Nana Patekar: I work on my own terms now
The Padma Shri- and three-time National Award-winning actor reflects on his nearly five-decade career, why he signed Vivek Agnihotri’s film, and his future projects
Nana Patekar has done it all. He has played the hero, the foil to the hero, and the villain. He has also showcased his skills across genres—action, drama, romance and comedy. The actor’s roles in Khamoshi, Krantiveer, Ab Tak Chhappan and Welcome among others continue to entertain audiences even today. At 73 though, Patekar does not believe in working too hard. He now picks and chooses roles that give him the liberty to enjoy the craft of acting. Ahead of the release of his new film, The Vaccine War, on September 28, the Padma Shri, and three-time National Award-winning actor reflects on his nearly five-decade career, why he signed Vivek Agnihotri’s film, and his future projects.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is The Vaccine War about?
The film follows India’s journey as it invented the Covid vaccine. It is based on the experiences of Dr Balram Bhargav, who is the director general at the Indian Council of Medical Research, and professor of cardiology at AIIMS, New Delhi, and talks about the challenges faced by the country’s scientists during the pandemic. The Vaccine War is a way for us to honour their hard work.
How did you prepare for your role?
To get into the skin of my character, I completely surrendered to the director’s vision, since I didn’t get
the opportunity to meet Dr Bhargav before the shoot. I believe that allowed me to bring a fresh perspective to the role.
You have been part of the industry for nearly five decades. How has your approach towards acting changed since your debut in 1978 with Gaman?
Everyone has their own process. To me, acting feels like cricket; you play because you enjoy it, not because you want to win. But, I always need a fresh start after a project, so in a way, I act to get a character out of my system. What has changed though is that now, I work on my terms: it has to be a great script, I have to be paid handsomely, I need a bound script before I begin shooting, and I don’t work for more than eight hours a day. I refuse to do a film if these requirements are not met. The other thing I do before agreeing to a project is ask the director why he/she wants to cast me. They should be able to convince me.
How did Agnihotri convince you for The Vaccine War?
He told me that there was a dialogue in the film, “India can do it”, and that only I had the ability to say it with the kind of passion that would make the audience believe in it.
You seem to be particular not just about the content of the script, but also the way it is presented to you. Tell us more.
Yes. I always insist on the Devnagri script. I can communicate in English, but I don’t read it. Besides that, we are the only country with so many different languages. I believe that one must learn the language of a place they visit.
I don’t like this bridge of English that actually divides people over their languages. When I go to Karnataka, I converse with them in whatever little Kannada I know. The local people actually appreciate that.
There is chatter about you wanting to produce a film. Is that true?
Yes. I have a script, but let’s see when it materialises. It will be a Hindi film, and I plan to release it on OTT. Streaming seems to be the most popular format for good films these days.
Tell us about your forthcoming projects.
I have just completed a Marathi film, and then there’s a social thriller, The Confession, by Anant Mahadevan. I will also be making my OTT debut later this year with Prakash Jha’s series, Laal Batti. It is a political drama.