LIKE OTHERS, this man too finds it hard to accept himself in any other role except for the character of Shivaji in the mega play ‘Janta Raja’. Praveen Shiroke who has played the character of Shivaji for 22 years, says it is not possible for him now to play roles that are modern or belonging to present day society.
Do we get to see him playing historical characters in the future then? Praveen told Hindustan Times here on Tuesday that no other historical character had such an influence on his life as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Shiroke worked solely for this play for 15 years and has recently joined the family business. He agreed that it is difficult to pursue a career in theatre without financial backup from family, as one does not get any remuneration for this.
“Films and television were never my choice and I participated in Janta Raja just to educate people about Shivaji. I had family terms with Baba Saheb Purandare and coincidentally had inclination towards history too,” said Shiroke. However, he admits that he would like to make a film about an incident from history some day. He also has script ready with him that he wrote after reading an incident from some book.
He has been the Shivaji in English and Hindi versions of Janta Raja and feels that language is not a barrier for performers. Surprisingly even after acting in this play for 22 years, Shiroke has never watched any recording of his performance.
This artist from Pune, who has donned the cap of Shivaji umpteen times, said he would never forget the appreciation this play received in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and in Boston. Shiroke sadly revealed that many foreigners proposed to sponsor the upcoming thematic museum ‘Shiv Srishti’ near Pune but it has been difficult to get Indian aid for the project. Shiroke recalls times when people in North India thought of plays as ‘Nautanki’ and ‘Ramleela’.
“Things have changed now and people know about this play everywhere we go”, gushes Shiroke. According to Shiroke more plays must be shown here in North as people in this region take theatre very casually.
Shiroke’s favourite play is ‘Sahi re Sahi’ (Marathi) that he watched many times in Pune. His favourite character in Janta Raja is that of Jeejabai (Shivaji’s mother). Shiroke shared some of the instances when he made mistakes while enacting the character of Shivaji and public accepted it that way. “I fell from horseback quite a few times and people were touched when I got up and went back to the stage”,he recalls.
Shiroke has been a part of mob and played other characters too for this play apart from his lead role as Shivaji. Dramas are like teaching schools and all theatres companies must avoid distortion of history to promote this medium in its true form, summed Shiroke.