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‘I like to play with people’s expectations’

Sharad Kelkar talks about his rediscovery as an actor, and the new avenues he explored while doing so 

THESE ARE exciting times for actor Sharad Kelkar. On one hand, he has essayed the pivotal character of Raja Phogat in the Zee5 series Rangbaaz Phirse, on the other he played Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Om Raut’s blockbuster Tanhaji.

Kelkar, who started out as a model back in the year 2002, has been witnessing a rediscovery of sorts as an actor on the web. His portrayal of a single father in the Amazon Prime series The Family Man came as a big surprise to those who have been following his television career.

“We become stagnant when we are doing a TV show. We are happy with that zone because we feel like ‘Okay, I am famous. You know me and wherever I go you will follow me. I am making good money and grabbing eyeballs.’ But I think along with these pluses that the television has, there are minuses also. I took a lot of time before I finally started to explore different avenues as an actor. I was from the North and came to Mumbai with empty pockets. I had to earn everything, and so it took time for me to get settled,” recollects Kelkar.

It all started with the opportunity he got to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. It really helped him explore new dimensions as an actor. “It was a big film and so I was really lucky enough to get such a break. The first challenge was to clear the auditions. And I understood from the very first audition itself that there was a lot of scope for improvement in me to discover myself again and again and again. It is quite useful as an actor to rediscover yourself,” he says.

“And then I applied it in all the films and web series that I have done since then. The idea is to leave the baggage that ‘I know this’. You have to leave that behind. You have to accept that ‘I don’t know anything.’ So, I would go to the set or meetings and just listen to the narrations. I would understand there what I have to do. That’s the best process I believe one should follow,” Kelkar further explains.

In the second season of the popular Zee5 series Rangbaaz — that’s been titled Rangbaaz Phirse — Sharad Kelkar once again gets to explore something very different. “As an actor I like to play with people’s expectations. Now people have seen me in The Family Man and so they will again create an image about me. So to break it I should do something else. Now, Rangbaaz Phirse is about a normal guy who wants to achieve something great in his life, but the circumstances plunge him into the world of crime where he gets trapped. So, I play Raja Phogat, the criminal kingpin who acts as catalyst that sets him on that path,” reveals Kelkar who is excited by the new prospects that the web has opened up for actors.

“It’s a golden time for actors. There is a lot of variety. First of all, if you have the potential you will be surrounded by the offers. There is no such thing as ‘lack of opportunities’ for creative people. It’s a beautiful phase to grow as an actor. Every third or fourth month you have the opportunity to play something new. So, you are not stuck to one character for years, which was the case when I had started doing television,” adds Kelkar who has also been doing some interesting work in the Marathi film industry as well.

“Believe me, there is so much scope in Marathi cinema. People think that I have done a lot of work there but frankly I haven’t done as much as I would have liked. I think I had just done 3-4 films during the last six years. I want to do some more work for the Marathi audiences also. So, I am planning a project now. Hopefully, in March it will go on the floor. I did produce one last to last year,” he says.

He believes that content wise Marathi cinema is one of the best in the word. “The stories that we have, the kind of talent which we have, it’s really amazing. But the exposure is a little less. Also because of the competition from Hindi cinema, it’s gets a little risky to release a Marathi film in a big way. So, content-wise we are really strong but the problem is the monetary part of it. But we all are working on it to get that bit sorted,” explains Kelkar, who will next be seen in Bipin Nadkarni’s Darbaan.

Om Raut’s Tanhaji starred the likes of Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan and Kajol, but it was the speculation regarding Sharad Kelkar’s portrayal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that’s created maximum curiosity amongst cinephiles ahead of the film’s release.

“Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a king of great stature. His brain was very sharp. These are the technical aspects of the character. But the emotional aspect of it is that in Maharashtra he comes next to god. I had a big responsibility on my shoulders — to not hurt anybody’s sentiments. So that pressure was always there. And who can tell me better than the director who had been writing it for the last three years,” he recalls.

Also, he reveals that the members of the creative team had been studying Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj for years. “Even the minutest details associated with him had been taken care of. So I was always ready to listen to the director and the creative team. After every take, I used to take his consent and only then we would go to the next. For me it was quite stressful at times, but there was great fun essaying the part. I think nobody had played Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Hindi cinema before and so it was a matter of great pride for me,” sums up Kelkar, who is chuffed by the grand success of Tanhaji.