MUMBAI: A gruff inebriated voice, language that could make a sailor blush, and powerhouse performances that riveted a generation of audiences. Viewers of Marathi cinema will not think twice about identifying these unmistakable attributes of legendary Marathi artist Nilu Phule.
The veteran actor of stage and film passed away on Monday at 2 p.m. at a hospital in Pune.
With a stupendous 40 years of cinema to his credit, 79-year-old Phule played innumerable negative roles, going on to become the quintessential rustic villain.
He also portrayed nuanced characters with commendable finesse in some of his unforgettable performances, in Samna (Contest), Sinhasan (Throne) and Shaapit (Accursed). With Samna (1975), where the struggle between good and evil lends his negative role an element of dignity, he etched himself firmly in the hall of fame.
Sinhasan (1979), where Phule plays a political journalist, saw him in a different urban avatar. The former villain became the protagonist, witness to murky political games.
His lead role in playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s famous play Sakharam Binder earned him widespread critical acclaim.
Phule worked in over 140 Marathi movies and 12 Hindi movies. He scored a hat-trick by winning the Maharashtra government’s awards in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan expressed shock and grief on Phule’s demise. “Nilu Phule was a genius and an extraordinary actor with equal command over drama and film. Though acting was his first love, he was equally passionate about social work,” he said.
The former Chief Minister and present Union Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Vilasrao Deshmukh, said Phule’s death was an irreparable loss.