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Not quite a poster boy...

He is not a pin-up boy. Nor is he a `regular' Bollywood hero. But Raghuvir Yadav is a talented artiste, a hero in his own right. Now awaiting the release of "Yatharth" he is not quite happy with the way things have shaped up for him, as RANA A. SIDDIQUI and MADHUR TANKHA discover in the course of this chat in Delhi the other day... .

A FEW know these things about Raghuvir Yadav: he can play flute, sitar, electric guitar, harmonium, tabla and some other musical instruments with equal ease; he has the entire orchestra at home in Mumbai where he fiddles with them to come out with the best of ghazal tunes; he can sing toughest of classical ghazals and folklores on a remarkable pitch that would give today's singers a run for their pools of money; and he ventures into unknown, relegated pockets of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Garhwal hills, Rajasthan and other States to gather and record folk songs facing extinction. A sober and simple man, Raghuvir Yadav visited Delhi this past fortnight for the promotion for his forthcoming film, "Yatharth" and provided plenty of food for thought.

His rural roots have stood him in good stead as he is among the few in Bollywood not to sign a film just for the moolah it brings. Raghuvir likes taking up the gauntlet only if the story is good. So when the shooting of Amir Khan's "Lagaan" was about to start, he refused to accompany the crew unless he had read the entire script. Only after reading the voluminous script - read out by director Ashutosh Gowalikar - and getting satisfied with his role, he gave a nod. "Lagaan was a wonderful film. It was an achievement to be associated with it but my career remains where it was," he says, a tinge of regret apparent in his voice.

For Raghuvir, it has always been a steep climb. He ran away from home in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur to Lalitpur. He found a mentor in Annu Kapoor's father, who owned a drama company. He recalls, "I ran away from home for two reasons: passion for music and I knew that I would not be able to clear my Class XII exams. However, I bid adieu to music as I decided to earn through theatre." Here he learnt Urdu language, as the Bundelkhund accent would dominate his tongue.

In 1987 he won the Silver Peacock award at the Venice Film Festival against Hollywood star Michael Douglas, for "Massey Sahib". "This film was first offered to quiz master Siddharth Basu but he refused. Barry John, who enacted the title role, suggested my name to the director. The film took five years to complete," he recalls. .

After "Massey Sahib", Raghuvir was seen in many tele-films and serials in which "Mullah Nasiruddin" and "Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne" made him a household name. Now he enacts "Chacha Choudhary" on Sahara TV but seems dissatisfied with it. "I expected much substance in the role but it is designed to gain commercially only. That comic soul is absent, so I hardly enjoyed doing it. Serial-making has become a factory, where making money is the only motivating factor," he rues. In between he found time to play the role of Nandita Das's husband in Jagmohan Mundra's "Bawandar" which won him a lot of critical acclaim.

While he intends to direct a film, he won't go for any masala script. "I don't understand why our directors do not go beyond Mumbai for stories? I have witnessed real life stories emerging out of small pockets of MP, UP and Garhwal. Why not pick them up from there"? he asks. "Yatharth" makes a good real life story, hence he agreed to play Budhai in it - a Chandal who earns his bread and butter by lighting corpses. "To go deep into the character I met a real life Chandal, who perfunctorily performs his horrendous job without any sign of remorse, guilt or emotion."

He does not believe in art, commercial or parallel cinema. He also prefers theatre for films. "Theatre is progressive, it keeps your mind agile on stage, while films stop your thought process for takes and retakes hinder its rhythm."

Ready for a comic role? "No, I won't go for buffoonery in the name of a comic character," he says.

This restless soul is now all set to come out with an album of rare folk music. Theatre workshops are on the agenda. Also M.F.Hussain's film `Meenakshi', Santosh Sivan's untitled film and `Agnivarsha' will see this talented actor kissing the silver screen.

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