Interview Marathi

Playing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a big responsibility, says Chinmay Mandlekar


Mandlekar, who played the Maratha king in Digpal Lanjekar's Pawankhind (2022), has also portrayed him in the previous historical movies Farzand (2018) and Fatteshikast (2019).

Suyog Zore

Chinmay Mandlekar played the role of the 17th century Maratha warrior king Shivaji in Digpal Lanjekar's historical epic Pawankhind (2022). The actor played the same role in Lanjekar's previous films, Farzand (2018) and Fatteshikast (2019).

"When Digpal Lanjekar offered me Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's role, I was overwhelmed", Mandlekar told Cinestaan.com. "Playing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a big responsibility, so there was some pressure too. But with each film I became more confident about my portrayal."

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From yesteryear star Chandrakant Mandhare to Amol Kolhe and now Sharad Kelkar, many have raised the bar high for those seeking to portray Shivaji in cinema. Asked about the inevitable comparisons with their performances, Mandlekar said, "I have huge respect for Dr Kolhe, Chandrakant Mandhare and Sharad Kelkar. All three have done a stupendous job in portraying Chhatrapati Shivaji. Even getting compared to them is a huge achievement for me."

Mandlekar also praised his producers for sticking with their plan for a theatrical release for the film (Pawankhind was released in theatres across Maharashtra on 18 February 2022. The film is now available on Amazon Prime Video as well.)

"The film was ready for two years," he recalled. "We had no idea we would have to wait for two years to bring our dream project to the audience. I really appreciate that our producers were ready to wait for such a long period. It was a risky move. They could have probably recovered their investment if they had gone to some OTT platform.

"But they knew this is not a film you should watch on your smartphone," he continued. "This is a film that should be enjoyed on the big screen. And that's why they held on to their investment for such a long time."

Pawankhind has a lot of action sequences and, unlike in Farzand, Mandlekar also had to perform some action scenes in this film.

Speaking about the preparation for those scenes, he said, "Like a boot camp, we had a training camp for 15 or 20 days before shooting began. Almost every member of the cast had to undergo this training because this time the canvas was larger than for the previous two films. You even see Mrinal-tai [Mrinal Kulkarni, who plays Jijabai, Shivaji's mother] doing some sword fighting in the film. Everyone had to undergo proper training in sword fighting, so things become easier during the shoot."

Apart from the physical training, Mandlekar read a few historical documents relating to the episode. "I read a few letters of Chhatrapati Shivaji," he said. "Then there are some historical novels by historians."

The film was shot on location near Rajgad fort. Sharing his experience of shooting in the tough terrain, Mandlekar said, "It was physically challenging. We shot in this tough terrain near Rajgad for almost 13 days. Some of us got injured, too.

"But what helped us was the camaraderie among the cast and crew and our belief that we are doing something great. So we made sure minor issues don't stop us. If we were low on confidence or facing some problem, we would simply think how tough it must have been for those who actually fought in the valley. Compared to what they went through, our troubles were nothing. So this would give us confidence to get going again."

The film has many whistle-worthy as well as thrilling moments, but Mandlekar's personal favourite is a more subtle, emotional scene. "The scene where Baji Prabhu and Shivaji Maharaj part ways for the last time is my most memorable scene," the actor said.

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