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I did not dream I would become an actor : Ramesh Deo

Though he has worked in over 285 Hindi films, including Anand and Jolly LLB, 190 Marathi films and 30 odd Marathi plays, the desire to continue acting is visible.





Though he has worked in over 285 Hindi films, including Anand and Jolly LLB, 190 Marathi films and 30 odd Marathi plays, the desire to continue acting is visible. In a chat with JYOTHI VENKATESH at Filmistan Studios in Goregaon, four years ago, the veteran actor RAMESH DEO spoke at length about his journey. We at Cineblitz offer our condolences to his wife Seema and sons Ajinkya and Abhinay reproduce the interview as a tribute to the late actor who passed away yesterday at the ripe age of 93.

Is it true that you are essaying a very important role in the film Chinki?

It is true that I am playing a bigger role in Chinki but frankly I do not remember the name of the character which is inspired by Prime Minister Modi’s campaigns for women’s empowerment and children. I play an old man who takes six young children to a village and looks after their welfare.

In what way have you prepared for your part in the film?

Mr Modi is a very good orator like Balasaheb Thackeray was in Maharashtra. Modi’s strength is his ability to keep the audiences spellbound when he starts delivering his speech with his oratory style. I will play Mr Modi in my own way but not imitate him because I do not want to earn the wrath of his loyalists by making a caricature of him.

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You have directed 12 films in Marathi. How was your experience?

The director and the Director of Photography do not at all get time to relax when they are on the sets because theirs is a 24/7 job which is very strenuous, unlike that of the actors. I would say that direction is very easy as well as tough but the charm of direction has withered away with the advent of the era of the color films. Technology has made everything very simple.

Can you elucidate?

Michel camera was very smooth unlike the digital camera today which entails that you can take even 100 retakes on the sets unlike earlier. I remember the times when Raj Kapoor used to ask Nargis to stand on the sets for two hours continuously just to take one ‘perfect’ take.

You have played the quintessential hero, the obnoxious villain and the character roles with ease. How do you manage to strike the right balance?

I played the hero in not just one or two but three different films in Hindi including a film called Love & Murder but unfortunately when all the three films were released without properly and flopped , I was forced to shift to villainous roles. I learnt the craft of acting not from any film institute but from stalwart directors like Anant Mane, Raja Paranjape, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Bhim Singh. Studios like AVM, Gemini etc in Chennai made me a star and gave me a lot of money and fame.

What do you feel when you look back at your career now when you are 89?

It’s been 68 years since I have been in this field. I believe that I am the only actor who can act with such passion on screen at this age (smiles). Unfortunately there are only 2-3 actors living amongst us like Dilip Kumar and Shashi Kapoor, but it is sad that they are not in a state like me. I have been constantly working in the film industry. And I have got an opportunity to work with almost all the heroes and heroines. It was by fluke that I got into the film industry. I never dreamt of becoming an actor, because in those days parents would decide what profession their child would opt for! They had planned to put me in the military, but thanks to destiny, I ended up as an actor.

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Is it true that you made your debut with Prithiviraj Kapoor as an actor?

My father, who was a great fan of his, had taken me to the shooting of his film Valmiki in 1947. When a child artist didn’t turn up, the director walked towards me and said ‘Kyu be tu kaam karega kya?’. I looked at my father as he gave a positive nod. I at once said ‘Kyun nahi jaroor karoonga!’ It has been immortalized in a scene in the film Awara! The scene was where Prithvirajji comes from the opposite direction and suddenly I bump into him, the dialogue goes like this – ‘bete jara samne dekhke chala karo….main to dekhke hi chal raha tha aap jaisi hasti samne aa gayi aur main takra gaya’ and then something falls from his hand which I pick up and return to him. I remember even jokingly telling Prithvirajji that he owed me royalty for using my dialogue in Awara.

What difference do you find as far as the film scenario then and now?

I reported on the dot at 11 am today but now it is 4 pm and I have not been called to face the camera. But I do not grumble at all. There is a world of difference as far as ethics and discipline are concerned then and now. Earlier there was no vanity van on the sets and we used to sit together and eat like one big family. Today how can you expect discipline when the hero walks away with 25 cr, the heroine gets 5 cr and the villain is paid Rs 10 cr? I am told Salman Khan who used to address Sooraj Barjatya as Soorajji when he was shooting for Maine Pyar Kiya was addressing him as Oye Sooraj when he was acting in his film Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo and Sooraj had no alternative but to listen to him because he is a star who calls his own shots now.

Do you mean to say that emotion no longer plays a vital role because films have become more of a business proposition today?

Today the film industry runs because of business though earlier it used to run because of emotion. If I am asked to shoot after 7.30 pm, I will refuse to do so unless and until they pay me extra because I was asked to report for an 11 to 7.30 pm schedule today.

Sairat has changed the fortunes of the sagging Marathi film industry. Do you agree?

Whom are we kidding? There are over 150 Marathi films which are rotting in the cans for want of release today. No one pays more than 15 lakhs to the hero in Marathi films. Today a Marathi actor has to work in Hindi films because he is paid more in Hindi films. Just one Sairat does not make any difference in Marathi.

Can you name some of your best films in Hindi?

Anand, Dharma, Jaise Ko Taisa Mila and Kasauti are among my best Hindi films.

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