[dropcap]H[/dropcap]aving worked in the Marathi film industry for more than 27 years, Ajinkya Deo is no stranger to rules of the film industry. Here are a few excerpts of this veteran’s exclusive interview with Pandolin.
When did you start your career in the Marathi film industry?
I started my career in the Marathi film industry in the year 1985. It seems like a time in a galaxy far far away (laughs). I was given my first break by my uncle, Mr. Rajdutt, who is a big name in the Marathi film industry. He has won two international awards for his work. My first film’s name was Ardhangi (1985) and I received the State Award for the best actor for my performance in that film. I come from a film background with my parents, Ramesh Deo and Seema Deo, who were the stalwarts of Marathi film industry at their time. Till date I have worked in 92 films in Marathi, Hindi, Telugu and English languages.
Why Marathi films?
I have mostly worked in Marathi films because of the love for the language. My parents belonged to this genre and I started off as a successful actor here. Being a Maharashtrian myself, it comes easily to me. Also in Bollywood, I would say that I haven’t struck gold yet. I feel that I haven’t pursued Bollywood movies as much. Call it pure bad luck or bad PR skills, Bollywood hasn’t warmed up to me as much.
What about theatre?
I haven’t worked in the theatre industry. My parents were great theatre artists and I have had the opportunity to travel with them to many cities in India due to their career in theatre, but I wasn’t very fascinated by it. I always knew that I didn’t want to be a theatre artist.
What do you look for in a film before signing?
When I sign a movie I definitely look at the script. The role should be engaging. Apart from that, the director should be good to work with and most importantly, the producer should be really great. I believe for a movie to do well financially, it needs to be visible in the market. With so many movies being released every week, advertising and marketing of the movie play a very important role in getting the attention of the masses.
And of course, if the cast is really good, then it’s a treat to work in that film.
What are the major differences between the Marathi film industry and Bollywood?
There are a lot of differences between Bollywood and the Marathi film industry. Both of them have their pros and cons. Film making in Bollywood is a very practical, calculated and commercial business. There’s almost a mathematical precision to it. Whereas the Marathi film industry is run by families who make movies more out of passion. Obviously, Marathi movies make lesser money than Hindi films in the market because of the lack of visibility and popularity and they are also low budget films. But from personal experience, I have had a great amount of fun while working in Marathi films and I still share a great rapport with all my co-stars and other members of the crew.
Who do you look up to in the film industry?
As icons, I definitely look up to my parents. They both have contributed greatly to Marathi cinema. I feel that their styles of acting were simple great. They have had a great impact in shaping my acting skills. My dad was known as the Pran (life) of Marathi cinema.
Other than my parents, I look up to the great Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Every kid who grew up with me feels the same way about this great Bollywood icon. I had the honour to work with him in the movie, Indrajeet (1991).
Apart from Mr. Bachchan, I have also worked with a number of veterans in the world of Hindi cinema like Shatrughan Sinha, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, etc.
Was it difficult to establish yourself in the film industry?
Being born to such illustrious parents did put a lot of pressure on me. Because they were such great actors in the world of Marathi cinema, people came to watch my movies with their pencils sharpened. And as an amateur actor it can be quite frustrating to always try and live up to their expectations. The initial struggle to enter the film world was obviously lesser for me than someone who was not from the industry. But post entry it’s each man for himself. In the end it all comes down to the same thing. It’s how well you perform. If you don’t perform well in your movies, then it doesn’t matter who your parents are, the audience will not favour you. In fact it’s tougher when you are being constantly compared to your parents who have done a great job in the past. Apart from that, there is also internal politics to tackle. People don’t like to be rubbed the wrong way. Some of my failures can be attributed to these facts. But now, of course, I am past all that.
Did you always want to be an actor?
I never imagined that I would become an actor. But then I grew tall and handsome; at least that’s what the girls think (laughs). My dream was to become a pilot. I even went to the US to study computer science. But before going there I had done my first movie which did really well and my parents suggested that I should follow this path instead. So I came back from the US without completing my education and that’s how my career in acting kicked off.
Marathi films Vs. Bollywood?
There was a time when Marathi films were not doing very well. Maharashtrians still prefer watching Hindi films rather than their own regional films. It’s not like South India here, where regional movies are viewed much more than Hindi films. And let’s face it. Bollywood is right here in Mumbai. So, after being constantly pitted against 30 to 40 crore budget movies in Bollywood, the Marathi film industry took a bad hit. A Marathi film is made within a budget of about three to four crore. But now, I am happy to say that this is a thing of the past.
The quality of movies has improved incredibly in the Marathi film industry. This can be attributed to the fact that more money is being pumped into the making of films and also, a new breed of directors have entered the arena. Their thought processes are more creative and modern as they are inspired largely by world cinema. That has changed the way people perceive Marathi films.
What kind of roles do you prefer?
The kind of roles that I generally choose is main stream. They are either emotionally heavy or action packed. But I sure don’t mind doing some experimental roles once in a while.
What kind of projects are you involved in at the moment?
I have recently finished shooting for a film named David. It’s a Hindi film starring Neil Nitin Mukesh. I play the role of a RAW agent here. Its action packed. I am also a part of the Hindi adaptation of the famous television series abroad called 24. I am co-producing it with actor, Anil Kapoor. It’s being directed by my brother, Abhinav Deo.
The performance you would like to be remembered for..
I would like to be remembered for my lead performance in this Marathi film called Sarja (1987) directed by my uncle, Rajdutt. It’s a story about a common man at the time of Shivaji, the great. I won a National award for my part. Sarja, in Marathi, means the son. I was bare bodied in that film, donning only a Dhoti. It was a tough role for me as it was the second film of my acting career.
Any suggestions for aspiring actors?
I would tell all aspiring actors to be true to themselves and their art. When you are young, it’s very easy to get swayed and distracted by the beauty and the lure of money all around you, especially in the film world. So, it’s very important to have a good head on ones shoulders and the rest will follow.
As told to – Trishna Guha