On the occasion of an upcoming release ‘Dhyanimani’ we got the opportunity to ask one of India’s boldest filmmaker & a free spirited soul Mahesh Manjrekar a few questions regarding acting, directing & everything in between!
What drives you to choose a project as an actor/producer?
Well to talk about this (Dhyanimani) subject specifically, I actually wanted to direct it. Even while producing this play (in 1993) I thought of it as a film. So when I entered the film line I always wanted to make this film & I also wrote the screenplay for it. I decided at some point I’ll ask Chandu (Chandrakant Kulkarni) & Prashant (Dalvi) about it. But then they said, they’ve written the screenplay & they want to do it themselves. I said fine. Anyhow, I wanted this film to be made. The subject itself is so off-beat that it’s difficult to categorize it in a specific genre. In a way it’s a thriller, a suspense film & has an emotional impact but beyond that it has its own USP, a shock element to it.
From ‘Kshitij’ A Doordarshan serial to ‘Rege’ many of your roles have become immortal. How would you specify your approach to acting? Are you a method actor?
When I did ‘Kshitij’ the stigma of ‘Leprosy’ was huge. One spot of Leprosy could destroy a man’s life. Actually, one type of Leprosy was curable (the other type wasn’t). But otherwise too it wasn’t infectious. That was a very important serial in my life, I was also the writer of it. I was extremely proud of it & I felt it was ahead of its time.
Even your performance in ‘Kaante’ was ahead of its time.
In case of ‘Kaante’ all others were heroes & I got to play a guy who’s a drug peddler. So I did my homework. I asked the director if he’s using sync sound. So when he said yes. I decided to use the ‘stammer’ & the director agreed. I still feel that everyone performed really well but I stood out because of my ‘stammer’. I did it because I felt that suited the madness of that character.
This role (in Dhyanimani) seems to be a difficult role to play, emotionally. Does it affect you personally?
I never take my role home. I am not a “Method Actor”. I don’t have that much patience. When the director says ‘Action’ I am into the role & the moment he says ‘Cut’ I am out of it!
Many Marathi plays are being adapted for the screen. What about other Marathi literature?
Look, there’s a reason to it. It’s a simple human psychology. In case of other literature one needs to read & create the images on his own. A filmmaker is subconsciously lured by plays because he’s already seen it. Now ‘Kakpsarsh’ was based on a work of literature. But for that Girish Joshi worked hard on it & gave it a visual form which helped me as a director.
So do we need more professional screenwriters?
I feel we have very few good screenwriters. Every day I get phone calls that they’ve written Oscar-winning scripts! If you read them they are pathetic, but in their own mind, it’s a masterpiece. Film line is the most abused line. If you can’t do anything in your life, you decide to be a director! All these so called writers & directors are in plenty today, whereas a good writer has no value. I think the most well-paid profession should be of writers.
You’ve implied a bold “Baghu Naka” marketing strategy for Dhyanimani. This should inspire others.
I don’t know about others. But I’ll tell you why I did this. See I am also doing another song & dance film. So I would readily invite the audience who likes that kind of cinema. In that case, if you’re expecting something thought provoking you should avoid it. I trust the audience. If you give anything good it has its own audience. There’s a song & dance audience & there’s serious film’s audience. But when the song & dance film lovers come to watch a serious film, they ridicule it. This results in negative word of mouth which is unfair to the film. These audiences might even distract (the popcorn & stuff) the serious film watchers watching the film.
What is your equation working with Chandu Sir (Chandrakant Kulkarni)? Does the director in you come in between your work as an actor?
Never, but I can discuss with Chandu since he has done theater. In other cases, I prefer the ‘supply according to demand’ philosophy. I am being paid to do exactly what the director wants me to do. I never think too much of it. But with Chandu it’s a different scenario. I share my vision with him. There’s scope for discussion & we come to common grounds. However the last word will always belong to Chandrakant Kulkarni. Actually if we observe there’s no other director around who works with his actors so wonderfully.
Nana Patekar said in an interview that he wants to play ‘Sakharam Binder’ in a film directed by you. What are your thoughts?
I said this to Nana that actually I am not convinced about it. Nothing against ‘Sakharam Binder’, it’s definitely a milestone play written by Vijay Tendulkar. The problem is I can’t see Nana as ‘Sakharam Binder’. I don’t doubt his acting skills, we all know he can absolutely smash it as an actor. The problem is his godly image in the hearts of the people. With his recent works as ‘Dr. Prakash Amte’, ‘Natsamrat’ & his actual work for ‘NAM Foundation’ he has reached an iconic status. His image will affect the film. I don’t think the audiences would like Nana playing a womanizer. They respect him a lot. However, I would definitely want to work on a different film with Nana. As a director, I am obviously greedy to work with a great actor like Nana Patekar again. That film has to be eye popping but it shouldn’t be something in which people won’t accept Nana in.