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“I have always been in the right hands”

Vaibhav Tatwawdi is better known as the actor who played Chimaji Appa in Bajirao Mastani, a performance that made him a household name. A fount of abundant talent, it was not long before Tatwawdi bagged Marathi films such as Coffee Ani Barach Kahi and his first action-packed film Mr And Mrs Sadachari. We spoke to the actor on him bagging another film with his mentor, Mahesh Manjrekar

Tell us about your role in the film with Mahesh Manjrekar.

Mahesh Manjrekar is experimenting with a new genre, which he has not touched for five to six years. He will soon make a formal announcement about casting. I am very excited about this project for many reasons, one of them being the casting and the way the film is being mounted. I play the role of a guy who the audience will immediately relate to and immediately like.

 How were you approached for this role?

This is not my first collaboration with Mahesh Sir. I have done a lot of work with him but as a producer. I have not shared the relationship of actor-director with him. I have a done a film as well as a Marathi serial, both of which were produced by him. One day, he called me and told me that he was doing something different and interesting and wanted me to come on board.  He mentioned that he wanted me to play the lead. When I heard the story, I immediately said yes and this will be my biggest film of 2017.

What kind of brief were you given and how are you preparing for this role?

The film is still in the scripting stage and it may go on the floors in July. The person who wrote the dialogue for Natsamrat will be writing this film as well. Preparation has already started as per the narration. This will be the first film that I shoot in 2017. Before the film gets over, I will not sign any other projects. So I am completely focused on this film.

Are you excited to work with Mahesh Manjrekar?

As I said before, I have never worked under him, with him helming a film. It is the first time he will be directing me, and I am excited about that. Once the formal announcement is made, the people and the media will be excited to see the casting of the film.

What is the one thing you like about your character, and are you happy with the way it has shaped up?

I’m very happy with the way the character has shaped up. The thing I like most about this character is the guy’s vulnerability. I guess it’s there in every person but sometimes we do not accept it. The best part about being an actor is that you can actually accept the vulnerability inside yourself when you play a character. So, in a nutshell, the best things about the character are his vulnerability and his journey in life. I find this guy very authentic as are his emotions. When you read the script or watch the film, there is an instant connection with this character. You tend to fall in love with him.

What is the one takeaway from this film?

Whenever someone asks me this question, I say that everyone will have a different takeaway. Each one’s perception will be different. But if you ask me what I take away from this movie, it is to believe in relationships.

What are you expecting from the audience?

I am sure once the audience watches the film, they will love it and accept it wholeheartedly.

You have another film, Lipstick Under My Burkha, coming up. Tell us about that.

This film is directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha. It is very interesting and the genre is different. When people watched the trailer, they were surprised that Prakash Jha was associated with it. We had a screening of the film at MAMI and the audience totally appreciated it and we got some crackling reviews for it. It also screened at the Tokyo Film Festival and a few others.

Jha Sir will make a formal announcement about the release of the film. Shooting-wise, I had a great time shooting with Ratna Ma’am (Ratna Pathak Shah) and Konkana Ma’am (Konkona Sen Sharma). Sushant Singh also features in the film. So it’s an ensemble cast. Hats off to the director, it has been shot very nicely.

It’s a woman-oriented film. What kind of role did you play in it?

I play the role of a guy named Manoj, who lives in Bhopal. Even though it is a woman-centric film, I have a meaty role. The reaction of the audience was very promising after the screening at MAMI.

You have worked in Bollywood, you have worked in Marathi films. What are the similarities and differences in both these industries?

The similarity would have to be talent and there is an abundance of talent in both industries. I don’t think there is any real difference between the industries although there is a difference when it comes to production. There is also a difference in the budgets. The difference between two films is always the budget.

For example, I have acted in Bajirao Mastani, which had a humungous budget and was produced on a large scale. On the other hand, Lipstick Under My Burkha had a moderate budget. The same goes for the Marathi film industry. You have films of high, moderate and low budgets even there. I did Coffee Ani Barach Kahi, which was successful even though it had a low budget. The budget completely changes the set-up. So, rather than saying that there is a difference between the Marathi and Hindi film industries, I would say that there is a difference in the budgets in every film industry.

What has your journey been like in the film industry, so far?

The journey has been fantastic but it has also been a learning experience for me. For a guy who has done his schooling and junior college in Nagpur, engineering in Pune from COEP (College Of Engineering, Pune)… For me, the journey is from Nagpur to Mumbai via Pune. That is how I see it.

I consider myself very lucky because everyone works hard, everyone has talent, but it is equally important to be in the right place at the right time, and in the right hands. By God’s grace and with my parents’ blessings, I have met the right people who have guided me in the right way.

In college, I was guided by the right people; my seniors were very nice and helpful. In Pune, I met the right people, who guided me to the right casting directors. Then came Mahesh Manjrekar Sir, then Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Prakash Jha. I am new to this industry but these four to five years have been very rewarding. I have learnt a lot and there is a long way to go.

What do you have to say about the Marathi film industry, in general?

As I said earlier, there is an abundance of talent and people from all industries say that the Marathi film industry is the best place to experiment with subjects. The acceptance of the Marathi audience when it comes to different subjects is tremendous. This is the best time for an actor like me to be in the Marathi film industry.

What are your upcoming projects?

I did a film recently which is tentatively titled Love Express directed by Chandrakant Kanse, who also directed Dagdi Chawl, and discussions are underway about a sequel to the film Coffee Ani Barach Kahi. Also, there is Mahesh Sir’s film. So I have around four films. There are a lot offers and openings for me in Bollywood as well. Let’s see how things work out.

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