Television and theatre actor Ashok Lokhande is busy reading literature on the late Deputy Prime Minister Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan these days as he is portraying him in an upcoming Marathi biopic. The fact that he is from Maharashtra and, more importantly, bears a strong resemblance to the Maharashtrian politician and activist worked in favour of Ashok in bagging the role.
“Y. B. Chavan was not only Maharashtra Chief Minister but also former Deputy Prime Minister of the country. He held a number of posts and was one of the tallest leaders of our State. He had a dream for the country and did creditable social work for which he is still remembered. He advocated socialism and was a crusader for the rights of the downtrodden. Even though I was familiar with his work and knew his large heartedness and visionary political personality, I am going through every piece of literature I can possibly lay my hands on,” says the actor.
The film will highlight Chavan’s political innings while primarily concentrating on his social work.
Ashok had to shave his head in order to look exactly like the bald-pated Y.B. Chavan. To show his resemblance to the late leader, he even showed his screen image on his mobile. “I have always been fascinated by biographical films like British film-maker’s Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi in which Ben Kingsley demonstrated that he could match Bapu in looks and behaviour even though he lived all his life in the United Kingdom.”
For Ashok, working in Bollywood and soap operas comes naturally as he studied for three years at Delhi’s National School of Drama where he polished his acting and Hindi-speaking skills. Ashok’s first serial, Mrignaynee, was directed by Amol Palekar. “The common link between us was the doyen of Indian theatre movement, Satyadev Dubey. He was my teacher during my NSD days and also worked with Amol Palekar.”
Serials are his priority because they help him live comfortably in an expensive city like Mumbai. “For actors based in Mumbai it is necessary to work in one or two serials because we have to maintain our standard of living.”
Even though his serial Diya Aur Baati Hum on Star Plus has got stretched, Ashok justifies this on the ground that television viewers still watch it with interest. “It is essentially about my daughter-in-law Sandhya’s struggle, who seeks to break the boundaries of middle-class values. My son, Sooraj, runs a sweet shop and recently won a cooking competition in Singapore,” he says, while narrating the recent developments in the serial.