A Kid With Big Dreams: How Rudhraksh Jaiswal Beat Bullying & Became Action Movie Gold

For Rudhraksh Jaiswal it’s always been about the dream and the hustle. In this Men's Health South Africa exclusive - he tells Nadim Nyker his journey to Hollywood!

For Rudhraksh Jaiswal it’s always been about the dream and the hustle. “I had no guidance, I had no money, I had no contacts, we didn’t know anyone,” Rudhraksh says. All he had was his mother’s endearing and ambitious spirit cheering him on. In fact, it was her idea he get into acting. Now, the 16-year-old has starred alongside Hollywood’s greatest and is the energetic young face behind Netflix’s most successful movie of all time, Extraction.

His mother Rennu Jaiswal has raised a prodigy. A young man filled with integrity, respect, and passion-beyond-belief, Rudhraksh jumped on a call with me to share his inspirational journey. Men’s Health has always been a dream he says. His humility is seen in his conduct and references, he refers to his co-stars as ‘Chris Sir, Sam Sir, and Joe Sir’.

Related: The Workout That Got Chris Hemsworth Ripped To Play Thor

Chris, being Chris Hemsworth, AKA Thor and Men’s Health Cover Guy. Sam being the world-renowned director and Stunt Coordinator for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Joe being the award-winning film director of the Russo brothers.

I for one know that the above have earned their titles. But when Rudhraksh calls me, the 25-year-old digital editor at MH, ‘Sir’ and asks me to call him Rudhi – I am humbled and assured that this humility will take him far.

Below the teenager tells his journey into action-stardom, the challenges he’s overcome and what he’s learnt along the way. Get out your pen and learn from him.

Where It All Began

For Rudhi, growing up in Mumbai, India, it was about taking risks and a whole lot of perseverance to make it in acting. A far-reached dream in a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people.

“Before I started acting, I was into sports. I was a swimmer and skater,” he says. “It was in my mom’s mind that acting was a possibility.”

So at age 10, Rudhi gave it a try. “Let it come naturally,” he says. “Personally, I feel that the actor was inside of me. It was just the right avenue – whether it be a play, script or film. It just comes out naturally and so you believe in yourself.”

Rennu ensured Rudhi was audition-ready. “She’s my screen rehearsal partner. For Extraction when I got the script it was full of action sequences, so I was practicing all the action sequences on her. So if I’m rolling, she had to jump,” he laughs.

But the right opportunity took time, with the actor saying in order to make it in the industry you have to be patient. “The first audition I gave was for an advertisement. I was extremely nervous – there were thousands of people that auditioned [and I didn’t get in].” The key was not losing hope. “But I didn’t lose hope. I continued for about 9 months and then I got my first TV series called Mahabharta.

“That was extremely difficult to get because I went through at least 14 jumps. There were kids from all around India and they gave me a five-page script to learn.”

Nowadays, it’s a lot for Rudhi to take in. “I cannot imagine that I’ve been a part of such a large-scale film like Extraction,” he says. “I feel really blessed working with crew members who have actually guided me through the journey. I had 7 to 8 rounds of auditioning and during the 8th round, the casting director called me to the director’s meeting and I saw Sam Hargrave sitting there.”

And that’s when it all hit home. “He told me that I was going to work with Chris Hemsworth. My heart skipped a beat, literally. I was thunderstruck, because it’s Thor!”

The opportunity put Rudhi into the hotseat and forged the actor he is now. “Extraction has made me work more harder, be more dedicated and show my absolute commitment towards my work. My mindset has completely changed.”

Overcoming Bullying

Being in the limelight as an actor was not all smooth sailing. “There has been a lot of social bullying from 5th to 9th grade,” says Rudhi. “People taunted me and passed snide remarks. That was very hard and bad. When you actually choose a different path or journey people tend to pick on mistakes.

“It reached to a certain level that I went home and started crying, it was very sad.” But Rennu was his saving grace, her solution: respond with your work ethic. “My mom said ignore them. If you work hard, that’s all that matters. We kept on going for auditions every day. I had to study for school in the car.” With the star having up to 8 auditions a day.

“I studied in the same school for at least 7 years,” he adds. “I got my role in Extraction around 10th grade.” And when he got his role alongside Hollywood’s finest, the bullying came to an end. “After Extraction people have started calling me their friend. I don’t know people and they start phoning me. I don’t remember them and they say ‘cool work on Extraction,’ so going back to what my mum said: work speaks that’s all.”

Learning From Giants

When Rudhi wasn’t rehearsing with Rennu, he was rehearsing with Thor himself. Probably his second best rehearsal partner after his mom. In doing so, the young star emphasizes the importance of having a role model.

“My role model is Chris Hemsworth. I’ve grown up watching his films, whether it be Rush, Cash, MIB, Thor. I’ve watched all of his films and I’m so inspired by the way he works on set and the charismatic attitude he brings on set. It is so fulfilling to watch.

“I have taken home a lot from it. From Chris Sir and Sam Sir. Who taught me all the details that I need on set.” For his first international role, he didn’t want to make mistakes, so he took action. “I asked a lot of questions. I messaged Sam and asked if we can sit for some script reading. And I went there and I saw Chris sitting there. I freak out whenever he’s around. Because he’s Thor!

“We worked on each scene relentlessly. We sat from lunch till 11pm. He taught everything from dialogue, voice modulation, pauses. And of course, action – he helped me understand the technicalities required to do stunts on what to do and what not to do.”

Since, Bollywood giants like Vicky Kaushal have come to Rudhi’s praise. With Rudhi wanting to now teach others. “They taught me things I want to teach and propagate to people in India.

“Chris has taught me to be a better human being, he’s told me to stay grounded and stay centred. Sam has told me to smile, laugh and live joyfully. Be the way you are and never change.”

Rudhraksh Jaiswal trained in gymnastics to get fighting fit for Extraction.

A-List Routine

Extraction watches like a first-person shooter game and for this Rudhi had to be prepared. And barring a few dangerous scenes he did most of his own stunts.

This got him working with Men’s Health Cover Guy and Chris’ stuntman – Bobby Holland Hanton, which saw Rudhi take a functional approach, training outdoors and away from the gym. “We were in Ahmedabad, India and I saw Bobby do backflips. I was like ‘whoa you do gymnastics,’ so I also started flipping!

“I was doing backflips and handstands. And I was welcomed with a ‘nice mate’. Bobby polished my skills! When I was not shooting we would do a lot of gymnastics because that really helped me on set. We did a lot of action rehearsals and went through the tumbling and that helped me understand exactly what we had to do.”

Rudhi also uses the CentrFit app while in lockdown. A fitness app started by both Bobby and Chris. “Lockdown is a crucial period for us,” says Rudhi. “First of all I’ve been working, secondly I’ve been connecting with my trainer, and thirdly I’ve been doing a lot reading and studying.” With Rudhi exercising in-between his online learning.

Rudhi does bodyweight training in-between online learning at home. My camera is switched off, so no one knows,” he jokes. “I do three rounds of following: pushups, crunches and bear crawls and my more hardcore workouts are in the evenings. I do 30 minutes of functional training and in the last 10 minutes I do weight training.”

Marvellous Dreams

On what motivates him: “My mom first of all. She pushes me to do things better and to perform better. And also inspirational books keep me motivated. My most recent book is Who Will Cry When You Die?

“There is so much to learn more in life, I have to be open to try new things and accept change,” he adds. I’m very excited [for life] but it can be anything, I don’t know anything right now.”

On the back of his first international film being Netflix’s best of all time, where to now? “My number one dream is to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I want to meet Robert Downey Jnr and Leonardo Dicaprio. I want to hug them!

“I also want to put India on the map. First of all, we are very grateful because people from Hollywood are seeking actors from here. It is such a proud moment for India that people like Joe Russo are seeking talent from here. I love representing my country in such a way.”

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