I don't live a luxurious life. My needs are limited - Nana Patekar | Exclusive Interview

The first day of January will be a special day for most us, as we get set to ring in the new year. But, actor Nana Patekar has got multiple reasons to celebrate. While he turns a year older tomorrow, his much awaited, most ambitious Marathi project - Natsamrat - will also hit the screens. While the advance bookings and early reviews are already working in the film's favour, Patekar already looked satisfied. He is extremely happy about the way Natsamrat has turned out, and is satisfied with the response that the trailer had garnered, with even Amitabh Bachchan going gaga over the glimpses of his portrayal of Ganpatrao Belvalkar. While an occasion like this would otherwise see an actor celebrating with great pomp, Nana has decided to keep it low, as always, keeping in mind the crisis faced by farmers in Maharashtra. I caught up with the actor on a quiet weekday afternoon. Dressed in his usual, simple attire - a crisp white sadra lehanga, Nana walked in and after a warm welcome (I always touch his feet for blessings before a conversation), we quickly settled down with a hot cup of tea in our hands, to discuss Natsamrat, NAAM and more. Excerpts from a delightful conversation with the inspirational actor:

You had stated that Natsamrat is one of the most ambitious projects in your career as an actor. What made it so special?
I have no two doubts about the fact that Natsamrat is a great film. Kiran Yadnyopavit has done an incredible job of adapting and working on the original script by V.V Shirwadkar and Mahesh (Manjrekar) is a fantastic director. After this film, even if I don't act or do a film, it won't make any difference to me as an artist. That's how incredible the film has turned out to be, at least for me. As for that commercial aspects, that shall depend on the audience, but I can vouch for the fact that even non - Marathi speaking audience members will understand and love the film. Acting in this film has given great satisfaction to the artist in me. Playing Ganpatrao Belvalkar was an emotionally draining process, but the experience was truly special. He is a retired actor, who continues to live in nostalgia. Even while walking from one place to another, he switches between Hamlet to Prataprao or an Othello. The story remains the same, but we have tweaked things a little bit.

Were there any pre-shoot workshops or rehearsals that the cast went through?
I used to sit with the script all day, understanding the character and his personality. I personally believe that thoroughly reading the script and knowing your character in and out really helps, because you become one with it.

Do you think a role like that of Ganpatrao Belvalkar provides great creative satisfaction to an artist?
Absolutely! It does, to a great extent. Essaying a character like this ensures that you go through a lot of sleepless nights and pain, like I said, it can get drain you out.

You recently announced that you will be shifting focus towards producing films. How did that happen?
There many ways to earn money, but for me, producing films is not one of them. Through production, I can make films based on topics, issues or stories that I believe in. The kind of conviction I may have about a particular story or issue, may not necessarily appeal to a producer, who has to finance the film. Hence, this decision. My son will be heading the production house and the main focus will be on serious films. Also, I have told my son, it is not necessary that I need to star in all the films under our banner (laughs). He is free to cast any actor, and the film's fate will also be his lookout. There won't be any interference from my side in anyway.

There are reports that you will be seen in an international film based in the pre-independence era.
Yes, we are in talks. To be honest, I am not very fluent with the language. For someone who started learning basic english in a village only after standard 5th, and later, spent time with brushes and paints at JJ School of Arts, I am very good with the right use of English words and sentences. Even in college, I felt like the society is making fun of the fact that I don't know English and would often have an inferiority complex. But later in life, I did a Kannada film and realised, that I could pick up the language pretty well. So, I thought to myself, if I can learn Kannada, why can't I do an English film? At least, I fairly know the language and can learn. Let's see how it goes. As you said, it is indeed set during the pre-independence era and is a political film.

When will we get to see you on stage? It's been quite sometime since you did a play.
In all probability, you will see me in Saumya Joshi's next play, where my character is that of a 102-year-old man, whose son is 75. The father wants to beat the world record of the oldest living man (i.e 112 years) and since that requires him to live in a peaceful, happy environment, he doesn't want to see his son's detonating condition. This father plans to leave his son in an old age home, but his son does not want to leave and requests the father to allow him to stay. The former agrees, albeit with a few conditions for his son, which includes weird tasks like writing a love letter for his dead wife, discussing memories of his childhood among others. Within a few weeks, his son's condition starts improving and the audience realises that the whole exercise was the father's plan to enable his son to fight the world and face it on his own. In the end, the father dies, with a dream to see his son beating the world record of the oldest living man. It's a beautiful script, and I am planning to approach Mohan Agashe to play my son's role. Hopefully, it should pan out well. 

Your commendable work for the NAAM foundation is being talked about by everyone.
You know, a few days back, somebody asked me, "Aap kis vajese kisaano ko yeh paisa de rahe hain?" The thing is, like most of us, I have been saving some amount of money since years. I didn't know what to do with the collected amount. Some people might spend that kind of money on clothes, cars or jewellery. But for me, instead of using 1 crore for buying a car, bringing a smile on a farmer's face mattered more. I don't live a luxurious lifestyle. I lead a simple life, my needs are very limited. If you have money which you won't use, it makes sense to offer it to someone in need. Also, Makarand (Anaspure) is doing a brilliant job. He is well connected with all the NGOs and families in several rural areas and villages. He is a great human being. My first priority was to ensure that the money reaches the families of farmers who have committed suicide. Our global climate has gone for a toss, and one cannot predict rainfall or extreme cold / heat anymore. It is difficult for farmers to harvest crops, which usually die due to the climatic conditions, and with heavy debts on their head, they commit suicide. Can you imagine the plight of those young widows? They are hardly in their early 20s, with little children in their arms, and are going through a lot of pain to make two ends meet. Also, the way our society looks at a widow is not very positive. There are evil minded people who are always looking for way to use or hurt these young girls. All this could lead to a lot of trouble in the future for their families. I am emotionally attached to these people. I don't want to roam around in a Mercedes, at a time when our country continues to lose one farmer after another. Aisi luxury ka kya fayda? 

During our last interview, you had mentioned that you will be directing the third instalment of Ab Tak Chhappan. Is that project still on?
I want to work on the third instalment on my own. I am very serious about the fact that the story, direction and other important aspects need to be monitored by me. Otherwise, I won't do the film. I am not comfortable with their constant interference. Right now, I am focusing on another project, which will be helmed by me. A little girl will be seen as the lead protagonist and you will also see me in an important role. I am currently looking for suitable locations in Kathmandu and the Himalayas for our shoot. There is also a biopic on Baba Amte, which I will produce and direct.

Have you got a chance to watch any new film?
Honestly, I don't watch too many films. I am passionate about reading, and I can keep reading books for hours. Also, I love visiting villages and meeting people. Mujhe logon ko padhne ka shauk hain. Reading their face, understanding their pain and getting to know more about their lifestyle. I don't connect with them as an actor, but as a human being. As for films, I catch them later on television, whenever I get the time.

We never saw you work with Amitabh Bachchan, despite the much appreciated equation in Kohram.
Kya pata? Kisine cast hi nahi kiya (smiles). But, he is a good friend and we got along very well. I still remember how once on the sets, I complimented him about his look and said, "Wah! Beehtareen shirt pehan ke aaye ho." After wrapping up the shoot for that day, I went back to my vanity, only to see his shirt hanging inside my vanity van. I was later informed that he wore my shirt and went back home. I still have that shirt with me. Then one day, he was distributing sweets and I casually asked, "What happened?" He exclaimed with joy, stating that his daughter had given birth to a child, and he is now a 'Nana'. "Itne saal lag gaye? Mujhe dekh, main janam se Nana hoon," was my instant response (laughs).

Is there any actor of this generation whose work left you feeling impressed? 
Not really. No actor from the current crop has left an impression or can inspire. I look upto great actors like Balraj Sahni, Motilal sahab, Yakub sahab, Nutanji. These days, actors are only focusing on running the 100 / 200 / 300 crore race. But, I had recently seen the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and loved the efforts put in by the cast.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
My parents, especially my mother. Even at the age of 95, she lives by the 'never give up' attitude. Fourteen years back, she was diagnosed with cancer and was told that she won't survive. Even after that, she has gone through several operations for various problems. A few months back, she broke her hand, which resulted in a compound fracture. Despite the pain and medication, after four days, I saw her walking with the help of a walker. Her strength, will power is incredible and she is a great inspiration. Also, I look up to Baba Amte.

We always see you working or running around to help people. Do you ever get the time to take a break or enjoy a holiday?
Whenever I take a break, I don't look out for exotic destinations. I find solace in my farm. Spending time with animals is a different experience and I find it very relaxing. Their silence speaks volumes. I like spending time in a peaceful environment and there is nothing better than being surrounded by nature.

You will be turning a year older on the 1st of January. What's the secret behind your fit body, mind and soul?
I am 65 now, but I always ensure that I work out for at least 2 hours everyday. It is very important for an individual to look after their body. I am not someone who is fussy about food and I eat everything. I don't go out partying or spending hours at events that don't appeal to me. Also, I don't smoke, so that helps.

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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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