Making a small beginning as an actor in Marathi, Sayaji Shinde is now a popular screen villain and a character artiste with a special entity in Telugu. Long back, he conquered the Tamil film industry in and as Subramaniya Bharatiyar. Despite his cumulative success path in South, he couldn’t make a scratch in Bollywood. “I am like an alien in Mumbai, and we hardly get any chances there… for the main reason that I am doing South films,” he says. “I believe in the powers of Panch Maha Booth (Sky, Water, Fire, Earth and Air). Other than these, nothing exists. I want to spread this message to people. Though everybody is aware of it, nobody takes it seriously. This is the ultimate truth. The complete realization of this alone makes you a real human being.” He vehemently denounces narrow thinking, particularly in a creative field of moviemaking. Idlebrain’s exclusive interview with him:
What inspired to become an actor?
It didn’t happen overnight. Also, it was not a sudden decision on my part. The strong ambition to become an actor was there inside me, when I was a child. As I grew, I felt like an actor surrounded by humanity. Everybody is an actor in life and he knows it perfectly. After all we (artistes) perform on both pedestals – on the screen and off the screen. I believed that a form of art like a drama, street play or even a village dance has immense public message. A rude street play in village has a noble message for the people – unity, harmony and peaceful living. That is society. A drama is a little more sophisticated, making people to think and form conclusions of their own. Coming to films they have a wider reach. They not only influence the public, but have become the part and parcel of our lives. All these factors combined prompted me to become an actor.
There is a feel that artistes from the North are flooding the South as villains. This led to the deprivation of chances for the locals?
(Sharply but with a pleasant smile) Who is local and who isn’t? The moment I did the great saint poet Subamaniya Bharati in Tamil my conviction that I should belong to the Nation became solid in me. Words like “Locals and Non-Locals” are the result of frustration and lethargy. Why do the Telugu people like me? Wherever I go… in Railway stations, airports or temples, people immediately recognize me, smile at him, shake hands with me, say I thrilled them a lot and even children knew me. This way, how can I fit into such a narrow criticism?
You are from Marathi field. Did you make any trials in Bollywood?
During the initial days I did. But now that I got recognition here as a busy artiste, I don’t feel like trying again. But, you know this? It will surprise you. I am like an alien there in Mumbai. They think that I am an artiste from South, though they perfectly know that I am a Maharashtrian. That way a narrow ledge is formed between Northern Artistes from South and Northern producers. I don’t oppose their vision lacking judgment. I only feel pity form them.
Tell us how this narrow vision affected you personally?
Instead of personal view, I will make you understand from the broader perspective. When Raj Thakre of Shiva Sena launched a tirade against Amitabh Bachchan that he tilted more towards Uttar Pradesh, I openly criticized it. See, if I like a particular place, state or country, you can’t blame me for that. And by doing so, I am not alienating myself from the place I had opportunities. All this bland talk is politics. (He stood in attention and his fists kept tight) Why did they (teachers) make us take pledge aloud that – All Indians are my brothers and sisters? People who think that they are something and others are something else are nothing but a decomposed stuff.
These days, big artistes and directors are turning into producers? What about you?
Yes. I am also a producer. But, very few people know this. I liked the film – Aa Naluguru – very much. I remade it in Marathi. It is Mazi Manasa. I can proudly say that I produced that film not for money. But, I liked the subject. The story is universal. I tried my level best to take the film to the maximum number of audience. If I had done in Hindi, it would have been a roaring it.
Did Mazi Manasa bring you any bucks?
No. I incurred a huge loss. But, I am not bothered. I already said I did the film not for money. But, I have a strong desire to remake this again in Hindi. If not possible, at least I desperately want to dub it into Hindi. I sought Madan (story writer) for the remake or dubbing rights in Hindi, but couldn’t get it. I have been trying and trying. In case, he doesn’t give me, I am not going to be disappointed. I will once again release the same film in Marathi with a lot of publicity next time. My whole and sole aim is that all people in Maharashtra should see Mazi Manasa.
Even at 50+, you look very agile and energetic. What’s the secret?
I do yoga. Other than that I always keep my mind open to positive thinking. Everybody speaks big big words about positive thinking. But for me, positive thinking is very simple. Not to allow negative thinking. That’s all. Any need to elaborate… its love for all, and hate towards none. If anybody says badly against me when I really am not, he will be inviting trouble in to his mind. If I feel about it, I am not really positive. Just keep going ahead, not caring for sneers. To a great extent, you can stop aging with this weapon.
What inspires you most?
I like children very much. I do watch a number of children everyday. Even today morning, I saw a group of schoolchildren. Their innocent smiles, talking and walking … everything is a miracle. Childhood is the only part in a man’s life which is free from malice and hypocrisy. That’s why I like it and I love it and I get inspired by it.
Tell us about your childhood?
All the riches in the world are not equivalent to my childhood. I was born at a remote village Velekamathi in Maharashtra. The village is surrounded by jungles and hills. Ours was a farmer’s family. My parents used to toil a lot. I still remember their struggle. Most of the villagers sweat out for their daily bread from sunrise to sunset. In the evening and on festivals, we all would join together and make merriment. There were no divisions and differences among us. Still I have a good number childhood friends.
You are a superb screen villain. But these days you are also doing character roles?
Why can’t I? See, when I came to film industry, I never had any inhibitions. I never craved for any image. I just wanted to become an artiste and I could. Whenever I think of my struggle to become an actor, I get humbler and humbler. Still there are crores of people who are more talented than me, but they haven’t got chances. Such being the case, I should never discriminate the roles. Every character is important for a film. If I do the villain, people should think that I am the villain. If I do the role of a scavenger, I should do like the one in real life. That’s my goal. During my initial days, I did the role of Hijra in a Marathi film Dharmia and I got the State Award. At a drama, I did the same role. The audience did bet on me that I was a real Hijra. When I did the role of a pehalwan (thug), people thought I was really a pehalwan. If I don’t do justice to my roles, it is better I left the profession.
What do you do in your past time?
I keep myself breathlessly busy. But once in a while, I do spend time to regale myself. It is a must for everybody. I have a beautiful farmhouse at Lonawala, about 100 km from Mumbai. I enjoy the trips with my dearest friends. Some of them are good singers. Some of them are very talkative persons. Some of them are astrologers….poets and like that. Such recreation is one of the factors which keep me fit.
What are your hobbies?
Hiking, listening to classical songs and spending time with friends. (I give ultimate importance to friendship.) I also wrote one play on Panch Maha Booth concept.
Did you ever feel disappointed in your career?
Yes. I was removed from my first play during childhood. I was also removed from the first stage performance. I was also removed from my first film. After all these years, I have done more than 300 films. But those people who had removed me are still there. The disappointment in me later worked into perseverance.
What’s your concept of Panch Maha Booth?
I believe in the powers of Panch Maha Booth (Sky, Water, Fire, Earth and Air). Other than these, nothing exists. I want to spread this message to people. Though everybody is aware of it, nobody takes it seriously. This is the ultimate truth. The complete realization of this alone makes you a real human being.
So when are you going to produce again?
Definitely, I will take up if I get the right opportunity. Recently, I am getting a number of phone calls and a good number of people meet. One person came to me and said: “Shindeji, we will give you Fifteen Karod rupees. You produce a film. You are at liberty to do whatever you want.” But, I told them – I am not the kind of a person to produce films with the money of others. I am just an actor… Why should I budge to temptations? It will rob me of peace of mind. If I want I can cheat them. But, is it necessary for me?
What’s your favorite film?
Recently I watched Chak De India and I liked it very much.
What’s your ambition?
My ambition is to give pleasure to all as an actor. Beyond that, I want to spread the message of Panch Maha Booth. Everyman should identify himself with these sacred elements.
click here for another interview of Sayaji Shinde
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