The Simplicity Of Pragmatism

It’s officially 2021! After what seemed like an (excruciating) eternity, 2020 is finally behind us all. The New Year does bring with it a sense of hope and new beginnings. In a way, 2020 has taught us a lot, and for most of us, it changed us for the better! As for us, we decided to start our New Year by catching up with the humble and incredibly talented Sharad Kelkar who acted as the much needed breath of fresh air to begin the year with a bang.

Sharad Kelkar, with his deep husky voice and charming persona, has garnered many fans through his performances in various television and web series, and movies from the Bollywood, Marathi, Tollywood and Kollywood industries. Looking back at his eventful run he said, “My journey so far has been fabulous. From being a stammerer and a non-actor, to people recognising me as an actor, I’ve come a long way and that makes me happy. The audience accepting me in various roles has been the most satisfying part. Well, my journey is still on-going and I wish to live up to audience’s expectations from me as an actor.”

If you take a quick recap of the roles you’ve seen Sharad in, you’ll notice that he has played various roles and he surely makes versatility look effortless. “I like to gain as much knowledge as possible, and playing various roles allows me to do that. While shooting, I learn a lot about direction, about the cameras and about acting as well. Playing different roles helps me learn things I’m unaware about.”

Having appeared in so many roles, I asked him if he had a particular one that he could relate to the most. “I’ve loved all the characters that I have played but the one character that is close to my heart, and that I will cherish for life is the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Tanhaji. I’m sure that playing this role is a dream for almost every actor and I find myself fortunate enough to have been able to play it.

From being a stammerer and a non-actor, to people recognising me, I’ve come a long way and that makes me happy.

It’s all thanks to Om Raut and Ajay Devgan. I will cherish it forever and so will my next generations.” I ask him about any roles he would wish to explore further, to which he said, “I’ve played roles from a strong protagonist, to almost a hero, to supporting cast, to a negative lead and also some iconic characters like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Gopinath Munde ji, so I think my journey has been quite good and exciting. Although, I do wish to play a full-fledged role in a comedy film as the audience is yet to see my comic performance.”

We chat about mediums of the film and entertainment industry and how much things have changed overtime. Being a voracious consumer of series and movies, I, as a millennial, prefer Netflix to catch up on all my shows thanks to the content and no breaks! However, Sharad had a different opinion. He told me that the reach of both mediums are the same. “I think for an actor the medium doesn’t matter. It’s about acting and how passionate you are about it. I love acting and it’s my life. According to today’s time, I think the reach of both the mediums are similar.”

Going over his passion for acting and his journey so far, Sharad shares a few memories from the time when he had just started out. “It’s been 18 years in the film industry for me now, but almost everybody has seen bad days before feeling the success. I struggled for 3 years before making my identity in the industry. I lived in a 3BHK flat with 13 others, where we cooked our own food and faced a money crisis. Many times I had to sleep on the floor due to my work schedule. I have also seen some days where I had to choose between spending my money on travelling by a bus or eating a ‘Vada-pav’. But what I’d also like to say is that I was happy when I had nothing and I’m happy now too. Every one of us goes through struggle and bad times but what you achieve depends on how quickly you bounce back. So that’s my key mantra to life.”Sharad has an unmissable sense of optimism and simplicity to himself that is pleasantly refreshing.

I struggled for 3 years before making my identity. I lived in a 3BHK flat with 13 others and even slept on the floor

 You can tell by his stories and by the way he perceives life in all its forms — even the not-so-pretty parts of it. His perspective of seeing things too is simple and practical. We spoke about criticism in the film industry and then again, Sharad had a very simple and unfiltered take on it. “I think criticism is good because with criticism, you give yourself a reality check from time to time. But what I strongly dislike is when someone’s work is compared to another’s and bad mouthing or using foul language for someone when you criticise them. Everyone’s efforts should be appreciated. I think criticism exists to motivate people and not to degrade them.”

We talked about how much the industry has changed over the years and how the pandemic changed everything almost instantly. “I think the industry is changing with time. It has become more accepting as they know that the audience has become smarter than before and knows their content requirement. More content driven films are in demand which ultimately gives more freedom to the actors. So I think it’s a great time for actors to showcase their talent as there are numerous opportunities available these days.”

Talking about the pandemic, Sharad chose to look on the brighter side of things. “It is very obvious that the pandemic affected the industry on a large scale. The past ten months have caused huge losses to films. It was a tough time, but I also know that we, as a family, will support each other and will sail together and make it through.

The conditions to shoot are very tough and we’re sure we’ll be on track very soon and make up for the losses.

However, 2020 did have its highlights for Sharad with his movies like Darbaan, Tanhaji, Laxmii and the thriller series Special OPS on Hotstar. “The year 2020 started with a bang with Tanhaji: The unsung warrior. People loved me in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s role, then came Special OPS and life was going smooth till the pandemic struck. I signed a few films but they were put on hold because of the situation. Also, it was great with Laxmii and Darbaan. I’m very happy with Darbaan and I’ve received a fantastic response from both viewers and critics. The film has wonderful music and amazing star cast and above all, the direction of the film has been done fantastically by Bipin Nadkarni. I’m very happy for him as this is his first Hindi film and it is such a success. I have played Anukul, who is a simple family guy. The bond between Raichand and Anukul was loved by the audience. Though I have a small role in it, I’ve got great reviews and it makes me very happy.”

While we did talk about his success and growth as an actor and a person, Sharad took a moment to talk about the great people that the industry lost. “We lost many brilliant people from the industry like Irrfan Khan, Rishi sir and Soumitra Chatterjee who were great souls and it was very saddening, this is why we call it the black year. The highlights do dim down a little because of all this, but I think everyone has a lot of hope from 2021 so that’s good. There's been a lot of growth in everyone and I am definitely looking forward to 2021.”

Talking about personal growth, I asked him how he has changed as a person in the past year. “The pandemic has taught me a lot! First and foremost would be patience. I was never a patient person so that is something I’ve got out of this pandemic. I had also missed out on the bond with my daughter Kesha in these 5-6 years. I was running around and working most of the time, so we really got the time to bond and I am loving it! I got to spend a lot of time with her and this was the only blessing in disguise that I had. My wife, mother and daughter — my three Lady Lucks, they gave me the strength to survive this pandemic together.”

We had reached the end of our delightful chat and before we could pack up, I asked him for a message for our readers. “Thank you for the love you have given me over all these years, as an actor and a person too. I hope and I will try to do different roles again. I’ve done Marathi films but next year I’m starting a pretty big Marathi feature film as a lead, so hopefully you will like it. Keep showering me with love and keep loving each other, spread positivity, we are one, we are human and that's the most important part.”

My wife, mother and daughter — my three Lady Lucks, gave me the strength to survive this pandemic.