By Jyothi Venkatesh
Believe it or not, it is almost 25 years today since Dada Kondke had breathed his last. On the occasion of his 25th death anniversary today on March 14, we reproduce an old interview with DADA KONDKE by JYOTHI VENKATESH
His was the kind of face which would inspire even a layman to take to acting in films convincingly that if Dada Kondke can, even I can. With rags to riches story behind him, Dada Kondke, the comedy king of Marathi Cinema was the richest producer-director in Mumbai. In all he had made nine films in Marathi and every one of them raked in gold at the box office.
Dada had even made it to the Guinness book of World Records as the only filmmaker in the world to have churned out jubilee hits one after the other in a short span of 10 years. Not content with his brilliant innings in Marathi films, Dada even set out to try his luck in Hindi films and launched his first film in Hindi- Tere Mere Beech Mein, with him in the lead and his wife- to- be Usha Chavan as the leading lady. To make the film attractive to the non Maharashtrian audience, Dada roped in Amjad Khan to play a powerful parallel role in the film.
To engage Dada in a conversation was in itself a delight. He unwinded once you start talking to him in Marathi and then it is difficult to stop him. He was witty and aired his views with candor and without any inhibitions whatsoever. I met him for this interview when I went to Kolhapur where he was shooting Tere Mere Beech Mein with a host of comedians from Mumbai in a 43 day nonstop shooting schedule.
“People ask me why I have saddled myself with this image of a country bumpkin comedian. I have no regrets whatsoever. I have no inspiration to be an Amitabh Bachchan, you see. Even Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy never felt like they were bound by the image of the comedian. Even after he became a popular comedian, Charlie never deserted his typical boots and swinging stick. If I switch over from my half pants to suit and boots, the audience will not accept me as I will cease to be Dada Kondke.”, he says shrewdly.
Image is a must according to Dada. “An artiste survives only because of his image. You have got to patent for yourself a saleable image to field yourself as a candidate in films. Raj Kumar of the Kannada screen is the only exception to the rule. He is the only artiste who can play with aplomb a James Bond as well as a village based simpleton Sanadi Appanna.”
How does Dada feel directing a Hindi film? “There is not much of a difference. Once you are able to create an environment without tension for the artistes, half your battle is won and your job as a director becomes easier. Thanks to the excellent cooperation I got from Amjadbhai, I will be in a position to complete my film even before my schedule. If I had taken stars on the basis of their salability alone, without bothering to take into account their talent, I’d also have to suffer throughout the making of my film because I hate pandering to the whims of stars. Amjadbhai is a friend first and a star later.”
According to Dada, what runs is a good film and what flops is a bad film. “What people in Nagpur like, people in Kolhapur do not like and what sells in Konkan does not sell in Ratnagiri. If your picture does not run, it simply means that your product is bad.”
Dada is well known for his battles with the Censor Board. Every time the Censors decide to either give his film an A certificate or ban a film of his on grounds of obscenity in dialogue, Dada fights with them and emerges a victor. His argument is simple.”Those who are below 18 will not understand the implied meaning of my dialogues and those above 18 are adults and they can have a good chuckle. As long as I do not present any sex soaked scene or cash in on vulgarity on the screen, why should the Censors stamp my film with an A certificate and deprive me of my audience?”
Dada is a perfectionist. He doesn’t launch a film before the paper work is ready in every respect, unlike many filmmakers today who write the dialogues for the next day’s shooting only the day before. “I work for nine months on a script. I am a miser when it comes to experimenting with the raw stock. I hate retakes. I do not mind having any number of rehearsals on the sets but wasting precious raw stock on account of retakes is something that I just cannot stomach.”
If Tere Mere Beech Mein which is a remake of his celebrated Marathi hit Ram Ram Gangaram is a hit, then there is no stopping Dada Kondke who is planning to make Hindi versions of every one of his Marathi films with the exception of Pandu Hawaldar which has already been made in Hindi as Do Hawaldar by some other producer. “In fact, if only the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had advised me not to sell the Hindi rights of Pandu Hawaldar for less than a lakh and a half to Mehmood, I’d have sold the rights to Mehmood. Ultimately I had to sell it to some vague producer for one tenth of the price that I had quoted Mehmood” chuckled Dada regretfully.
In Kolhapur, Dada was revered like a demi God but the man himself had no star airs. He continued to sit with his unit folks for lunch instead of ordering his lunch to be brought to his permanent make up room.”All the technicians here like me only because I like them. Once popular actress -director Sushama Shiromani had abused a studio hand when he did not run an errand on time and the entire work here came to a standstill. People here do not listen to swear words meekly and still continue to work like they do in Bombay. I have made nine films so far and I have never had to face any problem from technicians or studio hands”.
Whether with Tere Mere Beech Mein, Dada will be able to rejuvenate the Hindi film industry with his comedy of the double entendre remains to be seen, though he has already registered two future titles with the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association. They are Andheri Raat Mein Diya Tere Haath Mein and Main Deti Hoon Tu Leta Ja.”