It was back in 2009 that the svelte and stunning Rakul Preet Singh signed her debut movie, Kannada flick Gilli, to earn a little “extra pocket money”. Little did she know that it would lead to her calling. She quickly discovered her love for the profession and went on to prove her mettle as a star of repute in southern cinema.
Cut to 2014, this fresh face made an instant connect with the national audience, with her coquettish act in her Bollywood debut Yaariyan. And slowly but surely, Rakul Preet inched her way into the world of Hindi cinema. A natural before the camera — both moving and still — she strikes pose after pose with ease, as she speaks to HELLO! in polished tones, an earnestness in her responses and a sense of restrained excitement, her love for the craft bubbling over as she traces her road to success.
A small-budget production helmed by debutante director Divya Khosla Kumar, Yaariyan turned Rakul Preet’s career around. The coming-of-age romantic comedy became the sleeper hit of the year, with chartbusting numbers that are party anthems even eight years later.
“I was a newcomer back then and didn’t imagine anything at that point,” Rakul Preet reminisces. “I was excited about the audition, but I didn’t think the music would reach the scale of popularity it did. It’s great that people still remember the songs.”
While it took a few years for this petite star to find her bearings in Bollywood, her second movie, Aiyaary with Sidharth Malhotra that released in 2018, established her as a name to watch out for.
“Aiyaary was like my comeback film. It was my first Hindi movie after four years, so it was very special,” she says. “We shot it in London. It was great to learn from [director] Neeraj Pandey as I had always been a huge fan.”
Since then, Rakul Preet has stealthily climbed the Bollywood roster with her repertoire of impressive performances, including Sardar Ka Grandson, Shimla Mirchi and De De Pyar De, which made her a sought-after star for films and endorsements alike.
“I have lots of memories associated with each film. I think each of them is special in its own way — Shimla Mirchi for being able to work with Ramesh Sippy sir, who’s an iconic director; we had a gala time shooting for Sardar Ka Grandson; and De De Pyar De will always be one of my most special films because it gave me a platform to showcase my glamorous side in a meaty role replete with commercial songs. It also brought me close to [director] Akiv Ali and [writer/film- maker] Luv Ranjan.”
With an impressive lineup of films in 2022 — from the recently released Attack: Part 1 to Chhatriwali, Runway 34 with Amitabh Bachchan, Thank God with Ajay Devgn and Sidharth Malhotra, and Doctor G with Ayushmann Khurrana — Rakul Preet is poised to make it her year. She’s also set to share screen space with Akshay Kumar in the Hindi remake of Tamil superhit Ratsasan. One to rely strongly on her instincts while selecting movies, the 31-year-old is excited about all her upcoming projects.
“I think I always go with my gut. Runway 34 has an excellent script. Ajay sir directing it made it all the more special, and I also got the opportunity to work with him and Amitabh Bachchan again. I loved Attack for its new-age, slick action sequences and the way the film was shot. I play a scientist in the movie, a role I thought would be great to essay.”
“Thank God has a fabulous message for the masses; I always wanted to be part of such a film. Doctor G, too, talks about an important issue. Both Doctor G and Chhatriwali are commercial yet socially relevant films, which is why I was so thrilled to be working on them. I also got the chance to work with Ayushmann. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to work with Akshay sir?”
Though it all worked out for the best for this charming young actor, Rakul Preet looks back in amusement at the time she got into films to have a little extra cash in hand.
“It was thanks to my greed for more pocket money that I got into films!” she laughs. “It made me realise that this was what I loved doing, and this was what I wanted to do in my life. But I decided to return to it after completing my studies. It was great, of course. I bought a car with my first salary. It meant a lot at that point.”
A couple of years after the success of Gilli, Rakul Preet was back under the spotlight at the Femina Miss India beauty pageant in 2011. She finished fifth and also won five sub-titles.
“I was really young when I participated in the Miss India pageant. It was the only thing I knew in my formative years... This Miss India show was truly a dream. It was surreal to win five sub-titles.”
Soon, Rakul Preet Singh became a household name in the south, popular in her own right. She even won a Filmfare Award for best actress for Venkatadri Express — her first of many more to come.
“At the end of the day, what you work for is acceptance from the audiences and critics. You want people to like your work and love you for it. I don’t think I’ve thought beyond that. It’s great when your work is recognised, but when they bring you awards, they’re an added cherry on the cake!”
Photography: Jatin Kampani; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Assisted By: Anushree Sardesai; Makeup: Salim Sayyed; Assisted By: Saklen Akhtar; Hair: Aliya Shaikh; Location Courtesy: The Game Palacio
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s May 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!