggest collection of fantastic actors I have worked with. And as casting director and an actor in Kamasutra, I made friends for life.”

When the actor is not busy directing, producing and acting in theatre or cinema, what keeps him occupied? He smiles and says, “Trying to be a sponge, to absorb in any and every domain, everything that might help being an actor or a director as well as help growing as a person in general.”


His upcoming ventures include renewed shows of Bharati and a couple of French films. He is also planning to direct a performance that will showcase a diverse and eclectic variety of art forms.