Interview By: ADITYA N. NAIK

Mangesh Desai, the actor who created waves with his heart-wrenching performance in the Marathi movie ‘Khel Mandala’ will be seen playing the iconic Bhagwan Dada in the biopic ‘Ekk Albela’ which also marks the Marathi debut of Vidya Balan. The committed actor opens up about his new movie. Read on…

“Any actor’s dream is to reach to his audience”

How did you landed up for this role of Bhagwan Dada?
Any actor’s dream is to reach to his audience. The character that I have portrayed in this movie is too big a name. He entered Hindi cinema at a time when it was difficult for any Marathi actor to break into Bollywood and he introduced so many new things in Hindi films like fist fight or his dancing style or even acting style. I am fortunate that I am playing that character and as an actor I’m excited that the movie is going to release soon and that too in such a big scale. But for the preparation of the role, I discovered that there were no documentation available except for the movie, ‘Albela’ and this movie was the only guide that helped me prepare for this challenging role as there were records about how Bhagwan Dada would have been in real life, how he behaved or how he talked. Like they say the world conspires to help you achieve what you really want, I feel in the same way. It must have been Bhagwan Dada who himself would have said to the producers that Mangesh Desai is perfect to play him onscreen.

So what kind of homework did you do for this role?

I’m from the theatre background and as a thumb rule we have been taught that one may be a good actor but most importantly one needs to be a good observer first. So I always had been a good observer. And another thing that I can say out of experience that whenever an actor plays any character, he infuses his own personal traits into the character. Like when I’m playing a character which gets angry then that anger emotion has some percentage of my own way of getting angry. When I saw ‘Albela’ I found that even though Dada was a natural actor he was a bit melodramatic may be because it was the need of that time and he was simply fulfilling the requirements by being elaborate. So Dada must have been the same in real life too but a bit subdued and this was the hook point which helped me getting into the skin of the character.

You proved your versatility with widely appreciated ‘Khel Mandala’. Now what are your expectations from ‘Ekk Albela’?  

As an actor I would like that this movie should reach to the people and they should appreciate my work. ‘Khel Mandala’ gave me the recognition of a versatile actor and with this movie I want to take one step further and get it stamped in the minds of people that ‘I’m a good actor’. When the audience appreciates an actor they speak from their heart but an actor is accepted publicly only when he finds place both in the hearts and minds of the people. And I hope that I would be able to achieve that with this movie. This will also help my future films too and hopefully people would start saying that ‘Since it’s a Mangesh’s film, let’s watch this. It will be good.’

Bhagwan Dada had a unique dancing style. So how tough was picking up that?

Since I have been acting for quite a long time, I was pretty confident about the acting part and assured the makers about it when I signed this movie but I was deeply worried about the dancing part how to pull it off. I admit that I’m a non-dancer actor and I can do only ‘naagin dance, baraat type’. But Shekhar sir gave me courage and said that if I feel that I can do it then only I would be able to do it. On my birthday, he saw me dancing and that was after I had signed up for this movie. At that time he came to me and said that I dance well and this is how Dada used to dance. During the rehearsals our choreographer Stanley and his assistant Shradhha lifted my spirits and helped me a lot with the dance lessons and I really couldn’t believe to see my dance performance onscreen. Everything seems like a miracle now.

How was your experience working with Vidya Balan? Were you nervous or did you fear that she may over-power you onscreen?

I was not nervous but I was a bit worried about how things will work out since she is such a big star. But on day one only I was convinced seeing her that the chemistry between the two of us would be interesting in the scenes and the movie also would shape up pretty well. She is a really gem of a person and very down to earth. And I believe because of such qualities she is a superstar. Let me share one incident which will speak volumes about her professionalism. Suppose the shoot begins at10am and the pack up is scheduled at 10pm, what usually happens is that actors starts throwing tantrums the moment the clock gets past 10. And on day one of our shoot due to some technical glitches things were getting delayed and Shekhar sir decided to pack up at around 12 in the midnight. When these words reached Vidyaji’s ears, she advocated that let the shooting continue and all the scenes for that day should be wrapped up that day only and they should not worry about her comfort. We were completed moved by her gesture and completed that day’s scenes at 2.30 am. I really liked her approach towards work. Such things help a lot as it encourages the whole team. We start getting positive vibes and the product starts taking its shape well.

Had it been made in Hindi, what difference would it have made?

Despite being a Marathi, Bhagwan Dada built his own kingdom in the Hindi film industry and this film has been made in Marathi. But, definitely if it would have been made in Hindi then the appeal would have been more as it would have catered to a larger audience and as an actor it would have been a bigger opportunity for me too.

Would you like to tell us about your future projects?

To be honest I’m a bit tensed. After the shooting, the dubbing sessions were on and hence I didn’t take up other assignments. Plus with the kind of things happening right now – the publicity, association of Vidyaji with this movie etc have all amplified the expectations from this movie and it has kind of set a benchmark for my future projects. Now I need to do movies either better than this or bare minimum at par with this. If I don’t do like that then the makers would lose faith in me. I hope God and Bhagwan Dada bless this movie and may this movie’s success bring new and exciting assignments for me.

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