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Real-life Mumbai policemen who went on to act in films, TV serials

Policemen have played a pivotal role in Hindi cinema. They have not only influenced the common man’s perception of the police force but also inspired khaki-clad officers off the screen to try their luck in movies and tele-serials. sunday mid-day speaks to four such men who have pursued their love for acting while wearing the uniform

What would Indian cinema be without its good and bad cops? Can you imagine Deewar (1975) without Ravi (Shashi Kapoor), a policeman whose staunch values are a stark contrast to his brother Vijay’s (Amitabh Bachchan) corrupt ways and moral degeneration?

Or what would Sholay (1975) be without Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kapoor), a retired policeman, who swears revenge after his entire family is massacred by dacoits? Om Shivpuri, aka Vardan, an impostor of Interpol officer, RK Malik, in Don (1975) added an interesting twist to the film’s storyline.

Many more characters like these shaped our impression of policemen and their lives. But did you know that these onscreen personalities inspired some real-life cops so much that they gave acting a serious shot? Read on to find the reel-life story of real-life policemen:

Sagar Salunke
Former Assistant Commissioner of Police, who took voluntary retirement, Sagar Salunke is most popular as Balram, the character that he played in BR Chopra’s 1988 television series Mahabharat. He has also played substantial roles in big-budget Hindi movies such as Ganga Jamuna Saraswati (1988), Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni (1989), Zindagi Ek Juaa (1992), Hindustani (1996), and Garv: Pride and Honour (2004).

Sagar Salunke
Retired ACP Sagar Salunke is known for playing Balram in the television series Mahabharat

The cop, who is currently playing a detective in the daily crime drama titled Savdhan India, maintains that the role of Balram will always hold a special place in his heart.

He says, “I bagged the role when I was posted with the Santacruz police station. It’s very special to me as it helped me showcase my acting prowess. In fact, the then Commissioner of Police, DS Soman, officially granted me permission to shoot for the serial.”

Recalling an incident when he was recognised by a viewer, he says, “I still remember the time when I was posted at the immigration department of the airport, an Indian who is now settled in London came up to me and called me Balram. I started laughing but I was very happy because that made me realise that people recognise me. I’m still in contact with that person.”

Despite pursuing acting seriously, Salunke has worked actively throughout his 32-year-long police career. When asked how he managed to juggle acting and policing, he says, “I never allowed my work to get affected due to my passion for acting. I was mostly deputed at branches that had less work, so it gave me ample time to pursue my hobby. After taking voluntary retirement, I’ve auditioned for roles in different television serials.”

Rajendra Kane
Forty-six-year-old police inspector Rajendra Kane, who is currently posted with Bandra police station, has made six short films last year that showed his acting chops.

Firty-six-year-old Rajendra Kane made six short films last year which showed his acting chops
Firty-six-year-old Rajendra Kane made six short films last year which showed his acting chops

He says, “Last year, when I was posted at Amboli police station, I decided to come up with a public awareness campaign, which included a short film on bag lifting. The then Additional Commissioner of Police Vishwas Nangre Patil liked it so much that he asked me to make more such movies. I, then, made films on house-breaking, senior citizens’ murder, thefts by servants, motor vehicle theft and fake policemen.”

The short films, which were screened at several festivals including the Mumbai University Film Festival, showcased the modus operandi of criminals and the precautions a common man should take.

“My contacts suggested a convenient location for the movies and also supplied the equipment. I directed, produced and acted in the films. It was quite hectic but the locals were a huge support,” concludes Kane.

Pandurang Ingule
Pandurang Ingule, who retired from the Mumbai police force last month, had joined the force in 1986 as a sub-inspector. He says, “When I joined the police force, people complimented me saying that I have a photogenic face. As a result, I got several offers for films and television. In my 28 years of service, I have acted in many movies and TV serials where I have played a cop trying to solve a mystery. One of my most prominent roles was that of a crime branch officer who solves a murder case in the 2009 Marathi movie Laganachi Varat Londonchya Gharat.

Pandurang Ingule
Pandurang Ingule has acted in many movies and TV serials. His most prominent role has been in the movie Laganachi Varat Londonchya Gharat

Apart from this, Ingule says, “While working as an assistant police inspector, I essayed the role of a cop in 10 episodes of popular Marathi serial Teesra Dola.”

Ingule was flattered by the fact that several complainants arriving at the police station, where he was stationed, acknowledged his acting prowess. Apart from this, he had become a ‘star’ in his hometown Khedegaon. "I got congratulatory calls from my neighbours and relatives from my native place. When I was acting in Teesra Dola, complainants at the police station recognised me easily and praised my performance,” he recalls.

Nagnath Askulkar
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Nagnath Askulkar is currently playing a cop in crime drama show Savdhan India. The sexagenarian says, “I fell in love with acting after participating in school plays. I was also fond of singing songs and writing poems.”

Nagnath Askulkar
Rtd ACP Nagnath Askulkar is seen in the crime drama Savdhan India. Pic/Sameer Markande

After joining the Mumbai police force in the year 1969, he had to put acting on the backburner. But in 1988, when he was posted at the Nirmal Nagar police station, he got a chance to resurrect his love for the performing arts when he, along with his colleagues, presented a play based on the life of a police officer at Parel. Askulkar confesses that the length of the role has never mattered to him, as he just wanted to face the camera. He says, “I was ready to perform even the shortest role because acting was in my blood. Despite retiring from the police force in 2005, offers for television serials continue to pour in.”

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