The artistes in khaki
There are cops in Mumbai Police who are too talented for bandobasts and nakabandis. Meet the men and women who can act better than ACP Pradyuman, and dance smoother than Simmba
The uniform does not make the man. The men and women who don their vardis every day, and set out to maintain the peace in the city, have talents and ideas that wouldn't be amiss on a film set. They can act, dance, write, even perform magic tricks. On a slow day, they use their talents to entertain their colleagues; on a busy day, they use it to manage their stress, and sometimes, even crack crucial cases. With the help of the Welfare Association of Mumbai Police, they are executing their dreams, even on the big screen.
Constable Sayali Talekar 25, choreographer
Sayali Talekar was learning dance from Bollywood choreographer Remo D'Souza, when her father Vijay, a policeman, died of a heart attack in 2011. She was a teenager, but suddenly the responsibility of the house fell on her shoulders. The eldest among three siblings, she buried her ambition to become an air hostess, and joined the police force in September 2012, on the grounds of compensation. Today, she's the third generation in her family to wear khaki.
Sayali Talekar. Pic/Suresh Karkera
"I was hesitant to join the police force because I had invested my pocket money in learning choreography from Remo D'Souza. I wanted to wear the uniform of an air hostess, but now I take pride in wearing the police uniform," she says.
Talekar has the support of her senior officers in continuing her passion for dance. "I teach dance to my colleagues, and we always perform onstage in Diwali Melava." She already knows lavani and Bollywood dance and is currently learning hip-hop. She has also been teaching dance to the neighbourhood kids for free. Her moment of glory arrived during Umang, the annual function of the Mumbai Police, in 2016, when she shared the stage with actor Shah Rukh Khan, and earned a standing ovation. "It was widely appreciated in the media and within my department. Everyone appreciated my dance, including Shah Rukh Khan."
Talekar has worked in the main control room of Mumbai Police and Yellow Gate police station, and is now posted as a constable. But, her ambitions are much larger than her lithe frame. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mumbai, Kalina, and plans to give departmental exams for senior positions in the force. Though, her heart continues to follow her feet. "My soul reverberates and my head starts bobbing when I listen to music. Whenever I am deployed in bandobast, especially during Ganpati Visarjan, I feel like joining the revellers, but I need to respect my uniform."
Head constable Nandkumar Sawant 55, actor and poet
Nandkumar Sawant, a head constable in the Mumbai Police, has been representing Mumbai in Maharashtra Natya Spardha since 1992, and has bagged five awards for best actor since then. Sawant took his first steps on the stage while he was still in school. "I never pursued any course in acting, but always participated in one-act plays in school.
Nandkumar Sawant recently starred in the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Thackeray
Though I portrayed many small parts in school skits, I never did them wholeheartedly. One day, my brother Shankar, asked me, 'Why don't you tap your hidden talent and portray bigger characters?'" Sawant took his advice to heart. He recently starred in the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Thackeray, in which he played the role of a personal assistant to former CM Vasantrao Naik. He has also played a police officer from the Crime Branch in Breathe, a web series on Amazon, with actors R Madhavan and Amit Sadh, and has worked in more than 100 webisodes in Marathi, including Lakshya and Jadubai Jorat.
Nandkumar Sawant. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Sawant joined the police force in 1987, and is currently a head constable. He thanks his senior officers for giving him the opportunity to spend time on his hobby, probably because his theatre duties have never interfered with his official duty. In fact, he says that his histrionics came in handy while solving the case of a double murder in Versova in 2004. "The accused was not cooperating with the investigating team at Versova police station. But, I used my skills in acting and role-playing, won over his confidence and got all the crucial information. This helped our department in solving the case." It's because of instances like this, and because his art also works as a stress-buster, that he has never regretted joining the police force. "I feel lucky that my skills have helped my seniors in solving cases." Sawant is looking for interesting characters even on the beat. "Being a policeman, I get an opportunity to meet different people every day. I strive to search for a character in them. This helps me while portraying a character when I am doing theatre."
Subhash Dagadkhair pulls a fast one with a Rs 20 note
Sub-inspector Subhash Dagadkhair 57, magician
Subhash Dagadkhair is known for his skilled hands, because he learnt a few magic tricks in 1986 in order to fight his asthma. "The doctor asked me to laugh and make others laugh. My friends suggested that I learn a few magic tricks. I followed their advice and it did help me," he says. Dagadkhair joined the police force as a constable in 1982, and after taking the departmental exam, became a sub-inspector in 1999.
His achievements in magic and his official duty have bagged him several honours. In 2016, he was awarded the President's Police Medal for meritorious service and was also named in the Limca Book of Records for being the first policeman to win the Merlin Award. The prestigious award was given to him by Tony Hassini, the CEO of the International Magicians Society, US, when he came to the city in 2016.
In his day-to-day life, Dagadkhair uses conjuring tricks, such as turning a Rs 20 note into a Rs 50 note, making a Rs 10 note disappear, or even reading minds, to entertain his colleagues. "After a long bandobast, policemen tend to become exhausted. So, I show a few sleight-of-hand tricks to make them laugh."
Constable Abhijeet Manchekar 28, lyricist and screenwriter
Abhijeet Manchekar joined the force in 2010. As a student, he used to write dialogues and scripts for plays in intercollegiate competitions, but joined the police force as he was his family's breadwinner. "My father died when I was young and my mother worked as a tailor from home," he says. "I had the dream to become a writer, but I had responsibilities as well. So, I appeared for the police examination."
He has a writing schedule that most professional writers would envy. "I do a 12-hour shift, go home and write daily. As a government employee, I'm not permitted to work in any other firm, so I do this because I am interested in it." Till date, he has co-written over 100 episodes for a Marathi daily soap called Vartul, which is telecast on Zee Yuva Marathi, a one-act play and two full-length dramas. He's also written the lyrics for four songs in Marathi, sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, Adarsh Shinde, Amey Date and Mandar Shevde, for an unreleased movie. "I am also writing a script for a Marathi film."
Manchekar sounds like any other struggler, hustling in the entertainment industry. Perhaps, we can expect a gripping cop drama, with believable characters, from his pen rather than anyone else in the writers' room in the film industry today.
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