On the field or off it, Nana Patekar is a committed man, finds NANDINI NAIR

He is the essential star. Dedicated to his art, attentive to his fans and dismissive of trappings. Meet actor Nana Patekar. He is the first to arrive on a Sunday morning at Mumbai's Khar Gymkhana to play in the FedEx versus Hattrick cricket match, hosted by UTV. He disembarks from his car and warmly greets the gate attendants. The rest of the Hattrick team might be missing but he changes into whites and starts warming up. He is sarcastic with the frivolous, attentive to the interesting. He brings the same seriousness to the cricket field. "There's nothing like just for fun. You can define it any way you want, but there is nothing like that," he states.It is this commitment that has resulted in the successes like Krantiveer, Apaharan, Agni Sakshi and Khamoshi - The Musical. Currently, he is also sincerely pursuing a career in shooting. He recently represented Maharashtra in the 300m Big Bore Shooting Championship. He first ensures that his friends have been served. Then, sipping coconut water in the pavilion, after his batting stint, he answers queries. Good sense, and not pride, makes him laconic. He says he has been shooting for many years. In the village he always had an air gun. But could not afford the competition weapons. Now, he can afford his own weapon. With a personal best of 550/600 he aspires to be 590 to represent the country. Potential has often been compromised for saleability in Bollywood. Patekar agrees, "It is very difficult to get a star and actor together. The two are usually separate, only Hrithik Roshan fits the bill." But the scene is changing, he explains, "Global cinema has been made available. A whole new generation of viewers has entered." With a new outlook, people are ready to accept different and interesting movies.What are his criteria when choosing a movie? He asserts that he looks for the totality of a project. He needs to believe in the overall effect that the director is trying to create. From script to production, he needs to believe in it. An artist, he feels, must have the capacity both physically and mentally to make a role believable. It is for this reason he trained with the army for two years for his role in Prahaar.

All for adaptation

Patekar is often rumoured to ad lib through the script. But he clarifies, "I make a dialogue my own. Adaptation has to be there. It has to come from within, like how I am speaking to you right now." He has always been prudent in his career choices. Hattrick is his first appearance after the success of Taxi 9211. Why does he sign such few movies a year? "People sign movies for money," comes the immediate answer, "I have meagre needs, and few wants, I live in a village." He underscores his point, "My only competition is with myself." But he doesn't like to watch himself on screen. Prahaar is the only movie he has seen repeatedly, but that's because he was its director too. He is currently working on a Prakash Jha love story from the 1950s. He recently wrapped up Yatra with Rekha, by Goutam Ghosh, which is the journey of a writer. A cricket fan himself, in Hattrick he plays a cricket-hating doctor whose life is changed by the game. But humour underlies his grave demeanour. He teases a girl that she should lose weight. He jibes Kunal Kapoor (his co-star in Hattrick) to abandon his "sprained-back" act and to play. From the sides he gently watches his son who also played in the match talk to the cameras. With cockiness he assures everyone that India will win the World Cup.A soulful `Massage' Play Massage Time 7 p.m.VenueIndia Habitat Centre (Thursday, March 1)
Sri Ram Centre (Saturday, March 3)TicketsRs.50 onwards (IHC)
Rs.100 onwards (Sri Ram Centre)Contact011-41220000 (IHC) 9810255291 (Sri Ram Centre)Two hours, 24 characters and one actor, that is Rakesh Bedi's "Massage". The familiar television, theatre and Bollywood face brings Vijay Tendulkar's play to the Capital this weekend. Bedi has adapted, not translated, the original from Marathi to Hindi.The play revolves around Happy Kumar. He is a small town man who aspires to join Bollywood. But from the start, dreams don't become reality. He becomes the fourth assistant to a director who makes "sex and snake movies"! Through various twists and turns Happy Kumar ends up becoming a professional masseur. Playing 24 roles, Bedi says, "It took me nine months to get the play together," he adds with a laugh, "It's the same time it takes to have a child." "There are no cues. You remember five pages of script and by the sixth it's all washed out. And then you have to start from the beginning," he names the challenges of a solo performance. Even though he has done around 75 shows across the world, Bedi has been tossing and turning in bed in anticipation of the weekend's show. But he also revels in the challenges. "It's very good for an actor to do a solo performance, at least once in the lifetime." He enjoys that he doesn't have to depend on anyone for rehearsals. "I can just close my eyes and practise." He explains his technique, "It's a three-dimensional experience. I play Happy Kumar, I play other characters but through it all the audience must know it is Rakesh Bedi." He wants the audience to see him as the storyteller. Bedi believes, "Humour without pathos cannot survive." He wants the audience to first laugh, then think. "I have to touch a chord, but without laughter no one will listen to a sad story." Its design and direction is by Harbansh Singh.