In his latest award-winning Marathi-language film Anumati, Vikram Gokhale, 67, plays a helpless man who is about to lose his wife. The film won India’s National Film award this year and also picked up the Best Actor and Best Film gongs at the New York Indian Film Festival 2013
What made you decide to take the role in Anumati?
It happened in a moment, when the director came to me and asked me to listen to the script. Once I heard it, I immediately felt strongly about it. Anumati is about an old man who knows that he is losing his wife, a woman who has been by his side through all of life’s ups and downs. She is on life support but he refuses to pull the plug, despite knowing that he won’t win this battle. The film has a strong message about the importance of relationships; it was an opportunity to be part of something of substance. That was my first -impression.
What was the toughest part about doing this role?
The toughest part of any intense role is to not cry. It is very easy to cry; the tension dissipates and the audiences relax. But I wanted to disturb people. A sign that a movie is good is when people are silent on the way home.
You took a seven-year sabbatical from the film industry. What made you come back?
When I left, everyone said: “Gokhale is a great actor.” Back then, films were my livelihood but the money I made then was inadequate and it was not possible to make ends meet.
I walked away from everything because I realised that if you want to work here, you need to be financially strong. I didn’t have that. But I came back stronger; now, nothing bothers me.
You have refused to accept Filmfare and state awards in the past. Do you think the awards process has changed now?
I have been refusing awards since 1988 because I know how and why they are handed out. Some awards are manipulated, others are given to whoever was popular that year, still others seem to always go to a particular group of people.
I have never worked for awards; I do not want them. Acting is not about good looks or what you’re wearing, but craftsmanship; it’s not about your physique but the nuances in your character. I have done more demanding roles than the one in Anumati but never expected to be awarded for them.
Gajendra Ahire, the director of Anumati, said he would like to do a Hindi remake with Amitabh Bachchan or Naseeruddin Shah in the lead. Would you sign up if you were offered the opportunity?
If Ahire were to ask me, yes, I would do it. Why should I give up the chance? I won’t claim that I could do better than Amitabh or Naseer in the Hindi remake but I do know it would be better than Anumati because I start reassessing myself the moment I finish a film.
I tend to be critical of my work. There is no heroism in doing a shot in one take – it can always be improved upon.
Between Marathi and Hindi cinema, which is more progressive today?
Mainstream directors and producers are definitely improving. The content is good but, unfortunately, they have to add “masala” to their films to pull the crowds to the cinemas. The actors today are doing their job quite well. I have started enjoying Hindi cinema again – some of it, at least. Twenty-five years ago, Hindi films didn’t pay attention to logic or content. Now, the new directors and actors are trained to think independently. Also, they are well educated and exposed to world cinema, two things that were lacking earlier.
Marathi cinema also went through a bad phase 30 years ago. The content was decent but the execution was poor and the acting below par. The films today are mostly good but all seem to have masala. But films are films. I won’t categorise them as art-house or commercial. In the end, it is also a business.