It all began with a photograph. After two years in the film industry, assisting film makers including Sanjay Leela Bhansali, dabbling in photography and doing some ghost-writing, playing the guitar and composing music, Rohan Mehra got a photo-shoot done and posted some of the pictures on Instagram. Kal Ho Naa Ho and D-Day filmmaker Nikkhil Advani chanced upon them and surprised Rohan with a call, wondering if he was interested in acting. On Sunday, after almost five years, the late actor Vinod Mehra's son faced the camera for Nikkhil's Bazaar, directed by Gauravv Chawla. The film pits him against the seasoned Saif Ali Khan and has the talented Radhika Apte opposite him.
"It's exciting working with actors of their stature in my first film as it throws me into the deep-end straightaway. I was nervous but the nerves have cooled down.I gave my first shot and it felt amazing and now I'm looking forward to a few shots before we call it a day," Rohan reports from the sets in his baritone with his producermentor wondering which singer would be best to playback for him, His debut film is set in the world of bulls and bears and this bazaar is not new to the newbie. He has a degree in econometrics and mathematics from the UK and was on course to be an investment banker till his love for the arts wooed him away.
Also, like his screen avatar, Rizwan, Rohan is a small-town boy who grew up in Mombasa in Kenya, which has only one movie theatre. After his father passed away on October 30, 1990, his mother, Kiran, who was pregnant with him, with his sister Soniya just two years old, returned to her parent's home in Kenya. "She's a fighter and came back to complete Gurudev, the film my father had been producing and directing when he suffered a fatal heart attack. But I grew up far removed from this world," Rohan admits, sipping his coffee
Didn't his mother try to dissuade him from joining the profession which had taken her husband away when he was only 45 after just two years of marital bliss? He agrees that coming from a modest family background--his grandfather ran a transport company--the decision to turn his back on his education and turn down the many lucrative offers coming his way to come to India and chase after a Bollywood dream, was taken only after much deliberation.
"I'm the only man in our family and was expected to shoulder responsibilities.Many tried to dissuade me from starting from zero, but once my mother knew my heart was in it, she was encouraging, telling me to give it my all. My sister Soniya who had already tried her luck as an actress earlier in Ananth Mahadevan's Vitoria No, 203: Diamonds are Forever, and is now in Dubai making ads and shorts, was also supportive. And so at 2pm on Sunday I faced the camera for the first time, it was a solo shot," he smiles, reminding you of a younger Saif with his poise and polish.
Till Nikkhil announced that Rohan was being introduced in Bazaar, he'd been an unfamiliar face in the fraternity, in much the same way that his father was a mystery to him through his growing up years.
"I never knew him and my mother remembers him as a soft-spoken man, usually dressed in white, whom people respected for the man he was. To me he was a godly presence whom I have felt closer to since I came to Mumbai because back home, I couldn't even sit across the table from someone and talk about him because no-one knew him. Here, there's Gulzar saab who was my father's refuge. Ghar, for which Gulzaar saab had written the lyrics, was one of his best films and I have to thank the internet for helping me discover these films," Rohan says emotionally.
From his father's repertoire, he picks Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Bemisal, also featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Raakhee, as his favourite. "It's one of Amitabh Bachchan's most under-rated films," he sighs. If the film were to be remade, would he want to step into his father's role? "I could but some films should remain a cherished memory. If I had to pick one of his films for a remake, it would be Anuraag, a subject which would pull at the heart strings even today," says the actor.
And what is Bazaar all about apart from the stocks and shares? "It's a story of ambition, revenge, friendship and pas sion. But more than anything else, it's a story of a city called Mumbai, a city of dreams which small town boys like me are drawn to," he smiles.