Mahesh Manjrekar wears many hats — he is a director, actor, screenwriter and producer. Manjrekar turned the spotlight on him with his performance in the 2002 multi-starrer, Kante. He later expanded his horizon and turned antagonist in South films like Arrambam (2013) and Okkadunnadu (2007). But, he is more popular as the director of critically-acclaimed movies like "Vaastav: The Reality" (1999), National Award-winning "Astitva" (2000) and the Amitabh Bachchan starrer "Viruddh... Family Comes First" (2005).
Manjrekar, who is currently seen as the host of the Marathi version of the reality show, Bigg Boss, is gearing up for the release of his much-anticipated movie, Antim — The Final Truth. The movie is an official remake of the Marathi blockbuster, Mulshi Pattern. It stars Salman Khan as a Sikh cop and Aayush Sharma as a gangster. The original featured National Award-winning Marathi actor, Upendra Limaye’s and Om Bhutkar as the cop and the gangster.
Speaking about the movie for which Manjrekar has also written the screenplay, he said, “Salman had bought the rights of the film long back; I came on board late. The director who was supposed to helm the film is a close friend of mine. But, unfortunately, he couldn't do the film and then Salman came to me with the movie. The cop role in the Marathi film was an important one. And since Salman was to play Upendra's character, I had to make some tweaks. I’m happy because I wanted to bring about a change in his image and surprise the audience.”
The filmmaker believes a role is successful only when the audience remembers the actor by the character's name. “For instance, Gabbar Singh (Sholay) or Bhiku Mhatre (Satya)... The audience always remembers these characters when one says Amjad Khan or Manoj Bajpayee respectively. They gained more popularity than the actors when the movies were released. And the actors also crave this. So, I want people to walk out of the theatre thinking about Rajveer Singh (Salman's character in Antim). We had to change our outlook towards this role. It is also a risk because when it comes to commercial films, the audience expects the hero to behave in a certain way. But times are changing and the audience is accepting actors in different roles,” Manjrekar shares.
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Salman and Manjrekar have acted together in movies like "Wanted" (2009), "Dabangg" (2010), "Ready" (2011) and "Dabangg 3" (2019). Talking about working with Salman again and for the first time with Aayush, Manjrekar says, “There's a certain comfort level between Salman and me. We have known each other for a long time and share a great rapport. So, directing him was easy. I am not awed or intimidated by Salman like some people are. For me, he is a friend. I have known Aayush since I have met him a few times at Salman's place. I could notice his involvement, his anxiousness and excitement. Aayush is exceptional in the film; he is a good actor and has given a fantastic performance. I have used the excitement and eagerness he has in real-life for reel.”
So, will there be an Antim sequel? “There's nothing on that front as of now. But like they say, never say never!” Manjrekar is quick to respond. The action drama, which releases in theatres worldwide on November 26, is billed as a "gripping tale of two powerful men" with polar opposite ideologies.
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Not many know, that Manjrekar started his acting journey with the Marathi series, Kshitij. Ask if he has plans of working in one again, Manjrekar shares, “One needs to dedicate time for television as it needs your constant presence. I don’t have the energy to be involved in the process that goes into the making of a TV serial. But, again, never say never.”
Manjrekar was diagnosed with cancer during the making of Antim. While the director is cancer-free today, he stills wants to take it slow. Giving a glimpse of his work diary, he says, “After the release of Antim, I will be taking it slow. I will also be writing a new project, but that will be a little later. Three of my Marathi films are releasing soon, so I will also get busy with their promotions.”
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