The everyman on reel

AN ARTISTE'S TAKE

The everyman on reel

His movies had a charm of their own. With his boy-next-door looks, he made us laugh at life’s many ironies. Be it as Ram and Lakshman in Gol Maal, Tony Braganza in Baaton Baaton Mein, or Arun Pradeep in Chhoti Si Baat, Amol Palekar is one actor whose mere mention will make you smile with fond memories of the multitude of roles he’s essayed on screen. Believe it or not, this talented artiste’s tryst with films was “by accident”, in his own words. Surprised? Then read on...

Way back in 1967, Amol was a student of Fine Arts at the Sir J J School of Arts, Mumbai, when he would accompany his ‘actor’ friends to rehearsals with the legendary Marathi theatre director Satyadev Dubey. Little did he know then that this idle pastime of watching his friends rehearse would add a new dimension to his life and change it forever. “Satyadev Dubey soon asked me to join him, not because he saw some talent in me, but merely because I had a lot of time on my hands. In fact, those were his exact words,” says Amol, looking back on the days when his passion for acting was ignited.

“In the early 70s, I was searching for my identity as a painter, as also experimenting with the three-dimensional theatre space. As a director, I brought my plays out of the proscenium arch and started exploring other open spaces,” he recalls. Around the same time, films happened. His debut being the Marathi Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe in 1971, directed by Satyadev Dubey, was soon followed by the Hindi films Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Baat, Chitchor, Gharonda, Gol Maal, Baaton Baaton Mein and many more... At a time when the Bachchans, Dharmendras and Shashi Kapoors ruled the screen, Amol, with his choice of everyman roles, touched people’s hearts. In his own words, “Instead of popular roles, I chose different roles with varied characters.”

Characters that were very much like you and me. No wonder, we still remember his struggle to own a flat in Gharonda, as also his efforts to win his lady love in both Baton Baton Mein and Chhoti Si Baat. And, of course, his comic capers as Ram and Lakshman in Gol Maal, in his attempt to land a well-paying job. And many others that set him on the path of success in the film world.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my success as an actor in films. My phenomenal success in films overshadowed every other aspect of my creative journey,” he says.

It was in the early 80s that Amol felt the urge to wield the camera, and it was the Marathi film Aakriet that marked his debut as director, after which were many movies that made a mark for themselves. Like the Hindi Paheli, which was India’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film in 2006, and the English Quest, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. Not to forget the many teleserials like Kachchi Dhoop, Mrignayanee and Kareena Kareena.

For a man who’s tasted success as both actor and director, ask him what he enjoyed most, and pat comes the reply, “My journey as a director, whether in theatre or films, is what has given me immense creative satisfaction. After all, I was an actor by accident, but a director by choice.”

Having worked with stalwarts of the Hindi film industry like Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who always gave the audiences films which were a reflection of real life, Amol finds present day Bollywood cinema to be superfluous with its CGI effects, item songs and kissing scenes. Not to mention, the lack of content in a majority of films.

“However, there are also some good experiments done by young directors. Since I love experimentation and abstraction, I feel happy to see such fresh attempts,” he says, adding that Ashutosh Gowarikar and Rajkumar Hirani’s directorial works in the mainstream format are his favourites though, as also the films made by Vikramaditya Motwane.

What about actors? “Among actors, Ranbir Kapoor is amazing. Similarly, I also like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra for their fine acting and charm,” he says.
This creative artiste, who just turned 70, is all set to showcase another facet of his creative personality to the world with an exhibition of his paintings. Yes, you read it right — his abstracts in oil. And, he is excited about it. “I want to find myself all over again. Though excited, am a tad apprehensive too, wondering what the world’s response to it would be,” he shares, expressing his admiration for the works of Modigliani, Gaitonde, S G Vasudev, Dilip Ranade and Anju Dodiya.

Coming back to the world of colours after a long gap, he does admit that he is not familiar with the changing trends in the world of art, but likes the way art takes up contemporary space. But, didn’t the painter in him miss painting during his long stint in films? “I treated the film screen as canvas, hence you can see the dominance of visuals and colours in my directorial work,” he says, suggesting that there’s not much difference between filmmaking and painting, since both are creative engagements. No wonder, this actor-director-painter wishes to be remembered only as a creative artist. Hats off to that!

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