An interview with Amol Palekar, scheduled the day after his Delhi performance on February 1, was delayed by 90 minutes. No, the actor wasn’t late, as most Bollywood celebrities are infamous for. He was too generous with the audience, answering every question to their satisfaction. The audience had come to attend a director’s meet where Palekar and his wife Sandhya Gokhale discussed the nuances of Palekar’s play Kusur, staged at Kamani Auditorium in Delhi. This 80-minute play is an adaptation of the Danish thriller film Den Skyldige.
The actor, known for films such as Chhoti Si Baat (1976), Gol Maal (1979), and Baaton Baaton Mein (1979) among others, is an institute in himself. This is evidenced by the fact that the exclusive interview promised to this journalist took place in the presence of at least 10 theatre enthusiasts who’d surrounded him. Moreover, during the play, it appeared that Delhi audience were so in awe of the actor that they forgot the rules behind watching a play. In the last scene of Kusur, when Dandavate, a retired Assistant Police Commissioner (essayed by Palekar), walks down the stairs from the stage, his monologue is interrupted with sudden and sharp sounds of applause from the viewers. One doesn’t hear what the monologue is all about and almost misses out the activity on stage.
Palekar, in conversation with The Sunday Standard, said, “It was the first time such a thing happened. We have staged this play in other cities too but we didn’t encounter the applause before the curtain fall. May be the Delhi audience was too impatient to applaud me but they realised soon that the play hasn’t ended yet.” The 75-year-old actor had performed at the same venue in the capital city (Kamani Auditorium ) in 1971. “So much has changed in almost 50 years since I performed here. I think most of the people in Delhi are not aware of my theatre connection. To them I am a film actor. So it was both exciting and challenging for me to be able to perform again. But the standing ovation yesterday was a humbling experience. I was privileged,” said Palekar.
The most important element for Palekar in acting is the use of silence on stage. He said, “Once during a play, I was able to hold the effect of silence for five seconds. I remember nobody wanted to move in the audience, probably nobody wanted to breathe in order to let the sanctity of an emotion stay. This experience had me believe in the power of silence and I worked on this skill much more than before.”
Palekar has always immersed himself in different art forms. A graduate of Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay (now Mumbai), the actor-director is also known for his abstract paintings. His first solo exhibition launched in Taj Art Gallery in Bombay in 1967. The painter debuted as a theatre director in the same year. The next year he started as an actor. According to Palekar, “Just a handful of people get to dabble in these art forms simultaneously. I consider myself very lucky.”
He said that the stage, similar to a canvas, gives him additional elements to display his thoughts. Palekar is also gearing up for his next art exhibition in 2021. The actor, who learned his craft from masters like Badal Sircar, and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, doesn’t believe in offering any suggestions to young theatre folk. “The job of advising is very elegantly taken up by our politicians. They tell us what to eat and what to wear so I have nothing to say on this front,” concluded Palekar.