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“In my head, I was playing Sultan” – Rahul Bagga

Actor Rahul Bagga, who was last seen in films like ‘Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho’ and ‘Tera Mera Tedha Medha’, has been missing from the big screen for some time now. These days, one frequently sees him as a student leader in a Pepsi commercial that has been airing on television for a long time. Apart from working on a couple of theatre productions, the actor was busy with his work as a diction coach on the sets of ‘Sultan’. Post the release of the film, the actor has garnered a lot of appreciation for helping Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma get the Haryanvi dialect right. In this interview, he talks about his role as a diction coach on the film, the success and the controversy behind the Pepsi commercial and his work as a theatre artist.

How did you get on board for ‘Sultan’ as a diction coach?
I have a long time association with Yash Raj Films. I started my acting career with them. My first television show ‘Powder’ was produced by them. They are like family to me. I worked with other people and different production houses for some time and it felt like I was going back to work with my family.

Though you are not from Haryana, you trained Salman and Anushka in the Haryanvi dialect. How did you manage to do that?
I am not from Haryana and I cannot claim myself to be an expert on the Haryanvi language. Having said that, I grew up in Delhi and have come across several people who are from Haryana. My interactions with them, over the years, helped me get a grip on the language. In this project, I was expected to bring my experience as an actor while helping out the actors with the language. When I was going through the script, I understood the graph of the characters and I felt as if I was playing these characters. In my head, I was playing Sultan. I figured out how these characters would speak and would react. I was aware of the fact that if I make some mistake as far as the diction and the dialect is concerned, I would be received with a tremendous amount of backlash. I made a sincere effort to be true to the language and make it sound very authentic.

The Pepsi commercial you featured in, has been playing on TV and in theatres for several months now. There was some controversy when it first aired but it turned out to be a huge hit. What are your thoughts on it?
India is a diverse country. We have so many religions, castes and communities. There are a variety of people with different opinions. I have got a lot of appreciation for my work in ‘Sultan’ but I am sure there will be some people who will say that the actors did not get the Haryanvi dialect right. After the Pepsi commercial came out, I got a few calls from people telling me that they are planning to ban all the actors that featured in it from doing television and cinema as they have shown disrespect to a particular movement carried out by FTII students. I am ready to apologise as an actor whenever somebody feels that I have hurt his or her sentiment. But, people should not curb creative freedom and should at least give artiste the right to express themselves. Whenever you deal with something that is brushed under the carpet or an issue that most people shy away from, the fringe elements tend to attack you. I do not know why but I feel that there is a lot of anger and hatred within people in the world today. People have forgotten the meaning of humour and satire. If you do not like something, you can protest against it but these days, unfortunately, protest means resorting to violence.

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