By Dr Rajiv Padhye and Dr Swati Muzumdar
The Akhil Australia Marathi Sammelan (AAMS) which will be held from March 25 – 27, 2016 at Kingston Council Hall in Melbourne is already the talk of the town.
Not only the organisers but the invited guests and artists are equally excited about AAMS 2016.
Mr Sharad Ponkshe has expressed his happiness while greeting and meeting all Indians residing in Australia on the auspices of the Akhil Australia Marathi Sammelan.
Sharad Ponkshe was interviewed in Marathi by Mr Dhananjay Sambare which was translated into English by Dr Swati Mujumdar. Excerpts of the interview below:
“My foray into acting started in 1978 when I was still in school. When I was in year 8 (8th standard) I opened my own institute and started acting. My father advised that I should at least be a graduate. However, I laughed at him and said that I had no further interest in studies after secondary school (SSC). I just wanted to be an actor, that’s all! My parents were very stressed due to this, and I kept them under this stress from 1978 to 1998 till I was set in my acting career. I am very sorry about this, and I ask my parents for forgiveness. However, I had no other option; we were not very rich, we had no assets like land, etc. I knew that I had to work hard. My father was an employee of BEST, and had married off his five siblings by taking recurring loans. I was fully aware of this situation, and therefore decided that I would leave education after my SSC. I then joined BEST and did an apprenticeship for three years after which I was employed as a diesel mechanic.”
“Even while I was employed, I still kept on acting although I faced many humiliating situations. But I knew that the field of acting was like a huge tree and that I must cling on to one of its branches with the hope that one day God might lift my branch and bless me. I clung on to this branch patiently for 20 years (1978 – 1998). My patience was tested by Ganapati Bappa. Ultimately, I did pass the test and through Mr Vinay Apte I was offered the role of Nathuram Godse in the Marathi play ‘Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy’.
I still remember that I had a got a small remuneration of Rs 60 for one of the plays that I had performed. Despite this, I still loved acting and I knew that it was only this profession that would give me immense happiness. The role of Nathuram Godse changed my whole life.”
“On 10th July 1998, the first show of ‘Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy’ at Shivaji Mandir was running houseful. Before the start of the play, while I was walking through the crowds, no one even looked at me. However, things suddenly changed after the play, and these very same people who hadn’t even glanced at me previously now stood in a line to meet me! It was like as though they were waiting to meet some Sadhu Maharaj or a spiritual person. I spent nearly 45 minutes talking to the crowds. This play changed my life completely.”
“In ‘TichiKahani’, to get into the character of a Muslim man, I went to the Mahim Dargah for four days to study how Muslims pray. I told the people in the Dargah that I was a Hindu, and that I wanted to study how Namaaz is done. I questioned and learnt everything about Muslim prayers there, and I could actually read Namaaz perfectly! In fact, at Jalgaon where there is a sizable Marathi speaking Muslim population, when people saw the play, they could not believe that I was a non-Muslim.”
“By now I had become quite affluent. I stopped travelling by bus and local trains or going walking. I could afford a scooter and then eventually three cars. Yet, there was something that was troubling me. Even before I started calling myself an actor, I was always the son and citizen of the great nation Bharat. I felt that I needed to do something about this. So I started reading Indian history, and the lives of the great freedom fighters like LokmanyaTilak, Veer Savarkar, Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, etc. While reading the life story and struggles of Savarkar, I felt that this man was far ahead of his times and also very much in the present. So impressed was I with him, that for the past 6 – 7 years, I have delivered more than 1000 lectures on the life and work of V D Savarkar in order to create awareness about this great man among the general public.”
“Uddhav Thackrey the Shiv Sena head approached me and asked me if I would like to join his party to make a difference to society. He said that joining a party to achieve my goal was a better option than working alone. However, I asked Uddhav Thackrey if I could work on my own terms. My agenda was not political, or to gain money, but I just wanted to do social work and give back to the society which had made me such a big man. I created awareness about the misinformation regarding Hindutva. Hindutva means humanity and secularism. I just wanted to take this message along and share it with the general population.”
“It is perhaps due to this work that I have been invited to Australia. I have never been to Australia before, but have heard a lot about it. In fact, I heard Julia Gillard talk in parliament, and I thought all these people are followers of my idol Savarkar! Even Barack Obama I feel is a Savarkar follower.”
Dhananjay Sambare asked about the kind of roles that he would like to portray and what he would like to do next.. Sharad Ponkshe replied, “I would like to do a light comedy and also direct a film. I do have a couple of ideas and a screenplay. But I still have to find a producer who will follow my principles which are clear and transparent.”
Lastly, Sharad Ponkshe was asked how he chooses his roles. He replied, “I was once advised by a director to always keep two senses open – your eyes and ears. Listen to and watch all that you can in this world. I am very observant and sometimes imbibe my observations into my roles. God has been very kind to me and so has the audience. I would love to speak with you people directly in Australia.”