Every day can feel like Valentine’s Day when you’ve found your friend, your lover, your everything. Amid the joys of married life, Bollywood’s most steadfast couple offers a peek into their boundless love, enduring friendship, and over a decade of devotion.
In a tale that began on a chance encounter to Pune, a young Rajkummar Rao and Patralekhaa found themselves crossing paths. Enchanted by the actress he had glimpsed in a commercial, he secretly aspired to marry her someday. On the other hand, she, having witnessed his toxic on-screen character in Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, was not equally smitten; and thus began a love story for the ages.
“Well, I saw a South Indian girl [the character in the commercial] and found a Bengali one!” Rajkummar laughs, and as we sit across the endearing couple after their photoshoot, recollecting that day — 13-14 years ago — we see the same young love in their eyes. “Everything is more than what I had expected then. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. She’s my go-to person...”
“Also, we are best friends, right?” chimes Patralekhaa, encapsulating the essence of their relationship. “I was just mesmerised by him. When I saw his dedication towards his work and how he dealt with situations, I thought, ‘This guy is far from that character [in Love, Sex Aur Dhoka]!’” As the shoot comes to an end and the two relax on a couch, HELLO! engages in a heart-to-heart with the happy couple who tied the knot in 2021, delving into their views on love, life and the journey beyond their ‘happily ever after’.
Then, Now And Forever
In a world of flings and fleeting connections, this Bollywood couple is a breath of fresh air. Dating for 11 years before they married, they demonstrate that true love embraces commitment. The process was entirely spontaneous. “Raj and I don’t plan a lot, we just go with the flow, doing what feels right in the moment,” discloses Patralekhaa.
But young love is a story of innocence and discovery, with every moment blooming with possibility — and we’re itching to know theirs! The actor reminisces, saying, “It was fun, though there was no money! She lived in Oshiwara and I, at Yari Road; her sister [Parnalekha Mishrra Paul] lived with her then, so when I would go to her place, at night I would say, ‘Bye Patra, bye Parna, I’m going.’” But once Parnalekha would say goodbye, thinking he left, “I would quietly sneak back into Patra’s room!” he reveals, chuckling at the memory.
That’s when the now blushing Patralekhaa steps in to share the details of what marked the inception of their romantic rendezvous. And it really is as adorable as we’d imagined.
“I used to go to Barry John Acting Studio for an acting course and by then, Raj was fairly established. Still, he would sweetly come by every afternoon and take me to McDonald’s and Cafe Coffee Day for lunch.”
Eleven years is quite a marathon and this dynamic duo crossed the finish line with their intimate wedding in Chandigarh in 2021. As a laid-back bride and groom, they fondly look back at it as a “party for three days!” Patralekhaa chose to be a Sabyasachi bride — in a saree to honour her grandmother, her culture and tradition — and a Bengali inscription on her veil caught our eye.
Translating it for us, she says, “It means that I give you my entire heart and love. It’s for you.”
But amid the slew of stunning wedding photos, one stood out in particular — where the bride put sindoor on the groom, after he did the same! “Gender equality is something that a woman always wants. But her partner has to support and share that opinion,” emphasises Patralekaa. This enduring commitment to equality, evident also in the headlines they made while they were dating, continues to be a defining quality in their married life. Rajkummar tells us, “Lately, our house helpers weren’t there so I washed the utensils and swept the house while she dusted and made the bed...”
Scripting Their Own Story
As we shift the focus to their upcoming projects, we see this trait live in action — Rajkummar surprises us by diverting the conversation to highlight Patralekhaa’s endeavours rather than delving into his own. She continues, expressing how she taps into the courage of the characters she plays. “I recently finished this film called Phule in which I’m playing [the role of] Savitribai Phule. It was overwhelming to see the strength that she had.” Picking up where she left off, he reveals, “She’s also done a series for Amazon called Gulkanda Tales by Raj & DK, directed by Rahi [Anil Barve] and a film called Wild Wild Punjab under Luv Ranjan’s production...”
Moving on to his own projects, from Bheed to Monica O My Darling, HIT: The First Case and others, the actor has had numerous wins at the box office — and has many more in line for 2024. Be it Guns and Gulaabs S2, Vicky Vidya Ka Woh Wala Video, Mr. and Mrs. Mahi, SRI or Stree 2, we wonder which one he’s most excited for.
“I’ve given it my all; all those films and characters. So I’m excited about everything. They are very different from one another and the characters too, are very unique,” he shares. But among all the characters that both of them have played on screen, is there one they personally connect with? While Rajkummar believes her character’s strength in Gulkanda Tales reminds him of Patralekhaa’s own, she wishes to be “more like Savitribai Phule. Also, it’s really strange that she and my sister share their birthdays!” The social reformer who educated the girl child found her strength even at the lowest of moments, a quality that deeply resonates with the actress.
For Rajkummar, though, there’s no single role that surmises who he is as a person. Instead, he believes “there are a couple of things in different characters. I am as honest towards my job as Newton [from Newton] was towards his. I want to stand for underdogs, the wrongly accused, like Shahid [from Shahid], I love my country as much as Subhas Chandra Bose ji [From Bose: Dead/Alive] and there are times when I’m as funny as Vicky from Stree...” At this moment, Patralekhaa asks, “What about Bareilly [Ki Barfi]?” to which he laughs as he asserts, “Neither am I that timid nor am I that rowdy!”
The two have also shared the screen in commercials and a film called City Lights, with the actress claiming that their working relationship is just as strong as their personal one. “If you know your partner and spend so much time with them, the process becomes really easy...”
But certainly, acting is not a nine-to-five job and challenges do arise. “We don’t get to spend as much time with each other as we want...” he says. With her adding, “But it is what it is and we’re both actors so we understand each other’s schedules.”
No matter the person or the profession, Rajkummar holds that in any relationship, one must make an effort — “You can’t take it for granted and if you love someone truly, you will take that leap.” But in the context of a relationship spanning 14 years, what does such effort entail?
He clarifies, saying, “At times, one may feel complacent, such as when they haven’t expressed ‘I love you’ to their partner in a month. But we don’t do that. Even now, when we look into each other’s eyes, it’s the same energy that was there 13 years ago... we’re very lucky that way.”
This article is an excerpt from the February 2024 cover story. To read the full story, grab your copies here.
Text: Ananya Shankar; Photos: Shivamm Paathak; Creative Realisation: Nayare Ali; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Styling: Anushree Sardesai; Hair & Make-UpFor Patralekhaa: Vidhi Gaurav; Hair & Make-Up For Rajkummar: Vijay Pandurang Raskar; Location Courtesy: Novotel Mumbai International Airport