Madhura Welankar Satam is a leading Marathi actress and a four-time State Award winner. She hails from a family of respected film dignitaries which include her producer father Mr. Pradeep Velankar and her father-in-law who has been a part of one of the longest-running and popular TV shows CID which was aired on Sony TV. She has also appeared in the Hindi film, Jajantaram Mamantaram. She is now venturing with a Hindi TV Show, Crime Next Door, which will premiere on Disney+ Hotstar. It is a multi-ensemble series where she is cast opposite her former co-star Girish Kulkarni.
Crime Next Door is an Indian mini web series. The series stars Yashpal Sharma, Mohan Kapur, Rajendra Gupta, and Anupriya Goenka. The series has been made under the banner of Neela Film Productions. In this gripping crime thriller, a police officer solves some of the most heinous and toughest murder cases of his entire career.
Madhur spoke to Bollywood Hungama for an exclusive interview to discuss foraying to digital platforms and more.
How was your experience shooting in the middle of a pandemic?
Honestly, we were very fortunate to have started in October after the situation in the country settled and finished before it got worse again. After March (the initial nationwide lockdown), it was the first time I was at the airport. Everyone was adapting to the new normal of wearing masks, PPE kits, and all the precautions were taken. Even while we were shooting in Jaipur, there were night shoots, we were always wearing masks, and the location was getting sanitized every now and then. There weren’t a lot of people on set at all times except when we were shooting for a part sequence, still everyone was wearing their masks and all their safety precautions were being taken care of. Sometimes, even I was getting annoyed with the mask and makeup and hair but it’s for your own good. And honestly, I was willing to do anything and everything as long as I get to work. I am workaholic and we were all confined to our houses since March, I enjoyed the change and I was working again- I was thrilled. And at that time- we all believed that the situation would get better so we were all positive!
You have created a niche for yourself working in Marathi films, how was the shift from theatre and movies to shooting for an OTT platform?
What is your happy place when it comes to acting; you have ventured out and done theatre, movies, and now a digital series? What gives you the most pleasure?
This question gets asked so frequently and I can never pick one. But to me theatre is like home, I did it even before I aspired to become an actor. My grandmother would write a story, my Mom would direct it and I would act. But when I started out I started with theatre and films together. And I believe both the mediums have their own charm and I love being a part of both. But I very strongly believe that theatre teaches you the basics to become an actor. There is a process that is followed by each artist to dwell into mannerisms of the character and own it when you do theatre. Theatre is live, it’s raw and there are no retakes and cuts. Since it is live in front of the audience, you immediately get feedback. And that is what helps you in movies because movies don’t get shot in a linear fashion but the theatre basics help you understand the character better. But they both have their charm; I can never pick one, socially between films and theatre. There is always so much to learn, explore and give back and I love being on screen just as much as I love being on stage. OTT gives you an abundance of creative freedom and you can portray things the way you want- it’s a challenge in itself and I love taking challenges and exploring and learning something new.
How was it working with an ensemble cast for Crime Next Door?
Crime Next Door is a compilation of several films and for my bit- I have worked with Ravi Shah and Girish Kulkarni. As for Girish, we’ve been friends for quite some time and we did theatre together but we were facing the camera for the very first time (together). It was a lot of fun, we were both Maharashtrians, we spoke in Marathi on sets. And the funny part- we are really good friends but in the movie- we are always fighting (laughs). And in between takes- we were always talking about movies and theatre. I was working with Ravi Shah for the very first time and I recall a funny incident wherein he was supposed to stand up and the scene would cut. But somehow, he didn't end up standing and the camera kept rolling, we were all waiting for him to stand up and he misunderstood the situation. And we were all just laughing and we clicked as co-actors. He also knew my father-in-law very well, he has also done theatre, and we had a few common interests. Since it was a murder mystery the mood would be quite solemn and Ravi would say a few things and everyone would burst out laughing. It was a lot of fun!
How fun it is to work in multiple industries and go back and forth between languages?
I have worked primarily in Marathi films and series. As for Hindi, I have done Jajantaram Mamantaram, another film that didn’t end up releasing with Yashpal Sharma, and another series, that’s all. I am not very fluent in English and Hindi and I was very conscious about my accent. This happens with several Marathi actors, they get very conscious about their accent. And so many actors feel this way, the fear and insecurity then restrict you and you don’t end up overcoming the fear. I staunchly believe that whenever you take up a new role, you have to fit into the character’s personality, you learn the way they behave, you adapt their mannerism, you learn new things then why not work on your language, it’s part and parcel. You don’t need to know the nitty-gritty of the language but just for the character, we can always learn. Our director Deepankar is from Jaipur and he is very fluent in Hindi. I asked him to help me get the dialect right. And for Hindi, we have grown up watching Hindi films, talking in Hindi but it’s typical Mumbai Hindi but for a character, it’s always important to get everything correct and be organic. As an actor, you can know how to emote with your eyes and showcase the change in your body language, language you can learn on the way.
You come from a family of actors and leading film and TV dignitaries, did you feel pressure to live up to your father’s legacy or fill in his shoes?
Mr. Shivaji Satam, your father-in-law, has been a part of the films and one of the most popular and longest-running TV Show CID, did he give you any special advice before you started working for Crime Next Door?
Not really! He just asked me to be myself and not worry about the language barrier. He asked me to just be convincing as an actor and not take unnecessary pressure. But I remember, 5 months into my marriage, I was working on a film with him that my husband was directing; we were shooting for a scene where I had to yell at him and back answer him, zinc, he played the role of my father in the film and I was a bratty daughter. I was a little intimidated and he sensed it, he is not a very expressive person that way but he sensed my discomfort and put a hand on my shoulder and asked me to just go for it which ultimately eased me out and I gave the shot.
The pandemic has brought the film and acting industry to a grinding stop. How does it feel as an entertainer to keep yourself motivated amid these grim times?
The audience’s focus is now shifting to OTT platforms and TV Series, what are your views on that?
Honestly, that was the only form of entertainment available during the pandemic and it kept them hooked. It is basically like adopting the new normal. The OTT medium is flourishing and there are no limitations, we can keep exploring and creating new things. Television should evolve, it has its limitations because it caters to everyone, and OTT viewers' discretion is a major factor and people can watch whatever they like. But again, sometimes things that are shown don’t show reality. Basically, they stereotyped women even now and that shouldn’t be done. Women have come a long way and they should be shown in a better light. Things should be portrayed more realistically and content-wise they should grow, so people can see the actuality of life. It is important to show characters as humans and portray them in a more authentic way. There are serials that are doing good work and that should increase.
Any recent movie or OTT series you watched that had you completely hooked and blew your mind?
Hailing from a film family, are all the dinner table conversations about movies?
We always say that when we are together, it is like a festival. I remember when my father-in-law was in CID, he used to shoot at a stretch of 20-25 days. Either him, my husband, or me, one of us was always working. During the pandemic, we have heard so many stories from their past (father and father in law). It is so beautiful because they literally go back to those days and they are very possessive about these stories. They almost have a childlike excitement and it’s very heartwarming to see. Again, being from the same field these stories are really helpful. Stories about how they dealt with people, tackled situations, their good, and bad experiences and it is great learning. My families from both sides are respected for the way they are, they are just themselves and they don't put on any false mask. It is something to look up to; it really helps as an artist. They always say – Be Yourself and Focus on your Work and everything will follow. And in small, small ways we use their advice and we just have to use their advice as a keepsake and its precious.
Since it's a thriller, what can you tell us about the series without giving too much away?
It is a thriller and starts with husband-wife complications but there is a party and there is an accident after the party and then there are a series of incidents, thereafter. It is an extremely unpredictable end and what is really thrilling is- it is a real story. It is very unpredictable and it is a tale of misunderstandings and misconceptions and it all unfolds with uncertainty. We were shooting in Rajasthan and it is a story from Rajasthan, some unit members also knew about the couple from the real story. We just wanted to make sure we stay true to the character and I would like to specify that it is based on a true story. The action sequences, makeup was on point. When I posted a picture of Girish and Me with a scar on my head, everyone was asking me what happened and it was so realistic. The journey was so precise and apt, it was absolutely great!
You have worked in the film industry for 24 years, that’s a long time: Any takeaways?
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