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Interview Marathi

In Samantar I have done everything I haven’t done before, says Swwapnil Joshi

The actor talks about his transformation for the Satish Rajwade web-series, cursing on screen for the first time, and box-office clashes in Marathi cinema.

Keyur Seta

If there is one actor in Marathi cinema who has acquired the image of a chocolate hero, it’s Swwapnil Joshi. He got this tag over the years with films like Duniyadari (2013), Mitwaa (2015), Tu Hi Re (2015), the Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai franchise and television series like Eka Lagnachi Dusri Goshta.

But in 2020 he is all set to turn the image on its head with Satish Rajwade’s web-series Samantar. Joshi plays an angry husband who is unhappy with the world. The innocent and smiling person will now be seen spouting cuss words and smoking packets of cigarettes.

Samantar has been adapted from author Suhas Shirvalkar’s book of the same name. It traces the journey of  Kumar Mahajan (Joshi), an unhappy middle-class husband and father. Although he does not believe in palmistry, he accompanies his friend on a visit to a mendicant. What the astrologer says changes his life and he goes on a mad hunt for a man named Sudarshan Chakrapani.

Juggling between television interviews and lunch, Joshi took time to sit down for an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, where he spoke about what went into his transformation for Samantar and the experience of hurling abuses on screen for the first time in his career. He also shared his views on the box-office clash that Marathi cinema witnesses often these days. Excerpts:

How did you come on board for Samantar? Did you just say yes because of the trust factor with Rajwade since you have done so many projects with him?

I and Satish have been discussing this since the past four or five years. We were sure of doing it but weren’t sure as to what format we should do it in. We never wanted to make a film out of it. From day one, Satish thought that I should play the lead role. But we weren’t sure about the format because when we started thinking about it, web was nowhere in the picture.

Since the last two or three years we have been thinking of doing it for the web as it has that web element. Like how an episode ends and freezes.

A still from Samantar

It is a huge high for me as a Marathi boy that my content is being released in four languages [Marathi, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu]. I think a show of this magnitude has never been attempted before in Marathi. Plus, it has English subtitles. So even if you don’t know any of these four languages, you can still watch it. Hence, it’s worldwide content. And the player and streaming are free. And it will be a big kick for me to see my work reaching a worldwide audience.

On a lighter note, how was it hurling cuss words on screen?

This is the first time I have hurled abuses. This is also the first time I have smoked so many cigarettes. Smoking is injurious to health and I don’t smoke. He [Kumar Mahajan] is smoking. not because it’s a heroic thing to do. But basically as a character he is so pained that he is making all the wrong choices. We wanted to underline the fact that the pressure is so much on him that he is abusing. He is also ill-treating his wife. We wanted to show how the pressure is getting to him.

On a lighter note, I have done everything in this show that I have never done before in my life.

So how much did you have to prepare to play such a character for the first time?

I had to prepare a lot. This is the longest I have stayed in character. I have been like this for a year. Even between shots I didn’t do any masti. I knew it was so difficult to get it. So if I have got the line I can’t afford to lose it. During the shoots I used to sit alone to one side. That character is fucked up in his head.

A still from Samantar

He is the kind of a character that if you just talk to him, he will just stand up and slap you. You would be like, what the fuck? I just said hello. He is the kind of character who is upset with the world. So, it was difficult to do this. Hence, it took time.

I guess this is also the first time you have shot on real locations, even in places where actual garbage is lying around.

It was amazing! It is because of web that we could explore very close to the actual thing. Most of the locations are real locations.

Various types of subjects are being tried in Marathi as well as Hindi cinema these days. But there is still a dearth of quality out-and-out thrillers.

I would say that my answer to this is our show. I will say we don’t know what other people are doing but we have done it.

There are Fridays when more than two or three Marathi films clash. Just recently, five Marathi films were released on the same day. Do you think the Marathi film industry should also get together and ensure such clashes don’t happen, like how the Hindi film stars do?

I think we should, but I also feel that my set of actors like Subodh [Bhave], me, Ankush [Chaudhari] always call up and discuss our releases. And we try not to clash with each other. Sometimes it is beyond you, but on most of the occasions we try and avoid it. So we are doing it at our level.

Most of the times you have worked with first-time directors. How different is it to work with a first-time director as compared to experienced ones?

Throughout my career I have done the first films of many directors like Satish [Rajwade], Sanjay [Jadhav], Swapna [Waghmare Joshi], then also in Mee Pan Sachin (2019). I always love working with first-time directors. I feel that hunger is important. How many films a filmmaker has made is secondary. How hungry you are to tell that story is what matters to me. This is because I am also hungry. This is the reason why after doing so much work I am doing a show like Samantar.

Teju [actress Tejaswini Pandit, who plays his wife in the web-series] just said that I am on a level where I don’t need to take risks. She said he can go the tried and tested way and say ‘safe khelo’. But I am trying to reinvent myself and I am loving it because that’s the hunger and that is who I am as an actor.

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