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'Vidya Balan is more famous...it's natural she got more coverage'
The traffic congestion began a few days ago. It's been a while since then. But things haven't changed. Ever since Marathi actor-writer Girish Pandurang Kulkarni won not one but two national awards for the Best Actor and Best Dialogue for Deool (The Temple), the telephone at his residence hasn't stopped ringing. Guests are pouring in. Congratulatory SMSes are choking the inbox of his cell phone. "I am overjoyed after winning the awards, but also really tired, " Girish confesses with a smile.
Girish has featured in several critically acclaimed films such as Valu (The Wild Bull) with which he made his big screen debut as an actor and co-writer in 2008. This was followed by Gabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain) in which he played the protagonist and Vihir (The Well) in which he co-wrote the screenplay. All the four films in which he has figured so far have been directed by his creative partner Umesh Kulkarni. "We started working together during our theatre days. Now, the two of us cannot do without each other, " he says. Incidentally, Umesh has been the recipient of numerous awards for his short as well as full-length films. The latest addition to that ever-lengthening list is Deool.
A mechanical engineer who left his full-time job to concentrate on writing and acting, Girish remembers the way Deool came into being. "While working on Vihir, we were searching for a well in rural Maharashtra. While travelling, I noticed that the penetration of technology had created an impression that luxury was just one minute away. People were selling land, cattle, skills, even God, in a mad rush to make money. " He pauses awhile, and adds, "In a market economy, everything is saleable I guess. " Through the film, the writer in him tried to address several questions. "One wanted to seek answers to queries like what is God, what is faith and, of course, what does one mean by real development, " he reflects.
After the story was in place, he pursued Umesh to make a film based on it. The director didn't take long to get convinced. "Making a film takes one year, even more. So one needs to have conviction in what one is doing. Otherwise, the process can become very prolonged and tiresome, " he affirms.
Deool has several well-known names including Nana Patekar and Naseeruddin Shah, the latter in a cameo. "Nanaji wasn't okay with the idea when we spoke over the phone. But when he finally agreed to meet me, he heard the story and agreed to do the film instantly. " Getting Shah wasn't difficult, though. "Naseersaab is really fond of Umesh and his body of work. He simply asked which role he wanted him to play. Although speaking in Marathi was difficult for him, he gave an outstanding example of sincerity and acting skills to all of us. "
Girish has received the biggest national honour that any actor can hope for. Yet, the focus seems to be on Vidya Balan, who has received the Best Actress award for The Dirty Picture. Is that fair? "I think such comparisons should not be made, " he asserts. "Bollywood carries the tag of Indian cinema, although that is not true. She is a lot more famous, and hence the nature of coverage is fair. What matters is that the jury chose me as the best actor, and I am really happy about it. Acknowledgment of good work is what matters. "
The writer-actor is working on Masala, whose idea has been inspired by Anna Hazare's agitation. "When the andolan took place, I realised that there was too much negativity around us. That everything seemed to be wrong is what people appeared to feel. Masala intends to show whether a simple man can become successful without resorting to corruption. "
After his recent triumphs, Girish's work will reach out to many more film lovers. So, any Bollywood plans? "We have been thinking of making a film in Hindi for the last couple of years. The idea is to ensure that more people watch our kind of cinema. But we haven't found the right story yet. Whenever we find one, we will certainly go ahead, " he says. As and when that happens, Hindi cinema will be a little richer for sure.
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