National Award winner Girish Kulkarni speaks

Girish Kulkarni
Girish KulkarniWhile the whole world and its favourite lecher know Vidya Balan’s deliciously dirty deeds in The Dirty Picture won her the National award for Best Actress, the response to Marathi actor Girish Kulkarni winning the National award for Best Actor had drawn a blank in many Bollywood circles.

“Yeh Girish kaun hai, Atul Kulkarni ka bhai?” a prominent Bollywood director wonders.

When I share the anecdote with the shy soft spoken Girish Kulkarni, he laughs, “I’m not surprised that I am not well known. Ek to main Pune main rehta hoon. My friend and creative partner Umesh Kulkarni helms a production house here in Pune. We’re happy so far to be making our Marathi films away from Mumbai.”

Life and priorities changed for Girish on Wednesday when the National award for Best Actor was announced for his performance in Deool. “It came as a complete surprise. My home is swamped with relatives and friends. My sisters have come to visit Pune just to be with me after hearing of the National award. My daughter Sharavi has been attending all the calls while I’ve been meeting guests. It’s a completely new feeling for me. So far I’ve never even thought of a National award. I’ve acted in only four films, all in Marathi-Vihir, Ghabricha Paus, Gandh and Deool. I am happy doing Marathi cinema. But now I know I’ve to expand my horizons.”

Girish feels Marathi and other regional cinema was until recently subservient in the public domain to Hindi films. “I do feel a lot of quality cinema emerges away from Bollywood, from Bengal and Kerala, for example. For Marathi cinema I think the game-changer was Sandeep Sawant’s Shwaas in 2004. That’s when the rules regarding the low production values associated with Marathi cinema changed. Earlier our films suffered due to lack of funds. Producers saw Marathi films as a make-a-quick-buck business venture. Now we see a genuine love for Marathi cinema. There’s a lot of recognition for non-Bollywood cinema at international film festivals. That helps. We’ve lately had Marathi films on every subject ranging from farmers’ suicide to Dada Phalke. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Marathi cinema.”

Girish admits he had a tough time completing and releasing Deool. “We had to make the film under severe financial hardships. Luckily for us Deool was appreciated. And so was my performance. But I never thought of the National award. Awards are not my motivation for acting. Whether it’s the stage where I’ve been active for years or cinema, my output has been limited. I only do the work that I am convinced about.”

Hindi cinema beckons the former mechanical engineer with both arms. “Anurag Kashyap who is a dear friend has been waiting with open arms. I’ve been a little hesitant. But I think the time has come to do a Hindi film, if for no other reason than to move into another linguistic zone. I am a qualified engineer. For many years I worked as an engineer and moonlighted as an actor. Then I finally did what my heart told me. I became a full-fledged actor.”

Girish’s first Marathi film Vihir was produced by the Big B’s AB Corp Ltd. “It was such a pleasure working with Amitji. He even did a promotional video for Vihir. Sadly the producers after AB Corp were just not that receptive to good cinema. But as I said, the status quo is changing.”

Girish Kulkarni is now getting ready to release two of his starrers. “And that’s really a lot of films for me, considering I did four films in five years. Now two of my films Masala and Pune 52 are being readied for release.”

Incidentally, Girish’s daughter Sharavi has acted in 3 of his films. “She was in Vihir, Valu and in Deool. I suppose a love for cinema runs in the family.”

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