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Brash and wise

A wise man and tolerant is how Nana Patekar appears after an encounter with Ramgopal Verma for his "Ab Tak Chhappan". He reveals a few of his secrets to RANA SIDDIQUI in New Delhi.



Nana Patekar...Encounter time in New Delhi. Photo: R.V.Moorthy.

WHEN NANA Patekar was young, he was as fragile as he is tough today, as feeble as he is vehement now and as overpowered by inferiority complex as he is towering over most of the cast now. He would keep to himself, suppress his emotions and give vent to them only while acting in plays. "The feeling that I am not conventionally good looking and strong used to fill me with great inferiority complex."

So he found his own way of making people feel his presence - through his flawless portrayal of characters in his plays, dialogues and gestures. Take for instance this - for 16 years, in Vijay Mehta's play called "Purush", he has played the title role and no one till date has been able play the role with such ease, such expertise as he did. Each year, whenever and wherever the play was staged, Nana has been the obvious choice. Nana's confidence grew like never before. All this confidence, rather over-confidence, reflected clearly in his films.

In "Agnisakhshi" he is a cruel husband, not without a reason though. In "Tarkeib" he is a frightening CBI officer. "Shakti" portrays him as an abusive, fighting and shouting village sarpanch and in "Prahaar" he is an overshadowing Army man. Anger, frustration, uncompromising, snooty and brutal: Bollywood films reserved these epithets for Nana and the audience followed. And surprisingly Nana took them as compliments and for a long time he lived up to these `compliments' in both his reel and real life.

But with "Ab Tak Chhappan" wisdom seems to have finally dawned on him. And he is candid enough to admit it. "I have committed some mistakes that I am repenting now. Life teaches you at all junctures, provided you shed your ego and are ready to learn. I am rightly accused of overshadowing other characters in most of my films. While working with Ramgopal in `Ab Tak Chhappan' I realised that I still have a lot to learn. Ramu easily surpassed me." But Nana "did intervene" in the script. "I took advantage of my age." And for the first time one saw Nana bursting into laughter during a conversation at Le Meridien Hotel in New Delhi.

"Ab Tak Chhappan" is all about a cop and two sides of his profile, at his work place and home. "Cops are just instruments in the hands of the system they are working for. They have to follow the order. And if some cop tries to invent his own way to fight the corruption, he should not be considered senile. This is what K.P.S. Gill also did to fight terrorism in Punjab. Somebody has to clear the mess."

The word police excites Nana. He has reasons to sympathise with them. "So many wars have been fought so far and many jawans have lost their lives, but their numbers might be fewer in comparison to the policemen who have laid their down lives . I worked with the Army's Maratha Light Infantry for two-and-half-years for the shooting of "Prahaar". I have great respect for them for the personal sacrifice they make. They are not allowed to think about themselves as human beings or their families but about the quantum of people they have to shield."

The Army and the world of advertisement was where he learned how to survive against all odds. This trained painter from J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, picked up a job at Stuca, an advertising company. "I was a cut and paste artist there. On some reason of principle I fought with my boss, an art director. The company sacked the director and I was rewarded," recalls Nana with no tinge of pride. "I felt bad for him."

Now Nana feels bad for Bhansali's "Devdas". "Films were earlier driven by souls, not puppets. I mind spending money to watch a soulless melodrama that I can't keep in my heart for posterity."

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