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Interview Marathi

Exclusive: Kashinath Ghanekar biopic will shock people, says director Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande

On the thespian's 86th birth anniversary today (Ghanekar was born on 14 September 1932), the filmmaker talks about his reasons for making the biopic and choosing Subodh Bhave to play the lead.

Keyur Seta

Today's generation may have heard about the aura of legendary stage and film artiste Dr Kashinath Ghanekar from their parents or grandparents. Or maybe they only know the name from the popular auditorium in Thane, near Mumbai, named after him.

With books becoming a dwindling medium, the best option to know about the life and work of any artiste in detail today may be film.

Director Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande has taken up the task of narrating the life story of the late artiste in his directorial debut Aani… Dr Kashinath Ghanekar, with the famous actor Subodh Bhave essaying the lead role.

On Ghanekar's 86th birth anniversary, Deshpande spoke about his project in an exclusive interaction with Cinestaan.com. Asked what made him choose a biopic of Ghanekar for his debut, he said, “The one special reason was madness. Over the years, we have seen many legends, be it performers, painters, writers or actors,” he said. “When I say artists, I don’t mean only entertainers. Even Einstein is an artist for me. A common trait among all these artists is madness. This trait was magnified in this man [Ghanekar]. He was madness and, on a personal level, this is what I connected to.”

It was later that the filmmaker found Ghanekar’s persona relatable. “I realized that there are similarities in how I am as a person and how he was," Deshpande said. "Of course, that was over a period of writing. Whatever little I had heard of him, there was a common element of madness. So, the one reason why I wanted to make a film on him was his madness, and genius comes with madness.”

Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande

The next obvious question was the choice of Bhave to play Ghanekar. “Subodh is a versatile actor," said the director. "Most of the Marathi film actors are good because they come from theatre. But a lot of actors or writers who come from theatre have a tendency to not understand the medium of cinema. Cinema is a different medium. But Subodh is that rare person who has understood the medium and adapted himself well to it.”

Explaining the casting decision further, he said, “More than that what also counts is that Kashinath Ghanekar was a household phenomenon in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. And Subodh’s persona or image lends itself to be accepted as an iconic figure among the masses.”

This will be Bhave’s third biopic after Balgandharva (2011) and Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush (2015). 

Deshpande said he got an unexpected reaction from Bhave when he approached the actor with the subject. “After my first narration, I asked how he found it," the director said. "He went to the washroom, came back, and said, ‘Balgandharva was everything that I was. Lokmanya was everything that I was. This film is everything that I am not.’ That kind of threw me off. Here is a man who as a person is completely different from the character.” 

But that was fine by Deshpande. “I thought we can obviously work it out," he said. "Now that you see Subodh’s performance in this film, it works in his favour. Then you [as an actor] don’t overdo it and you give yourself to the director, which he did. That’s how we were able to create magic. The other obvious reasons why I cast Subodh is that he is versatile and a good actor.” 

Biopics in India, especially in Hindi, are often accused of being goody-goody towards the subject. But Deshpande promised us this would not be the case with Aani… Dr Kashinath Ghanekar. “This biopic will be completely different from any other you have seen in India before," he said boldly. "It is going to shock people when it comes out. This is because of the creative choices done on the film. We are not here to clean anyone’s image.” 

The first-time filmmaker credited the producer with giving him a free hand. “I would like to mention Mr Nikhil Sane, business head of Viacom Motion Pictures,” said Deshpande. “If it were not for his backing for the edgy content and the no-holds-barred fashion we have gone about it, it wouldn’t have been possible.”