Kedar Shinde is acting in and hasdirected the remake of his grandfather Shahir Sable's socio-political play ANDHALA DALTAY for producer Sunil Barve's 'Herbarium'- a project that is reviving old Marathi theatre classics. Marathi theatre’s whiz director is also rejoicing the ongoing success of PUNHA SAHI RE SAHI which will soon complete 2500 shows!
It's been a long time since you have acted on stage, isn't it?
Oh yes! Way back in 1986 my aunt Charushila Sable made me join grandpa's show, 'Lokdhara'. I was only 13 then and was on the way to join Bhosala Military School in Nasik. Since the show was running short of actors, she stopped me. The last time I acted on stage was in ALL THE BEST. I am back after a long gap in ANDHALA DALTAYA. I play the role essayed by Shahir Sable, my ajoba.
What inspired you to revive ANDHALA DALTAY?
ANDHALA DALTAY was a landmark play for many reasons - it is said to be the precursor to the launch of the Shivsena. The play highlights the labour pains of the birth of the state of Maharashtra with Mumabai as its capital. It addresses the sad state of affairs of the Marathi manoos in Mumbai; it prods the nonchalant Marathi persons to fight for their own rights. Although the play has not been published, we had the original script at home. When I went through it, I found that every dialogue and scene in the play is relevant even today. Moreover, I would be happy to share this wealth of thought and philosophy with the new generation. It was re- launched exactly after 45 years on August 13 2011.
Your evergreen blockbusterSAHI RE SAHI has had 2222 shows and is still going strong in its new version. Rewinding to the concept stage - how did you hit upon this story with quadruple roles?
That was 2001, when I had already directed eight plays and was busy spinning 36 episodes every month. I was itching to do something challenging and so was Bharat Jadhav acting in several multi-starrers then. Those were the times when we both wanted to do something startling on stage. If we wanted to woo the remote-happy audience with short attention spans - I knew I had to write a fast-paced script. As fast as the TV. That's when I came up with the concept of four lookalike characters - of these we decided to include Galgale's character that Bharat used to play on occasions.
When I sat down to write the play, on the very firs day - I predicted that the play would create history. I had a strong intuition about it...sarswati bolun jaate...
In percentage, how would you split the credit for the stupendous success of the play with Bharat Jadhav? After all, no mean task to play four characters simultaneously!
I would put it this way - I am the mother of the play and Bharat is the father. Bharat is the soul of the play...SAHI RE SAHI starts and ends with Bharat Jadhav. No one can replace him.
Evidently there is a great synergy between the two of you. How would you describe it?
We met while acting in grandpa's 'Lokdhara' - I was 13 and he was 20 then - I would call him Bharat dada. Then we became friends - he became Bharat to me and now we are so close to each other that he's Bhartya to me. After Dilip Prabhawalkar, I would rate him the most genuine actor on the Marathi stage today. He is so sincere and disciplined that even after a decade and over 2000 shows - if he wishes to ad-lib any line - he asks me about it first.
But his biggest attribute is his concern for the SAHI RE SAHI team. Recently he had a 40-days' outdoor shoot of a Marathi film in Bangkok. Before leaving for the shoot he summoned the whole team and handed over cash compensation to each of 27 members - he didn't want to deprive them of their income. And when 15 days of the same shoot were cancelled, he promptly called the producer to schedule shows on his return.
How do you get him to be in four places simultaneously on stage?
That's for the viewers to guess! Even Raj Thackeray watched SAHI RE SAHI twice sitting in the audience and once from behind-the-curtain to find that out. It is no mean task - to get into a standing box and immediately spring up from the side entry on the stage - that's the opening scene. It's tough and therefore it's simply shocking. Nobody else can pull it off... except Bharat. He makes it possible with his tremendous will power.
The only setback SAHI RE SAHI had was the court case slapped against you by your previous producer Lata Narvekar.How do you analyse that in retrospect?
SAHI RE SAHI was an instant hit, Bharat became a superstar overnight. We put up as many as 567 shows in one year! We could have made an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for it but the producer was too preoccupied counting money. She was interested only in the commercial aspect of the play and not in the creative process at all. Her apathy towards the play discouraged all of us and the number of shows dropped. That's when Bharat and I decided to go to Suyog. It was like Bharat and I kept our child (SAHI RE SAHI) at a creche (Lata Narvekar) and then she decided never to let go off our baby. It was a traumatic time and the most stressful fortnight of my life. When we won the case - the entire SAHI RE SAHI team of 27 wept for joy.
Have you re-invented the format and structure forPUNHA SAHI RE SAHI?
The plot and characters remain the same; I have only ironed out some entries and exits to infuse a greater element of surprise. The music track has been re-done by Ashok Patki and it is absolutely catchy. Also the set is spanking new and very sleek.
What's next on your agenda - Hindi /Marathi films, TV or a brand new play?
My Hindi screenplay of SAHI RE SAHI is ready. My television serial 'Madhu Ithe Chandra Tithe' is being launched on Zee and in November, my Marathi film goes on floor. I have yet to think of a new play.
What is your opinion about the current state of Marathi theatre?
I am very optimistic about it. All I want to say is that there is no formula for success; we have to re-invent ourselves constantly. Each play must have 25% commercial consideration and 75 % creative element.
Apart from Shahir Sable, your grandpa, who have been your creative influences?
I really admire and respect Steven Spielberg's creative imagination - how can the same man write an E.T. , then Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List and The Terminal - what a range! I admire Raj Kumar Hirani for his hattrick of soulful hits. And of course Baba, as we called our grandpa, was an institution. I have learnt everything about life and stage from him.
Kedar, did you always want to be in the showbiz?
Not at all! I always aspired to be a pilot. Even today when I fly I fight for the window seat. I just love flying.
*Deepa Ranade is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.