Chinmay Mandlekar speaks on playing Nathuram Godse and working with Rajkumar Santoshi
The versatile actor has a two-decade-long career spread across various platforms like theatre, movies, television and web series.
Marathi actor Chinmay Mandlekar, who played the role of the brutal terrorist Bitta in Kashmir Files, is back with another notable character in Rajkumar Santoshi’s recently released Gandhi Godse-Ek Yudh when the former plays Nathuram Godse. We had a quick chat with this National School of Drama (NSD) pass-out.
How was your experience working with Rajkumar Santoshi?
Rajkumar Santoshi is one of the legendary directors in India and getting a call from him for a film is an overwhelming experience. It was a moment of joy to get to know that he is making a film almost after a decade. He is a taskmaster and a perfectionist in the truest sense of the word, and it is not at all easy to satisfy him as a director. He keeps on asking for a better performance, a better shot, so in that way, it was also a very challenging job. Getting the look right was also very important which was done fantastically by the look and makeup designer Vikram Gaikwad. And the most interesting part is that I am not wearing any makeup in the film. Vikram had given a few instructions about my hair, and I just had to maintain that.
Your prep for the character…
There are enough study materials on Nathuram Godse, including his statements given in the court during his trial, in which he justified why he did what he did. That was one reference point. The other reference points were books, like the one written by Manohar Malgonkar, and another by Nathuram Godse’s brother, Gopal Godse.
Completing two decades in the entertainment industry. Share a bit of your experience. How have you seen the industry grow and change?
I passed out from the National School of Drama in 2003, and I thank my stars that I have been continuously working since then. First in the Marathi film industry, and now also in Hindi. It has been a very fulfilling journey because I got to work on different projects, and play different kinds of roles, in all kinds of mediums…be it in theatres, films, television or web series. But I am not yet content. The constant hunger for better work remains.
The changes I have seen are mostly technical. When I first started with films in 2007, we were still shooting in celluloid, to this modern-day digitization to VFXs. I have seen that entire transition. Also, the corporatization of Hindi films happened during this period.
How do you juggle between the Marathi and Hindi film industries? Share some of your secrets.
I wouldn’t call it juggling, it’s going from project to project. The language after a point doesn’t matter. In a Marathi setup, the scale is not as big as in a Hindi film, but you realise it the moment you arrive at the sets, so you don’t expect much in terms of scale. There the expectations are more in terms of content, and what you are getting to do on screen. In Hindi, because it is on a much bigger scale, you’ll probably shoot just one scene in an entire day, which never happens in the Marathi industry. It’s like shifting gears between the two but for me, it’s never a big deal.
Donning multiple avatars as actor, writer, stage director and producer. Which one do you enjoy the most, and which do you find the most challenging?
I enjoy everything I do, and it is very very project specific. Suppose I am writing a film, I would know that I don’t want to act in this film, I would look at it only as a writer, enjoying whatever work I am doing. I don’t indulge in work that I don't enjoy. You know it also happens that you are so excited to start a project, but when it ends, you are like good riddance. This is something very rare for me. I thoroughly enjoy whatever little I do.
Being a producer is a little challenging since I am new to it. We just started it two years back, and till now we have produced two Marathi films and two television shows. This is new but equally exciting.
Both of your recent Bollywood characters, Bitta in Kashmir Files, and now Nathuram Godse are antagonistic/have grey shades. Do you think that would affect somehow me to get positive roles in future?
I don’t think so. We are past that age when people will slot us as heroes, villains or comedians. Very luckily, actors now get a chance to play a much wider range of characters. The next character I will play is a wonderful character and has such a great scope in the script. So, I don’t believe in this hero-villain thing any more. While on one side I have played Maharashtra’s biggest hero Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ji on screen, the same year, I also played a brutal terrorist. So it doesn’t affect me.
They say people don't make friends from the industry. What's your point of view? Do you have a go-to person from the industry?
See, you may have go-to people in the industry, who may not necessarily be your friend. I have friends in the industry, and I think you make certain friends, but the intensity of that friendship varies. There are certain friends whom you call if you are in financial trouble, there are some whom you call for career advice, there are some whom you call when you are bored, and there are some whom you call because they are nostalgic. And there are friends with whom you have no rivalry. And as far as the clarity is there I don’t see a problem with this.
Shed some light on your upcoming projects
There is a film with Maddock Entertainment called Happy Teachers’ Day, with a wonderful ensemble cast, directed by Mikhil Musale. I have an upcoming web series called Kaala Paani, a futuristic medical thriller, that will be released on Netflix sometime in the later part of the year.