Interview Marathi

No longer in competition with Varsha Usgaonkar, we have become mature: Kishori Shahane Vij

Kishori Shahane Vij speaks about her new play, Piano For Sale, where she is reuniting with Usgaonkar after a long time, and takes a trip down memory lane to the 1990s.

Kishori Shahane and Varsha Usgaonkar

Keyur Seta

Kishori Shahane Vij was one of the leading actresses in Marathi cinema in the 1990s, an era when comedy entertainers were the norm. Along with the likes of Ashok Saraf, Laxmikant Berde, Sachin Pilgaonkar and Varsha Usgaonkar, she, too, became a household name.

Now, after all these years, Shahane Vij and Usgaonkar will be seen together in a Marathi play, Piano For Sale, an adaptation of playwright Meher Pestonji’s English play of the same name.

Shahane Vij admitted there was an intensely competitive spirit between her and Usgaonkar in the 1990s. However, things have changed with both of them having settled down in life.

In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, Kishori Shahane Vij shared her equation with her long-time colleague, spoke about the experience of doing a play, and discussed the changes in Marathi cinema since her heyday. Excerpts:

How does it feel to get back to theatre?

I had started with theatre. Being a theatre person, this was always going to be my career and training ground. It made me confident and a better actress with dialogue delivery and all that.

Returning to theatre after so many years is a beautiful U-turn. It’s like homecoming.

In earlier days, the genre was different. It was more of comedy. I also did serious dramas like Aadhe Adhoore in Hindi and Mee Tujhya Pathishi Aahe in Marathi. But the rest of them were like Londonchi Soon, Indiat Honeymoon, Moruchi Mavshi, Darling Darling. 

What was the reason for choosing this play for your comeback?

Piano For Sale is a wonderful opportunity for me to return because this is about two actresses who have parallel roles. I was always looking to play such a character. I was getting offers all these years but not the ones I would be interested in. Or when good plays came my way, I didn’t have time.

You need to give a good amount of time for plays; like an entire month. In fact, I have left quite a few projects because of this play. But I don’t regret it at all because Piano For Sale will be a milestone in my career. 

You are reuniting with your 1990s colleague Varsha Usgaonkar after a long time.

It feels very good. We both have had our own long journeys. We are coming back together after 15-20 years. We both were heroines then and we used to work more for ourselves. The spirit of competition was different then. We were working on how to do better than the other.

But today, after all these years, we have developed a different maturity. Our understanding now is at a different level. And we both see to it that each other’s performance is better.

This is a big change. Both of us are the pillars of this play. People will like the play only if both of us do well. We want the play to be a hit. We don’t want to work for ourselves. We are not selfish anymore.

We are both married and settled and we both have some status in our own way. We are not insecure. Like I don’t want to be in competition now with her and vice versa. We ensure that we both look good. That is important since we are playing contemporary women in this play. 

How are the rehearsals going?

Superb! We both give suggestions to each other. We both also accept each other’s suggestions, but also give each other some space.

Director Ashish Kulkarni and producer Chaitanya Akolkar are very liberal. They don’t have any hard and fast rules. The best part about theatre is that you get to open up the character. You do the same character for a month, so you completely go inside it.

At the start, one character is strict and the other is soft. But later on it becomes the opposite. So, there is a lot of jugalbandi between both characters. 

Your first claim to fame was winning the Miss Mithibai title in Mithibai college [in Vile Parle, a suburb of Mumbai]. How has your journey since been?

Miss Mithibai was just a natural process. I hadn’t worked hard for it. It was just my smartness on stage while answering the questions (laughs). This was because I had already entered the field of theatre. I have been acting since I was in the eighth standard. My first film, Prem Karuya Khullam Khulla (1987), came when I was in the 11th class. And by the time I completed my graduation, I was a heroine in 20 films. I was Miss Gladrags runner-up in 2003-04.

So, basically, fitness has been my forte. Even today I feel I have to be fit, not just for myself but also for my family. Also to inspire other women. When they look at me and get inspired to do it, it’s an achievement for me. Whenever I go to any event, I urge women to be fit and pay attention to themselves because you are the pillar of your family. 

Kishori Shahane Vij

People still remember the 1990s where you acted in a number of entertaining films. What do you feel when you think of those days now?

I was lucky to be a part of that golden era. Stalwarts like Ashok Saraf, Laxmikant Berde, Sachin Pilgaonkar were acting with me. I was a newcomer. It was like a training ground for me in acting. Films of that era did very well and were appreciated by the audience. Today, because of satellite and digital, people are still watching them in re-runs because they are stressbusters.

There has been a huge change in the content of Marathi films as compared to the 1990s. Newer and experimental subjects are being tried. How do you look at this change?

It’s a wonderful, welcome change. It started with Shwaas (2003), which went to the Oscars. This gave an idea that the audience is ready for it. Before that, only one type of films was being made. Earlier, there was the tamasha genre, then comedy, then family dramas like Maherchi Saadi (1991), which also had me. But then Marathi cinema was going down. And Shwaas gave it a welcome breather.

These days such wonderful content is being tried in Marathi cinema. Right now even I am doing different types of films like Narbachi Wadi (2013) and Ek Daav Dhobipachhad (2008). Although they were comedies, they had different content in their own way. Then I did something like Khairlanjichya Mathyawar (2014). So, as a performer, we get to do something different and challenging.

What are your upcoming films?

I have a film coming up 15 August Bhagile 26 January (2019). I am playing the sports minister of Uttar Pradesh. I am playing the chief minister in Rajan (2019). It’s a period drama on the 1993 bomb blasts. In Jeevan Sandhya (2019) I have got an amazing character. It’s an author-backed role. I am playing Sandhya while Jeevan is being played by Ashok Saraf. In Hindi, I have Aap Ke Kamre Mein Koi Rehta Hai with Swara Bhasker.