His personality can daunt anybody, but one smile and you know that he is probably the most approachable man around. He might be famous for his intense acting and aggressive screen persona but he is also someone who can move you to tears in five seconds with a performance so realistic, you feel it's an out of skin experience. Yet again the undeniable Nana Patekar talks about a film that he believes in, that gives him an opportunity to play a character that surely moved him, in conversation with this correspondence, the man with a unrelenting aura, talks about his latest film Tum Milo Toh Sahi, over a cup of coffee.
Movies are like commodities, actors and producers have been promoting their work over the years, but nowadays actors promote themselves too as a brand, talking about their life, and activities, but never you, why not?
I am a performer and in that capacity I should be visible. See everyone has a private life, some like to talk about it and some don't. It's true that I am as wrong in life as you are why people are interested in reading about that is something beyond me. I am happy like this. We are sitting together today because of this film, tomorrow we'll meet because of another film (he smiles) and that's fair I think.
But actors do this to be in news and to be remembered as a brand; don't you feel the need to be in public memory?
If people forget me then I probably deserve it. I must have the kind of stature in this industry that even if I go away for maybe even five years, I can be rest assured that people would still love to see me the same way they used too. I don't have that insecurity. If people forget me, I'll remind them again of me.
So what made you choose this film?
I loved the script. Even though the script does not revolve around me, I am just one character out of the six in this film but I still liked it a lot.
This film is essentially a love story....
Uhhh....no! Not really! At every juncture of our life we have problems of various kinds and these problems we tackle differently at various ages in our life. This concept has been adapted in this film by interlinking different ages. So I won't say that it's a Deewaar, but it's a film you will surely identify with.
Nana what did you find unique about your character in this film?
It wasn't so much about the character for me, because you can't see that character in isolation. I tried to understand what the film was trying to say. When I like what's being told then I focus on my role. I try to see what I can give to that role. I saw a lot of potential in it and felt I could do something with it. It's not like Kranti where you say one dialogue. It's more situational.
In fact lots have been said about relationships in big cities, the complication, the isolation. Do you think with so many new ideas being explored in Bollywood, such a simple film would really stand out?
Whether it does or does not, I don't really care. I leave it to the one above. The point is whether I like it or not and I like it. Exactly why I am sitting and giving this interview. I am a selfish guy. (At this point a young teenager walks up to Nana Patekar and asks him to help him become an actor. Nana assures him and gives him confidence. He pats his back and tells him not to be scared and live his dream. 'All big actors made it this way' he tells the boy. Then he continues) I had no idea whether Krantiveer would work or not, Agni Saakshi would work or not. The only thing I knew was that I must do my work, be present 100% and mould myself into the role. Now whether people will like it or not, then if I would judge I would say yes. Something must be there that made me like it and made me do it right?
So the story that is based on you and Dimple Kapadia, is about a relationship based on love. Can you explain it?
It's not the typical love, it's different. That age, the one I play, has a different need in life. Like when one goes home tired, you wish there is someone who gets a glass of water and gives it to you in your hand, it's not about water. I can take my water myself also. But it's the concern that says 'Are you tired? Should I make tea for you?' Or maybe makes tea without even asking you, sits next to you, it gives you that security, that assurance that there is someone for you in this world, that you too hold meaning for somebody. That's the relationship Dimple's and my character has in this film
(At this point a young-ish boy gets coffee for Nana and he asks the boy's name. When he replies, Nana asks him why is he doing this job and encourages him to study further and get out of this business of serving tea and coffee to everyone. The boy smiles and assures Nana that he would take his advice for sure)
Working with many youngsters in this film, did you ever find them getting intimidated or idolising you at any point?
It's really just up to you how you make someone comfortable with you or become comfortable with them. It's not necessary that they would get scared of you, sometimes even we get scared of them yaar, you don't get how they work at all.
Do you think actors these days are better prepared? Taking acting classes has sort of become the norm.
You can't learn much from these acting schools. Acting is something you learn from your experiences through life. To understand how you would react to situations. Those kind of nuances only life can teach you, what an acting school can give you is the know how of the technical aspects of filmmaking.
Having been part of Bollywood since so many years and having done numerous film and roles, is there one that you still wish to do, which can be classified as your dream role?
That can't happen. At least now it can't happen with my age. When I first came in the industry it was my dream to do a Bhagat Singh. If it would've been offered back then I would be the luckiest and happiest chap, but in today's time and age it doesn't hold true.
But there are some roles that only you would be able to do thanks to age and experience, something that a fresher can never do. Is there anything that your heart would love to do? For example Amitabhji has roles written keeping him in mind.
Now see, Sachin Tendulkar stays in the team is not a coincidence, it's his performance that keeps him there. Similarly Amitabh Bachchan has proved his mettle so it's only justified that roles are written for him. It's not something a newcomer can obviously demand. As for me wishing for a specific role, not really. Any and every role that comes my way is a first of its kind and the last. I will work hard on it. I won't ask people but introspect and judge where am I standing today and how far have I come. Do I have what it takes, am I a worthy performer. I don't have a thing to prove to anybody but myself. Even though the performance is for the people but unless I am happy I am incapable of keeping my audiences happy. When I am happy and people are happy I know I've done my job.
People have always looked at you as an extremely intense actor who is easily triggered. Someone full of aggression. Have you ever consciously tried to get that stereotype off you.
See, I'll explain this one to you. Khamoshi was one unique sort of role, Prahaar was extremely different, Agni Saakshi was different, a more romanticised role was in Parinda. That streak of aggression is in everyone, in you and in me. What triggers me is the question that why is it happening, the suffocation and the anger of it that has been suppressed inside of me comes out in my performance.
When you were offered this role in Tum Milo Toh Sahi, of a south Indian middle aged guy, did you ever consciously feel like doing something different with this one?
This one is interesting; you can figure that out from the get up itself. He is a meek guy, a complete loner. According to me, he has his share of eccentricities, and he is extremely whimsical. This is an outcome of the fact that he is all by himself. When his loneliness passes him by, he is a different person. Like some people forget to laugh, it's not like they don't know how to or they have never laughed in their life, but they get used to not laughing, especially such events are happening in their life that they never find the opportunity to do so. He is like that.
You say that you give a performance based on you experiences, so when you played this character, did you have an image in your head that you were trying to project?
When you give a performance you don't just have 'an' image, you take a collection of experiences and pick out of those that make sense and that's the blend that you see on screen. All the things you can't pick up from one character in your life. There was this similar kind of guy who used to live around my place. He was always like 'Why is this like this? Why is the staircase so wet?' He and his wife used to live together. And he would always complain even if I tried explaining that we wash the staircase once a week and he would still say "why is it wet now, why wasn't it wet in the morning? Why in the afternoon? Someone would fall and break their leg this way..." So that man would always fight. And I would always ask him to leave it and forget about it and he would talk in this particular way "Arey! What is this? See naa these people I have told them several times and they are failing to understand. See this. You! Come here come here, tell Mr. Patekar what I asked you?" But I would never get irritated; I would in fact build a conversation with him. Because I used to find him extremely entertaining, I guess there is a part of him in the character I've played in this film.
You and Dimple have come together after a long time. Did the years between matter?
Those twenty-thirty years just fly away when you meet your fellow actors again. You don't have to take efforts to act together again, it just fortunately happens on its own. It just comes from within.
We all know Dimple is one of a kind but as a fellow actor how did you mark her performance in the film?
Oh! She is really good and Dost hai mera woh! She's my really good buddy.
So are there any hidden expectations?
No! I am not expecting anything. You did your work, the dubbing is done, and your work is done. Now whether the film fares well or not is not in my hand. What I do expect is that people come and watch this film. There are so many films that you think are rubbish and they do really well and you wonder why? I won't name them.
You've been in this industry for long. And a lot has changed in Mumbai city since then. This film too is based on the complexities of a big city. Did you realise in the making that too much has changed?
Oh! A lot has changed. In fact ninety percent has changed. I can't even relate to it. Even the character I play does not understand the relationship at all. He is absolutely innocent about it. He doesn't know what it is exactly. Can you imagine at the age of sixty you are getting the feelings of someone at the age of 18 or 19? You know that kind of a feeling? It's a weird kind of a feeling. It's not physical, it's like those butterflies in your stomach, it's weird and this man doesn't even know what relationships are. The whole life has gone by taking care of your parents and now he is alone and that loneliness is killing him. Earlier when the mother was there, he would come back and dedicate himself to his mom and now that his mom is gone, he has no life. There is a swing at home but how much will you swing?
What would you always remember this movie for? Any special moment?
The whole film actually. The day my work was done I felt really bad thinking I'm not going to be part of this unit now. I did feel bad and that happens very rarely. Sometimes you secretly wish that the film would get over so you can go away. Whereas here when it was going to end there was a feeling of sadness. It's a good feeling in a way to feel bad about it (he smiles)
What about your rapport with Kabir? There is quite an age and experience difference between you two.
It was fantastic. I didn't hit him even once (he says jokingly and smiles). And as for experience and age, clarity in a director is very important and luckily he had that.