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Exclusive: To still get such affection is unbelievable, says Amol Palekar

Veteran actor-director Amol Palekar speaks about his return to theatre with a new play, Kusur.

Keyur Seta

Veteran actor-director Amol Palekar recently returned to the stage after 25 years with the Hindi play, Kusur: The Mistake, adapted from the Danish film Den Skyldige (2018) by his wife, writer Sandhya Gokhale.

Palekar's return to theatre was special also because the first show was held on 24 November, the day the actor-director turned 75.

The return was the outcome of the love he has continued to receive from fans, which he found pleasantly surprising. “Not being seen in today’s times means people tend to forget," Palekar told Cinestaan.com in an exclusive conversation. "They forget very easily, which is normal. Despite that, the kind of love, affection people keep expressing whenever they meet me was something unbelievable.”

Palekar was often asked why he would not act again. People kept telling him they missed the kind of performance he gives. “So, I kept thinking there must be something I must have left behind that despite this long gap people still remember,” said Palekar.

Kusur, a social thriller, sees Palekar play retired assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Ashok Dandavate, who volunteers to keep a check on emergency services in Mumbai. His work includes taking calls from distressed citizens who dial the police emergency number 100 and providing them immediate help. Dandavate gets involved in one such emergency call by a woman (Preeta Mathur) who seems to be in danger from her husband.

It was Palekar's wife, writer Sandhya Gokhale, who came up with the idea of Kusur. “Five years ago, when I turned 70, I went back to my first love, painting," he said. "She said now at 75, why don’t I go back to my second love? That thought was complementary to what I was thinking about repaying theatre. She not only expressed this thought but also came up with this play. The moment I read it, I felt, wow, there can’t be a better way of completing the circle.”

Palekar had made it clear that he would only do 25 shows of Kusur. Asked why he had imposed this limit, he said, “Twenty-five shows is a very realistic way of assessment, taking into consideration my age, energy level, the strain and demands that this play has. You must have seen that for 80 minutes continuously there is not only physical but also tremendous emotional demand.”

The end of the premiere show of Kusur at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) saw the entire audience shower birthday wishes on Palekar. “This was probably the best way to celebrate," said Palekar. "You saw that apart from the standing ovation, almost 1,200 people jam-packed in the auditorium sang 'Happy Birthday'. What better way can there be?”