Interview Marathi

Hope Dharmaveer becomes a turning point for me, says Prasad Oak

In an exclusive chat, the actor-director speaks about the dramatic fashion in which he bagged the role of Anand Dighe, his expectations from the box office, and how he wishes to juggle between acting and direction.

Prasad Oak in Dharmaveer

Keyur Seta

At the music launch of Pravin Tarde’s Dharmaveer (2022) last month, Prasad Oak said he has finally got a titular role to play after working in movies for over 20 years. The film is a biopic of the late Shiv Sena leader from Thane, Anand Dighe. Produced by Sahil Motion Arts and Zee Studios, Dharmaveer will be released in theatres tomorrow.

In an exclusive conversation with, actor-director Oak spoke about the dramatic fashion in which he bagged the role of Anand Dighe, his expectations from the film at the box office, and how he wishes to juggle between acting and direction. Excerpts:

How did you bag the role in Dharmaveer?

[Actor-producer] Mangesh Desai has been a friend. One day he called up and said, ‘You haven’t got what you deserve [as an actor].’ I said that’s true. He then asked me to come over for a look test. He didn’t tell me which movie the look test was for. [Make-up artiste] Vidyadhar Bhatte started working on my look. I asked him what is this about. He then said this is for the role of Anand Dighe saheb in his biopic. I was stunned. I felt as if the ground beneath my feet was swept away.

Prasad Oak in Dharmaveer

When I saw myself in the mirror, I couldn’t believe it. Vidyadhar Bhatte had done a great job. I myself was unable to digest the change in me. It is very important in a biopic to get the look right. And it came out so well in this film that when I saw myself, a lot of things as an actor started coming in my mind automatically. So whatever my performance has been in the film, a good deal of the credit goes to Vidyadhar Bhatte-kaka.

You said at the music launch that you are playing a title role for the first time after doing 95 films. What was the reaction of your near ones to this? And how important is this film for you?

When Mangesh told me this look test is for Dharmaveer, I called my wife and she asked which role I have been offered. I said they are casting me for Dighe saheb’s role. She was stunned. She told me to do well because he was such a large figure. She said I will get selected. And that’s what happened. When I sent her my picture in the look, she called and said she initially couldn’t make out it was me. She was happy for me and so were both my kids.

This film definitely holds high importance for me and will continue to do so. I got a title role after so many years and so many films. And the character I got to play is the one who is worshipped by crores. An actor needs a turning point after certain periods. For example, it was a turning point for me when I won Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Also when Kaccha Limbu (2017) won the National award. As an actor, there is a need to have a turning point and I hope that happens with this movie.

Prasad Oak with Makarand Padhye as Bal Thackeray in Dharmaveer

Apart from the look, you have come up with a specific voice for the character of Anand Dighe, which is noticeable from the teaser and the trailer.

I haven’t aimed to mould my voice like him. I have just added a base to it so that it suits the face. I did it to the extent to which Pravin told me. And I have done that only during particularly aggressive or intense dialogues. There are also scenes where my character is playing with small kids and talking to his sister. During these scenes, my voice is normal.

This is the first time you were directed by Pravin Tarde. How did you find him as a director?

This was the second experience. I did a guest appearance in his film Deool Band (2015). But yes, I got a proper experience with him only through this film.

Pravin is a highly passionate person. He used to work in his hotel room even after the day’s shoot ended. He used to think whether there were any mistakes in the scenes that were shot and used to plan the upcoming scenes.

I don’t think he sleeps for more than two or three hours a night. He is too energetic and his presence of mind is excellent. He comes up with certain dialogues while the scenes are being shot. I benefited a lot because of his qualities. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.

There is a lot of hype for the film. So obviously there are certain expectations at the box office. How much do you think about the business as an actor and in films where you are the director?

No, I don’t think about the box office. The producer does that. I only think about my art and how firm it can be. The same is the case as a director. I feel what is liked by people does well and what is not liked doesn’t do well.

Shiv Sena leader and long-time Dighe aide Eknath Shinde with Prasad Oak at the Dharmaveer music launch

At the music launch, Maharashtra minister Eknath Shinde touched your feet. What was the moment like? Was it planned?

No, how can it be planned? Suddenly, after seeing me in that look, his affection for Dighe saheb was reflected in his act. For a moment I was scared to see that Maharashtra's urban development minister is touching my feet. But the next moment I realized he is not touching my feet but Dighe saheb’s feet. He was his guru. And soon I got into the character and put my hand around his shoulder. Such things can’t be planned.

What do you generally look into before agreeing to do a film as an actor?

(Laughs) I have three categories. I do some projects for myself. I do some as a professional as there are financial reasons. And there are some projects I do for friendship. If a friend of mine is making a project, I do it even if it’s a passing shot just because they want Prasad Oak in it.

Sometimes there is a permutation combination of more than one factor. If a friend like Vikram Phadnis is making Smile Please (2019), where I get a chance to work with Mukta Barve and the role is also good, then I instantly say yes. Sometimes it’s only for financial reasons. Like the role is just okay and the people making it are also not known to me, then I think at least I should get some money out of it (laughs).

Over the past five or six years, you have also become a director. You have a couple of films in the pipeline as director. On which activity will you be concentrating more in the future?

My journey about Kaccha Limbu started in 2015-16. I then spent about two and a half years each for Hirkani (2019) and Chandramukhi (2022). As I have made three big films in the last six years, some people have just assumed that Prasad has stopped acting. But I have never given such a statement to anyone because I am an actor [first]. I have been working as an actor for so many years. Why will I stop doing that?

This assumption will be removed through Dharmaveer. I wish to work as both actor and director. I have always loved acting. Direction is my passion. So I will strike a balance between both and keep working.

What is the status of your forthcoming projects?

I am directing Bhadrakali and the biopic on Nilu Phule. Both films have been announced and work will start on both slowly. But after watching Dharmaveer, I feel people will say, ‘He is a good actor. He should be offered more work.’

How satisfied are you with your career till now?

I will never be satisfied till the end. The day I will be satisfied, I will be on the funeral pyre.