Remember Natha in Peepli Live (2010)? He played the impoverished farmer who decides to commit suicide for the compensation his death will bring his family. Next Friday, he will be back as Shankar Kaka in Shiv Dube’s MLA – An Inside Intruder that will be screened at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) on May 24.
The political thriller is set in the village of Bhaglipur in Madhya Pradesh. The MLA befriends a local industrialist who, to generate employment, wants to start a milk factory. What emerges is political betrayal of the common man with Shankar Kaka, a farmer, fighting for the rights of the villagers and to avenge the rape-murder of his daughter.
“Natha was submissive, this character is aggressive in his quest to bring out the truth. Hopefully, people will start calling me Shankar Kaka. Not too many know my real name and I know Natha won’t be forgotten easily,” smiles Omkar Das Manikpuri.
The actor admits that after Peepli Live, he’s not only financially better off, but treated with more respect. “I’m a star now. I can’t go out alone or stop somewhere for tea and ‘nashta’ (snacks) like I could earlier. When we were shooting in Wai, I’d come on the sets only when required for a shot. Bheed jama ho jaati thi (There were crowds) and people would shout, ‘Natha, Natha!’ I signed four-five autographs,” he says.
The topical issue the film raises, he admits, needs to be addressed soon. “Fortunately, the farmers in my village in Chattisgarh are better off, no suicides because of debts have been ever reported there,” he says.
If he were offered a ticket, would he stand for elections?
“No, I have no interest in politics and don’t understand that game,” says Omkar, who has Kasam Se Kasam Se coming up on June 15, followed by Alaap and Munna Mange Mensahab.
Any offers from Aamir?
“I was invited to the 10-year celebrations of Lagaan (2001) and have met Aamir a couple of times since. If he has something, I’m sure he’ll call,” he reasons. “Meanwhile I’ve been watching his TV show, Satyamev Jayate. He is a good host and in the first episode, when a woman confessed that she had to abort two-three female fetuses, I started crying.”