Raghubir Yadav was seen, most recently, in the anthology Ray, and Chehre. With a career spanning over thirty years, the actor is known for his rigorous, subtle craft. Raghubir has done some of the most memorable characters in theatre, television and film. His debut film role was in Massey Sahib (1985) and his TV character ‘Mungerilal’ became a household name in the late ’80s. Excerpts from an interview with Lachmi Deb Roy:
On Satyajit Ray’s influence
I am mesmerised by Ray’s films. I saw Pather Panchali in FTII; what draws me to his films is the fragrance of that era. That I feel was the most beautiful era in Indian cinema. No one can match his style of storytelling. Kitni itminan se saari baat kahe jati hai (how leisurely he narrates his stories), how he leaves it to the audience to understand the unsaid things! I regret the fact that I got introduced to Ray’s films much later in life.
Being a part of Bengali films
I did Raja Sen’s Damu, which got the National Award for Best Children’s Film. I had to learn Bengali for it. I recently acted in Kaushik Ganguly’s Manohar Pandey. I have a lot of love for the audience of Bengal…I have done a lot of theatre in Calcutta and feel the audience there has a true aesthetic bent of mind. I cherish the appreciation I got from the city. Coming from a backward village, I didn’t have much exposure to world cinema. But it was Ray’s films that made me realise that Indian cinema can meet international standards. Films like Do Bigha Zamin and Tapan Sinha’s Kabuliwala influenced me hugely. This is the reason I was never interested in mainstream cinema.
On choosing roles
I was very firm about roles I would enjoy and that’s how I got Massey Sahib and Salaam Bombay. I want to do films which are closer to the Indian soil…the treasure of stories from Indian villages are unique.
Love for theatre
I find theatre to be the most satisfying platform. The best thing about theatre is the time for rehearsals, so that your performance improves through the entire run. In cinema there is no scope of improvement. Once it’s done it’s done. In our village we used to speak in the Bundeli language of Bundelkhand. It was in theatre that I learnt how to speak Hindi.
Favourite roles so far
Massey Sahib was my first film and the one closest to my heart. I did the title role and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed Salaam Bombay. Then there’s Raman Raghav by Sriram Raghavan. I believe an actor’s job is to get into the soul of the character.
Journey to the entertainment industry
In the village, I used to help in farming. I studied in the school my grandfather had established. I was fond of music and would play filmy songs on the gramophone and do my riyaz regularly. I also used to sing folk songs. The village Ram Leela and Ras Leela interested me. For fear of failing the board exams, I ran away from home and reached Lalitpur, in UP. There was a natak (theatre) company there. I asked for a job. They offered me Rs 2.50 as salary. For six years, I did a lot of Urdu and musical plays. In Lucknow, I heard from my friends about NSD, Delhi. Then Massey Sahib happened and after that I came to Mumbai to do Salaam Bombay.
Struggle in the industry
I feel I have never struggled in the industry. I don’t think hard work is struggle. I enjoy every stage of learning the craft of acting. I never went to anybody for work.
(This appeared in the print edition as "Massey, Mungeri, Manohar...Raghubir Finds His Ray Mojo")