Subodh Bhave is the latest heartthrob on Marathi television. His serial Tula Pahte Re, broadcast from Monday to Saturday on Zee Marathi, has taken television viewership by storm with a record-breaking TRP of 9.1. The TV soap got the actor a huge women fan following not just in India, but also in Morocco and Iraq!
His fans, however, have been more keen on watching him on the big screen. Releasing on Friday, Ani Doctor Kashinath Ghanekar, is the third biopic Bhave is working on after Bal Gandharva and Lokmanya Tilak. Dr Ghanekar, a dentist by profession, was a veteran Marathi theatre and cinema personality back in the 1960s. He is considered Marathi theatre’s first and last superstar, and a theatre in Thane is dedicated to his stellar work.
After writer-director Abhijit Deshpande narrated the story to him, Bhave felt this was the character he had been waiting for. “I was completely in awe of the character, the story and the Marathi theatre. Of course, I knew about the character and as a theatre personality everybody knows him (Dr Ghanekar). But nobody knew the details of the characters and the plays he did on the stage, the crazy fan following he had, and the fantastic aura around him. We did not know much about his personal life or what kind of human being he was both on and off stage,” says 42-year-old Bhave.
The roles of Bal Gandharva and Lokmanya Tilak, he says, were easier for him to portray. “Their way of life, thoughts and certain innate characteristics are something that I have within me, I felt, and could relate to them. Whether it was their simplicity, discipline or Tilak’s patriotism, these were things I could easily relate to. But, Dr Kashinath Ghanekar is totally from what I am. We live on two different ends of the world,” says Bhave.
The suave actor who has played some outstanding characters on television was first seen in Geet Ramayan in 2001 on Alfa Marathi, followed by Peshwai and Abhal Maya. He says: “My career as a professional actor started with television, then I did plays and later cinema.” It was while pursuing M.Com that Bhave realised he would not 'be able to live if he was not acting'. “Even if I am not on stage, I can work as a production executive. I am happy working in this field as much as I am happy being an actor, says Bhave. I am happy directing instead of acting, too, which is actually very tough.”
Bhave says he comes from a middle-class family and that he does not dream big in his personal life. “But my dreams in films, as an actor, are big,” he says. Bhave's work mantra is simple: “Whatever I have done before, I will never do again. So, if I have done Lokmanya Tilak, I will never play the same role or anything similar again. If I wore a sari for Bal Gandharva, I will never act in a sari again, that is for sure. I have done a lot of pure entertainers, rom-coms, thrillers, so it is very easy for me. I look at the genre and if I have played a character before, I do not repeat,” says the actor who has worked with the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan and D. Ramanaidu.
“Adoor Gopalakrishnan was making a film after an eight-year gap. He had already cast Dileep and Kavya [Madhavan] in the Malayalam film Pinneyum, and was searching for an actor who looked like Dileep because there were a few scenes in which Dileep returns after getting a plastic surgery done. I went to Kerala and shot for 10 days. It was a lot of fun working with Adoor sir,” says Bhave.
Bhave feels all his characters, be it Bal Gandharva, Lokmanya Tilak or Doctor Kashinath Ghanekar, came into his life to teach him things. “Maybe earlier I was working for awards but now my work is very different. I can feel the difference,” says Bhave who says that Indian classical music has had a tremendously calming effect on his mind. “I consider Jitendra Abhisheki and Ustad Aamir Khan saheb my gurus. Though I have never met them in real, I meet them all the time through their music. Their music really relaxes me and teaches me how to take my work forward.”
Bhave believes art will never fail him. “I try to be faithful to my art because art will never fail me. I will never leave it and it will never leave me,” he says.