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Rajkummar Rao is an Indian actor known for his work in Hindi films. He has appeared in more than 30 films since 2010, and is the recipient of several accolades including a National Film Award, three Filmfare Awards and an Asia Pacific Screen Award. In 2017, he appeared on Forbes India's Celebrity 100 list.
After studying acting at the Film and Television Institute of India, Rao made his acting debut with the anthology film Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010) and took on supporting roles in the films Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 2 and Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (both 2012). He had his breakthrough in 2013 with critically acclaimed performances in the dramas Kai Po Che! and Shahid. His portrayal of lawyer Shahid Azmi in the latter won him the Filmfare Critics Award and National Film Award for Best Actor.
Rao's career progressed with supporting roles in the films Queen (2014), Aligarh (2015), and Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017). The latter won him the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. He had lead roles in the independent films Trapped (2016) and Newton (2017), with the former winning him another Filmfare Critics Award and the latter earning him the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actor. Rao had his highest-grossing release in the horror comedy Stree (2018), and he had his first English film role in The White Tiger (2021). He also gained praise for his performances in the films Ludo (2020), Badhaai Do and Monica, O My Darling (both 2022).
Early and personal life
Rajkummar Rao was born as Raj Kumar Yadav on 31 August 1984 in Prem Nagar, Gurgaon, Haryana, India. He had two older siblings and three cousins in his extended family. His father, Satya Prakash Yadav, was a government employee in the Haryana revenue department, and his mother, Kamlesh Yadav, a homemaker. His mother and father died in 2016 and 2019 respectively. He completed his 12th standard from S.N. Sidheshwar Senior. Sec Public School, where he participated in school plays. He graduated from The Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College, (University of Delhi) where he was simultaneously doing theatre with Kshitij Theatre Group and the Shri Ram Centre in Delhi.
Rao said that he decided to become an actor after seeing Manoj Bajpayee and being "highly influenced" by his performance. In 2008, he enrolled in a two-year acting course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and moved to Mumbai to pursue a film career. Rao is a vegetarian.
Rao's first release in 2017 was the romantic comedy Behen Hogi Teri with Shruti Haasan; it met with an unfavorable critical response though critics praised Rao's performance. He followed this with another romantic comedy titled Bareilly Ki Barfi, directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and co-starring Kriti Sanon and Ayushmann Khurrana. The film and Rao's performance met with highly positive reviews. Namrata Joshi wrote: "Rao is a hoot and brings the house down with his chameleon turn and comic timing – simpering simpleton one minute, full of swagger the next; a role that could have become a caricature in the hands of a lesser actor." The film was a commercial success and Rao won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Amit V. Masurkar's black comedy flick Newton was Rao's next film. In it, he plays the role of an upright government clerk sent on election duty to a Naxal-controlled town. He asked the director if he could curl his hair and blink his eyes continuously to make the character distinct; Masurkar agreed. The film premiered at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and was released in India on 22 September 2017. Newton met with critical acclaim as did Rao's performance. Rajeev Masand commented, "It's hard to separate the actor from the character, and not many of our artistes can claim to possess that gift." The role earned him the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Actor and a nomination for Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. He also made a cameo appearance in Dinesh Vijan's Raabta (2017). He had to apply prosthetic's for five to six hours every day to look like a 324-year-old man.
His final theatrical release of the year was Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana with Kriti Kharbanda, which met with mixed critical response. He also made his digital debut with ALTBalaji's historical biographical web mini-series Bose: Dead/Alive. Based on the 2012 book India's Biggest Cover-up by Anuj Dhar, he portrays nationalist leader Subhash Chandra Bose. For the role, Rao gained 13 kilograms (29 lb) and went half bald. Anvita Singh of India Today felt it was not Rao's best performance, but because of his skill as an actor he "does grab your attention".
Rao reunited with Mehta for the biographical crime film Omerta, where he portrays the role of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. To prepare for the role, Rao watched several videos, documentaries and hate speeches by Sheikh to "gather a lot of hatred and anger" inside himself. He said he was "disturbed" while shooting the film because of the character he was portraying and called it "easily the toughest character" he has played until then. The film had its world premier at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in India on 4 May 2018. The film and Rao's performance met with critical acclaim, with Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV calling it a "pitch-perfect performance".
He starred next in the musical comedy Fanney Khan (2018) with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anil Kapoor. A remake of the 2000 Belgian film Everybody's Famous!, the film was a critical and commercial failure. Stree (2018), the Amar Kaushik-directed horror comedy was his next release. Based on the Bangalore urban legend known as Nale Ba, the film also starred Shraddha Kapoor. The film, and Rao's performance, met with positive critical feedback. Rachit Gupta of The Times of India noted that Rao "handles the many shades of comedy, horror and romance with great ease". It also earned him a nomination for Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Stree was a major financial success. In the same year Rao appeared briefly in Tabrez Noorani's Love Sonia which was about sex trafficking. His final release of 2018 was 5 Weddings.