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Actors need alternative fallback options: Vikram Gokhale

Veteran actor Vikram Gokhale who has made a mark for himself in Marathi films, won this year’s National Film Award for Best Actor for the Marathi film Anumati (he shared the award with actor Irrfan Khan for his performance in Pan Singh Tomar). He talks with The GUIDE about his journey so far and his experience of farming. Excerpts from the interview:


Actor Vikram Gokhale instructing students

How did you feel about winning the National Award?
Anumati was a story on human relations. It is about an elderly person who attempts to save his dying wife who has suffered brain hemorrhage. His son urges him to sign the DNR form (to remove life support) since the former has already spent a large share from his savings. However, the elderly protagonist refuses to budge as he is hopeful that his wife will survive. But how will he manage to find substantial financial support for further treatment is the question.

I was happy to win the National Award but I genuinely feel that winning the National Award is too much of appreciation. I have done a lot of roles that are tougher than this and needed more study. Those were more difficult roles to do. I had to be more sensitive while doing this role which was not very difficult for me. Being sensitive is needed to be a good actor.

Tell us about your new ventures.
I have done direction, writing, and worked for mediums such as television and radio. I has yet to succeed as a writer for movies; it is totally different from writing for any other medium. I have written a script with one of my students, which is ready to be shot. But I am searching for a producer for this script.

The story talks about a young boy who leaves the country because he is born in an non-reservation caste household. He respects the country but he believes there is no scope for him, hence he leaves. It will be a trilingual film in English, Hindi and Marathi.

I have done a lot of research while writing this script. I met a lot of doctors who are involved in organ donation, educationists, neurosurgeons as well as students. It involved research on why youngsters are leaving India; it could be due to casteism, lesser opportunities, etc. I also met certain government officers who gave me off-the-record information about the problems in the system.

I am waiting for 2-3 new comedy movies to begin. I have bought the rights and work is going on at so many different levels such as acting, direction, etc. I believe that we should keep fewer expectations to enjoy more.

What is your favourite medium till now?
I like working with all the mediums; each of them have their own plus and minus points.

Is Marathi theatre losing its edge?
There are very few people who visit the theatre today. The audiences feel that Marathi theatre is only about comedy; it has been only staging comedy for the last 25 years. People have reduced trips to the theatre and choose to watch television serials instead; after all, if you don’t like a particular serial, you can change the channel but if you don’t like a play you will not get your money back. People are stressed so, they prefer to see comic plays rather than serious plays. There are several other reasons as well.

What is the present state of Marathi movies?
The Marathi movie Shwaas set a trend of experimental films and it marked a major change in the field of Marathi cinema. People like to see Marathi movies for free as they wait to watch it on television. Crores of people watch serials but not movies. The future lies in television as it is one the richest mediums.

How do you view the rise of acting schools?
Acting school will not teach you the rules of acting. In serials, there is a lot of money involved, hence youngsters opt for it. Talent is compromised as there are a lot of retakes, and hence, a person with less talent can still succeed as an actor. When I teach, I tell my students that I can’t guarantee a job; I assure them however, that I will teach them to become a good audience even if they don’t get a job as an actor.

I have been working for 50 years and hence, I feel that I have the right to teach people. You will not get a job based on recommendation, one has to have talent to succeed. Nowadays, youngsters don’t learn acting in-depth either.

There can be only one Zakir Hussain or one Bhimsen Joshi, art is not a commodity. All kinds of all artistes have to struggle. You have to have some other means to fall back in life.

What is your philosophy in acting?
I became an actor to earn money; I came in this business to help my family monetarily. But if I felt that I could not do justice to a project, I refused it. I will never become a frustrated actor/ director. If you keep less expectations then you will grow more in life for sure.

Tell us about your stint in farming.
I did farming for almost 30 years, I also did poultry farming and learned poultry science and dairy science as well. Every person has a passion about something and my passion was farming so I did it, and I was young then. I had become a farmer officially as per the government rules. My wife is the power behind all this. I used to work 18 hours a day at times.

I faced criticism for my decision to farm, at times but I persisted. However, I have sold almost all the land as I realised that it is profitable only if you and your family is working on the land yourself.

Tell us about your favourite actors.
I like Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Anu kapoor and Govinda. Among Marathi actors, I like Chandrakant Gokale, Dr Shreeram Lagu, Nilu Phule, Reema, Suhas Joshi, Dilip Kulkarni, Mukta Barve, Neena Kulkarni, etc. My all-time favourite play is Barrister.

What do you do when you’re not acting?
When I’m not acting I do still photography. A good photographer had told me that when I shoot 10 photographs, at least 50% of them are worth exhibiting. I shoot almost everywhere I go. When you’re genuinely interested you take more time to click a picture, it is a different world in itself. 

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