Mumbai Diary: Wednesday whispers
‘You are doing a service to society’
Ajit Kelkar, actor & director of Common Man, recalls his encounters with the legend who inspired his play.
My senior, Anil Joglekar (who wrote the play, originally in Marathi), watched my stage performances and mentioned that he had a one-man-show in mind and that I would be ideal to play that part. It was to be based on RK Laxman’s Common Man.
The Common Man played by Ajit Kelkar
I researched his works, collected his cartoons and felt that the play has to be in English since Laxman wrote it in English. Then, Gautam Joglekar translated the play into English. I sent him a CD with the recording of my performance for his review. Once, while getting my make-up done for the sixth or seventh performance at NCPA, I received a call.
The person on the other line said, “This is Laxman; I don’t like the ending of the play and would request you to change it”. At every performance, at the ending of the play the Common Man would ask the audience to stop all the nonsense, and this would bring the audience to tears.
So, I requested him to see me perform personally (in Pune) and then give it a thought. When he finally saw it, he loved it! He asked me to take this play to the world, and that I was doing a service to our society. For the 50th show, which was to be staged in Mumbai, I requested him to attend the show, but his wife was sceptical due to his health and since they had just travelled back to Pune from Mumbai.
When he learnt that it was the 50th show he told his wife that he would go, and he did attend the show. When I suggested sending a car to pick him up, he refused. He was such a great man but didn’t expect any services or perks. He even watched the 100th show of Common Man in 2010.
- As told to Dhara Vora