Actor Nana Patekar is as hard-hitting and intense in real life as he is in the characters he portrays on the screen. Some say he's calmed down over the years, but there's no mistaking the restlessness inside him whenever you see him face-to-face.
Perhaps that explains why he is drifting towards character-driven and socially-driven roles of late, after proving his worth in mainstream cinema.
His latest Marathi film, Dr Prakash Baba Amte- The Real Hero, is doing wonders at the box-office. It was screened at the ongoing 45th International Film Festival of India in Goa, and going by the number of people coming out of the auditorium with moist eyes, it was obvious that his character struck a chord with the audience.
We caught up with him for a candid chat and Nana bares his heart on a number of issues close to him, from his growth as an actor to the current crop of films making the rounds of international film circuits.
Ask him about his so-called drift towards 'meaningful' cinema and his counter is almost immediate. "Why? Commercial cinema is not meaningful?"
His choices, especially in Marathi cinema, however, reflect that he wants to say something specific through his films.
"No, it's not like that. I like doing all sorts of films, even a Welcome. Basically, I do what I like. Because of films like Welcome, a lot of people know me and that's why they want to see my other films. For a film like Dr Prakash Baba Amte, I have not taken any money and I am not even worried about it. I compensate for that through commercial cinema."
For a man notoriously known for skipping the mindless promotions of films, Patekar is making amends in different ways now. This time, he's seen everywhere, and he says there's a reason for that. "I know Prakash and Manda (on whom the film is based) since the time he went to Hemalkasa. If I don't promote a big film, it's alright. But this film needed me. The team behind Dr Prakash Babab Amte worked in innovative ways to promote the film and as a result it is running so well at the box-office."
He's also not much into formalising a success potion and therefore refutes any statement about the target audience of Dr Prakash Baba Amte- The Real Hero.
"There was no target audience even for the Marathi version. This is what we felt and did. You can't target anybody even for a commercial cinema. If people like it, they will watch it. Barah baje lagegi, sawa barah baje giregi, you just can't decide. There are many nonsensical films that you can't watch even for 10 minutes, but then they are making Rs 100 crores, Rs 200 crores."
He adds: "I am from the field of advertising, I was a visualiser, so I should know the USP of the product. See, I am an emotional person, I can't do the usual calculation which says two-plus-two is four. I am absolutely ignorant about economics. I am involved in the film till the time it's happening. I am detached from it the moment dubbing is over."
Patekar's no-nonsense attitude towards cinema, like life, is more than evident in the way his eyes light up when we ask him a direct question. "Do you support the Naxal ideology?' we asked him. His reply was on expected lines: straight from the heart. "I don't believe in killing somebody. I don't support that attitude, but I always feel…you should understand why these boys are getting into it. It is everybody's responsibility to find out the reason," he says.
He adds: "It could be because of economical problems. It could also be due to your attitude towards adivasis. If there is scarcity and I am hungry, then eventually I'd want to eat. If somebody gives me food at that time, then I will join him."
Yes, Patekar can joke, but his on-screen reputation restricts you from laughing out loud. May be he is there to outwit you, but that charming, assuring smile suggests you're wrong about this person. May be he is not as strict as he pretends to be.