MUMBAI: Veteran actor Sharat Saxena says it was not difficult to slip into the role of a chauvinist hunter in Vidya Balan-starrer "Sherni" as that is the mindset of most of the men in India. Amit Masurkar has directed the drama from a script by Aastha Tiku, which revolves around Balan's Vidya Vincent, an upright forest officer who is tasked to resolve the man-animal conflict.
The multi-layered film, which touches upon the man and animal conflict and gender dynamics, has been gathering applause from both audiences and critics for its nuanced narrative and performance by the cast.
Saxena plays Ranjan Rajhans aka Pintu Bhaiya, a callous hunter, who believes only he can save the village from the man-eating tigress. "This is a common factor about Indians (men) that they are always dominating the women all the time. This happens all the time. Men all over India think they know better than women. This is the atmosphere in which we have grown up," the Madhya Pradesh-born actor told PTI in an interview.
The 70-year-old actor, best known for his roles in movies like "Mr India", "Tridev", "Ghulam", "Krrish", "Hasee Toh Phasee" and "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", said he did not need to model his portrayal on any particular person.
"It is not very difficult for an actor to take up this kind of character. He is a typical Indian. We have always been making these characters in Hindi films. And there was no preparation required to behave like a male chauvinist p**, we are already that," he said.
Praising Masurkar's approach, the actor said the director ensured that the characters did not go overboard. "The intention of the director was to not underline or put anything in brackets, he rather wanted to give a subtle message. The job has been done successfully as people have loved the subtlety of the film. There is nothing loud and aggressive in the film, it has depicted the way things happen in normal life," Saxena said.
Like many outsiders, Saxena -- a qualified engineer -- harboured the dream of becoming a hero in Bollywood and that's what brought him to Mumbai in the early 1970s. However, he ended up making a mark for himself in negative and authoritarian roles.
"Nobody comes here with the intention to get a beating every day. Everybody comes to Bombay to become a hero and I am also one of those guys who came to become a hero. But we have a very set pattern for a hero like he should be fair, have straight hair and it will be a bonus if he has blue eyes," he said.
"I didn't have all these qualities. I was muscular and being muscular in the '70s, '80s and '90s was a crime because you were considered brainless, uneducated, totally devoid of emotions and the ability to act," he added.
He added that the actor said the initial 40 years of his career saw him being stereotyped as an actor. It is only in the last decade that he has started getting interesting parts. "Every writer, director or producer would think that a person like me was fit for nothing else but action. It is very difficult to change their thinking. In the last 40 years, I did about 600 action sequences and I ended up in hospital about 12 times," he said.
Saxena said despite not getting desired work, he never gave up and that helped him sail through difficult times. He has also not lost hope of leading a film someday. "You cannot come first in class or race or in any competition, one person will be first and the rest will come behind. So the person who comes first becomes the hero and the one who comes behind becomes the character actor. I am trying to come first, maybe one day I will. I am a hardworking person trying to make a mark," he said.
Citing the example of his latest release "Sherni", which premiered on Amazon Prime Video last month, Saxena said, the OTT (over-the-top) platform has given him a new lease of life. "I am still new to this platform. It is for the first time that a new film of mine has been released on OTT. Also, in the last 50 years, this is the first time that I have appeared in a critically-acclaimed film," Saxena said.
"Sherni" also stars Neeraj Kabi, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Mukul Chadda and Ila Arun in key roles.