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Dilip Prabhavalkar reads out Hemu Adhikari’s heartfelt letter at memorial meeting

Marathi film and stage veteran says Adhikari was a friend, philosopher and guide. Adhikari's daughter Shalaka shares some interesting tidbits about her father.

Keyur Seta

Veteran film and theatre artiste Hemu Adhikari, who died on 21 May, was part of some revolutionary theatre like Badal Sircar’s Juloos. But the new generation knew him more for the pensioner's Gandhigiri sequence in Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006).

A memorial function was organized for Adhikari yesterday in Mumbai by a collection of theatre groups and scientific, anti-superstition and communist organizations. The event was attended by several people from Marathi theatre. One of the prominent speakers at the event was veteran actor Dilip Prabhavalkar who reminisced about his theatre connection with Adhikari. 

“He worked in my plays Hasva Fasvi and Chuk Bhool Dyavi Ghyavi," Prabhavalkar recalled. "We worked together for 15-20 years.”

Prabhavalkar said he stopped performing Hasva Fasvi after completing 750 shows. Adhikari, who was involved in about 200 of those shows, was one of the few people who agreed with Prabhavalkar’s decision.

Prabhavalkar read an excerpt of a letter written to him by Adhikari after the play was discontinued. “He said, ‘It was the first time I [Adhikari] did so many shows of a play'," Prabhavalkar read out. "'Hasva Fasvi gave me a lot, especially a different experience. It was my first commercial play. It was a different experience for an artiste like me to perform in jampacked auditoriums. Barring a few shows of Juloos, how can someone from experimental theatre get such an experience’?”

Also read: Amol Palekar remembers Hemu Adhikari and their fight against the Emergency

Speaking about his character in the play, who was called Waghmare, Adhikari wrote, “I always had a doubt in mind that I might appear too sophisticated for this Waghmare. That’s why I tried bringing my own antics into it.”

Adhikari agreeing with the decision to discontinue the play gave Prabhavalkar comfort at the time. “I received a lot of strength because of this letter," the septuagenarian said. "He was an exception to agree to my decision and that too while being a part of the play. We had a great experience doing the shows in the US. The play was appreciated a lot there and for that, a large part of the credit goes to Hemu.”

He recalled Adhikari’s contribution during the US tour of the play. “Though I was playing six roles on stage, Hemu played as many roles behind the scenes — correspondence and organization of the tour, set design, coordination with the organizers, solving the sudden difficulties and playing the important character of Waghmare,” he said.

Recalling Adhikari’s qualities, Prabhavalkar continued, “He received love and respect wherever he worked. He was a friend, philosopher and guide for me. Such people are rare. We are very fortunate that we received his company.”

The occasion also saw Adhikari’s daughter Shalaka speaking about her father. “He received his strength from our mother," she said. "They used to work together in plays when they were in college. But after marriage, mother encouraged him to go ahead." 

She shared an interesting aspect of Adhikari's nature. “He used to accompany Mother to buy vegetables and they used to walk on Tilak Bridge [in Dadar, Mumbai]," she said. "People used to recognize him and talk among themselves. But it used to have no effect on him and he never reacted. I feel it was because of his simplicity that he used to merge well in the crowd.”