The young Adinath Kothare
is full of surprises. Not only is he more than just the son of Marathi
cinema legend Mahesh Kothare, he’s a celebrated actor and director in Marathi films. Not just that, he’s even found an iconic break in Bollywood
playing Dilip Vengsarkar
in the upcoming ‘83
’ with Ranveer Singh
. A man of many talents and remarkably wiser than his years, Adi, as he’s fondly referred to by friends, talks to ETimes about his films, experience of working on ‘83’, and more. Excerpts:
You’ve acted in and directed the critically-acclaimed ‘Paani’. How did you end up with such an off-beat subject?
‘Paani’ is a project we started in 2016. I was researching and wanted to direct a film; the subject of the water crisis appealed to me. So I did my research and stumbled upon the story of a common man, Hanumant Kendre, from Nanded district in Maharashtra. This man comes from a village that nobody wanted to marry their daughters into because people had to walk four kilometers to fetch their daily fill of water. Hanumant got engaged to a girl but the minute the girl’s family found out about the water crisis in his village, they called off the wedding. He was heartbroken because he was somehow smitten by that girl… it was love at first sight. He went to the girl and told her “I want to marry you but I will marry you the day there’s water in my village. Will you wait for me?” What happens after that is the story. Today, that village has water 365 days a year. It supplies water to 4-5 neighbouring villages too. This man brought the water-sharing project to his village. It took him two years to successfully run the project and marry the girl.
I played Hanumant’s role in the film ‘Paani’ and directed it, too. We pitched the idea to Priyanka Chopra; she liked it and produced it. Nitin Dixit, who is a writer-director, came on board to write the project as well. When I was in front of the camera, I needed someone behind it, as well.
You play an important role in the upcoming film ‘83’ as well. How did you end up getting that role?
We shot ‘Paani’ and I came back to Mumbai. I got a call from Mukesh Chhabra to come over for an audition and look test for some ad film. I had come from Nanded where I was shooting for over 45 days. So, when I went in to audition, I was all tanned, had a moustache, and I was looking totally different from my usual self. When those at the audition looked at me, they said I am not going to fit the brief for the ad film. But then Mukesh looked at me and said, ‘Adi, let’s try something else’. And then he took me to a cabin and told me that there’s this film that he was doing, and there was a character of Dilip Vengsarkar. Then he showed me a YouTube video and told me, ‘Try to replicate his body language and what he’s saying’. I had 15-20 minutes, so I did the test. And I got a call the same evening from Vaibhav, from Mukesh’s team saying, ‘Tomorrow Kabir (Khan, director) sir wants to meet you’. I said ‘WHAT? I got the part?’. Vaibhav replied, ‘Yeah, you got the part’. The next day I met Kabir Khan and the ‘83’ journey began.
‘83’ is an iconic film for many reasons. How was your experience of working on a special project like this?
It was an amazing experience working with Kabir Khan, Ranveer Singh, and the team. We shot in the UK, where the story really happened. We shot at Lord’s, The Oval, and Tunbridge Wells where Kapil Dev scored his iconic 175 not out. The most goosebump-inducing moment for all of us was when we were shooting the victory scene in the World Cup final, when the trophy was handed over. Kabir brought the original Prudential World Cup trophy for the shoot. We all were stunned and everyone broke down. Ranveer was sobbing while talking to all of us. It was an extremely surreal experience. As an artiste, witnessing such a great scale of production, detailing, and passion was fantastic. Former cricketer Balwinder Singh Sadhu trained us in cricket for a year.
How did you prepare to play the character of Dilip Vengsarkar?
I met Dilip Vengsarkar. I was trying to pick up his body language, and so interacting with him was amazing. The most amazing part of this process was that somebody from my generation would never have got the chance to interact with legends like Vengsarkar, Kapil, Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath. We were hanging out with them; it was surreal!
I used to meet Dilip sir at the MCA for coffee and just keep chatting, asking him about his memories and stuff. He has an amazing personality and what a cricketer! In fact, his batting grip was very difficult. I had a difficult time learning it. Balwinder sir was amazing as our coach. Because what happened was, Dilip sir was not a batsman first. He was a bowler. He used to use his wrist a lot and was uncomfortable with the grip. And when he started batting, he met a coach who spoiled his grip. Before facing every delivery, he used to struggle. So emulating that was also a big challenge. Everyone had injuries. I developed a tennis elbow. But the training was amazing. I tell you, by the time the shooting ended, we could have played in the IPL (laughs).
What’s the plan for the theatrical release of ‘Paani’?
It is due for release; we are working on a plan. We made it in two years due to the pandemic. I’m in touch with the production team. Anand Malpani is overseeing things and Priyanka is in touch with Anand. We’re exploring all options. Hopefully, we should be able to release the film early next year.
What are your plans for the future, apart from acting and Marathi films?
We have a production company Kothare Vision Pvt. Ltd and do a lot of television shows. We are producing three Marathi TV shows right now with one Hindi show in the pipeline. I have also started my own company under Kothare Vision, which I will announce in January 2022 probably. I will be focusing on digital content, ads, and independent films. There’s one film that I’m producing, which just got selected at the international co-production market in Film Bazaar. I’m doing a web series for Sony LIV, too, which I will be acting in as well as directing.
How difficult is it to balance between your careers as an actor and director?
I can easily switch between the two. It is always an educational experience working with different directors. You get to learn different styles. For example, Kabir Khan is such a great technician and he just lets you be. It is easy to talk to him. Just imagine, directing 12 good actors in one film. He used to be patient with everyone. He had an absolutely clear vision. If someone went to him with a suggestion, he’d say, “This is nice but we need to do it this way”. Being a captain of the ship is very important.
How was your experience of working with Ranveer Singh?
He was very friendly and grounded with everyone. We used to do a lot of masti on the sets.
Do you have any endearing memories of working on ‘83’? What will you remember the most?
We had just sent ‘Paani’ for the National Awards. It was 2019 and because of some reason, the elections were delayed that year, so the results of the National Awards also got delayed. We were shooting in July-August in the UK. The news of the National Awards came out in the newspapers and from our ‘83’ team, three people’s projects got awards. The entire crew got along very well, but nobody on the team knew that I am a director, too. The next day, when I went to the sets, Kabir Khan told me, ‘Adi, we’re so proud to have you as a part of our team’. I was in tears. I could not express what that meant to me. And then Ranveer gave me the tightest hug, and in the evening, when we came back to the hotel, there was a champagne bottle in my room. I came to know that Priyanka Chopra called Mini Mathur and Kabir Khan and asked them to send it over to my room. That gesture was overwhelming. I dropped a message in our ‘83’ group informing everyone about the gesture and we all met at the bar and popped the bottle of champagne.
Since you are a director, which Hindi film actor would you like to direct?
Ranveer Singh. He is always in his zone when he’s on the floor. The way he got into the skin of Kapil Dev’s character, the body language, and the diction, was mind-blowing. He’s going to win all the awards for this role.
Recently, a lot of stars from Marathi cinema have spoken about how the government should help the Marathi film industry expand. What are your views on the same?
I think we need to organise the Marathi industry before the government can come in to help. The Malayalam industry is the perfect example. They have their own union and no digital platform can buy a film below a certain amount. Their industry is well protected. We need to protect our industry, too. The industry and government need to come on the same page and set some guidelines and ethics.
Marathi actors are doing well in the OTT space. All the casting directors I meet are in awe of Marathi actors because they come from the theatre background. Marathi actors are looked up to nowadays because this is the age of content and not just about glamour. Marathi cinema is content-driven; not star-driven.