Actor, director, painter, theatre practitioner, activist — Amol Palekar has donned all these hats. With his endearing performances on camera and his offbeat themes as a director, Palekar carved a niche for himself in an industry full of superstars.
His most popular works, however, are still some of the comedy films from the early days of his acting career. Palekar – the director – is now getting ready to give his audiences a good laugh again with a comedy film in Marathi. “The film is totally different from anything I’ve done before,” he says. It’s a multi-starrer featuring almost 20 stars of Marathi cinema.
“All my life, I have been asked why I don’t make films like ‘Choti Si Baat’ or ‘Golmaal’ – lovely comedies that I’m proud to have been associated with. This film is my homage to directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee.”
Comparisons with mainstream cinema were inevitable for the work of a director who placed himself squarely outside the box. This yardstick that the mainstream creates, he feels, is the biggest “corrupting” influence of Bollywood.
“We tend to get swept away by all the dazzle. Success is defined only by ‘Oh, the film made 100 crore in three days.’ Any other way of looking at things becomes unacceptable,” he says.
Palekar, an alumnus of Sir J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai, continuously demonstrates that there are different ways of expression.
In Pune, where he lives, he undertook a project in association with the municipality to mark an area as a ‘No Vehicle Zone.’ Local citizens got together to create walkways and maintain a green cover for a stretch of 1.5 km. To raise funds for the project he, along with actor Nana Patekar and others held a poetry recitation programme. “We raised Rs.17 lakh in a single evening. We could have raised more if we had a usual kind of fundraiser.” But to have such a simple programme and find so much patronage, he feels, is something exceptional.
“It’s up to us to create something different. I have done things that have gone against the mainstream.”
But does he have any regrets about choosing the tougher path? With a shake of his head and a smile of contentment, he says “None, whatsoever.”