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Netaji is here

Sachin Khedekar is excited about his title role in Benegal's soon to be released `Bose: A Forgotten Hero'


MANY Goliaths had to lose out to this David. A little more than a year ago, when acclaimed director Shyam Benegal sat in the judge's chair to pick his Netaji for the film Bose : A Forgotten Hero, actors like Paresh Rawal, Rajat Kapoor, Madhavan, Jackie Shroff and a few more were sieved out to reveal Sachin Khedekar. The Marathi stage actor has been sighted on telly in a couple of small yet critical film roles.

Ready for release

Now, after months of shooting across countries, Benegal's Bose is ready for release. And the man most excited about it is Khedekar. Predictably so. It could make or mar his career.

"To be chosen from among 30 actors to do a Benegal film is an utopian condition for any actor trying to make it big. I am banking heavily on it," Khedekar candidly admits. Having bagged the role, mainly due to his facial similarity with Bose, it was the beginning of a saga that he would "very well remember for life."

His head was tonsured. He had to gain 10 kilos. Five hours of make-up was put regularly to get Netaji's chin. Apart from all this he had to imbibe all he could about the revolutionary from his family, from the Elgin Road residence at Kolkata, books, audio and video tapes available and live out of his suitcase for about 130 days across time zones.

"Though looking, talking and walking like Bose was important, I also had to mentally behave like Netaji. So, I read all the books on him, watched an hour of documentary footage, mainly the AICC meetings and heard his radio speeches. Being old, they are now high speed but give vital clues about his looks and thoughts," says doe-eyed Khedekar in the same heavy pitch that we remember in the critically acclaimed Astitva. Magnifying the last five years of Bose's life, the Sahara Pariwar-funded film begins with his escape from Kolkata to Kabul, then to Germany to meet Hitler, getting on to an U-boat to Malaysia and finally to Japan, the formation and running of Indian National Army and Rani Laxmibai Brigade. "The film ends at Red Fort with the INA trials soon after Netaji's reported plane crash," the actor narrates. To knit the story, Khedekar acted with a cast of 141, in parts, beginning with Kolkata, Delhi and Ladakh in India, to a tiny, picturesque place called Chiwa in Uzbekistan and then to Singapore besides working on a long schedule in Germany.

"Only after working in this film have I realised the pleasure of working with actors whom you do not know at all. The surprise element is much more than working in a Hindi film with a cast whose earlier works you have seen," Khedekar seems to be still mooning over it. "For the first time, I have acted with people like Jishu Sengupta, Alokananda Roy and Arindam from the Bengali film industry. Since we could not shoot in Peshawar, we did it in Delhi with actors like Sudesh Berry, Rajit Kapoor and Rajpal Yadav. The Kabul episode was shot in Ladakh and Uzbekistan. Kulbhushan Kharbanda did a fabulous job in Uzbekistan," reminisces Khedekar. Appreciating the German cast, he comments, "They have nothing to prepare at the sets but to deliver."

Pinning hopes

Though he has offered quality acting, be it in serials like Thoda Hai Thoda Ki Zaroorat Hai, Sailab, Adhikar, Inteha etc, or in films like Tere Naam, Astitva, Badshah, Ziddi, Dil Hai Tumhara, opposite senior actresses like Tabu, Rekha and Rakhee, he is yet to make it big in Tinsel Town. So Khedekar is "pinning the world" on this new avatar. "I think it will click beyond the festival circuit. Mind you, it did not have a 200 million dollar budget like Gandhi but it has Benegal's zeal to excel," Khedekar says. And this Diwali, cine-goers have all the chance of experiencing it.

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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