The competition was fierce. In contention for the Best Actor Award were Aamir Khan (
Andaz Apna Apna
), Shah Rukh Khan (
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa
), Anil Kapoor
(1942 — A Love Story
) and Akshay Kumar (
). So it was heartening for Nana Patekar as he walked up to the stage to accept the trophy from Dilip Kumar for his fiery portrayal in
, to see his younger rivals genuinely happy for him.
Aamir was missing but SRK and Akshay were beaming. And even Anil Kapoor clapped loudly. Nana’s only concession to the occasion was a neatly pressed white shirt that he had teamed with a pair of blue jeans. Hair cropped short, a straggly beard and a fire smouldering just below the surface, he embodied the rebellious common man. It was no surprise that he was director Mehul Kumar’s first and only choice for the role.
Say no to Nana
“Many tried to dissuade Mehul not to cast me, telling him I was popular only in Maharashtra. But he was convinced that I was his rebel hero,” Nana admitted. His confidence in his actor-friend was vindicated when the performance fetched Nana not only popular awards but the National Award as well.
Ours was one of the first awards he had bagged. And joining in the pre-midnight revelry post the ceremony with friends like Jackie (Shroff), Madhuri (Dixit), Tabu, Govinda and Mehul, Nana beamed for photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha’s camera and even struck ‘happy’ poses with Madhuri. It was a rare sight and we took turns to tiptoe into the hotel suite to catch a slice of the action.
Recalling the riots
The mood turned sombre as Nana recalled the communal riots of 1992 when everyone wanted to possess a weapon. It upset Nana who abhorred violence and didn’t believe that any religion preached it.
“Whenever I think of the riots I feel so helpless,” he admitted. “If I could, I would have single-handedly curbed the violence but I’m only a reel-life hero.”
The dark clouds cleared, the smile was back as Nana reminded everyone that in a career spanning 22 years, he had barely managed to complete 15 films.
“When I was young, I was playing an old man. Today, when I’m old, I’m playing lead roles and romancing the heroines,” he chuckled. His leading lady Dimple Kapadia who had won her own Best Supporting Actress Award, insisted that Nana should have got this award too. “I was just a ghost performer, imitating what he did.”
It was 5 am before the party broke up.
turned Nana into a superstar. He became one of the highest paid actors in the country.
No more ‘
He has admitted that earning money had been important at the time because he had wanted to buy a house. He did. He made a few more movies too. Then he disappeared, to his farm in Pune, to grow wheat. From superstar he returned to being the common man. Recently, when I met him, his beard had a lot more salt than pepper but his take on politics hadn’t changed and he still breathed
I was looking forward to seeing him in
. The sequel finally arrived last Friday. But without Nana or Dimple even though they had sounded the
clap. Mehul Kumar remained behind the camera, but it was his daughter Jahan to whom the
baton had been passed on.
This movie hasn’t impressed. Young people can work their own magic but to carry forward a cult revolution Mehul needed his middle-aged young man and his beautiful crusader. If only…