Dilip Prabhavalkar had forgotten his role in “Lage Raho Munnabhai” when news of the Best Supporting Actor award broke.
A couple of years when “Lage Raho Munnabhai” was scaling new heights, Dilip Prabhavalkar said, half in jest, “My life is changing. Since the film’s release, people are calling from New York, Dubai, Wellington; people calling in the middle of the night.”
Well, he still cannot catch on his sleep. Yet again, people are calling up. This time to congratulate him on getting the National Award for the Best Supporting Actor for his wonderful portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi in Rajkumar Hirani’s path-breaking film that made it possible for us to laugh and smile with Gandhi.
“The award was totally unexpected. I know I made headlines for my role in Lage Raho Munnabhai’ but I had forgotten all about the character. I have moved on. When somebody called to inform me that I had won the award, I said, ‘For what’? But it is a thrilling experience. After 35 years in the profession, awards had ceased to excite me. I was nominated for IIFA and Screen awards too. But this is the National Award. It means so much because people tend to forget I have done many kinds of roles in my 15 Hindi films.”
He is not wrong. Everybody talks of Sanjiv Kumar and his nine roles but Prabhavalkar has done nine roles in “Beqabu”, a Hindi film that failed to catch attention.
“I changed my appearances so often in the film. I did not talk about it much because I thought it was not necessary.”
But it was necessary to get into the spirit of Gandhi for “Lage Raho…”.
On prodding Prabhavalkar recalls, “When we were shooting for the film, nobody had an idea how it would be received. I was uncertain how Gandhiji in that avatar would be accepted and about how I would be received. And I had been kept away from the promos as a marketing strategy. We wanted to project the myth.”
Then he added fact to myth. “I shaved off my hair and was given some tapes by Hirani and also saw some old Films Division documentaries. I realised that Gandhiji used to speak in a monotonous fashion. That is where we took liberties. We changed the tone a little bit.”
And Prabhavalkar caught up with Gandhi in print. “I was helped by a book by an American journalist, Louis Fisher, who called him a saint.” The result is for the world to see.