Veteran Actors Rohini Hattangadi And Dilip Prabhavalkar Reunite For Marathi Film On Euthanasia

Veteran Actors Rohini Hattangadi And Dilip Prabhavalkar Reunite For Marathi Film On Euthanasia

The movie, Aata Vel Zaali, by Anant Mahadevan, touches has been inspired by case studies in India and the world over

Roshmila BhattacharyaUpdated: Saturday, February 24, 2024, 06:10 PM IST
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On February 5, former Dutch Prime Minister, Dries van Agt, and his  wife, Eugenie van Agt-Krekelberg, both 93 and ailing, chose to die together, hand-in-hand, because they couldn’t live without each other. While assisted suicide by a fatal injection is permissible by law in the Netherlands with 29 couples opting for it in 2022, in India only passive euthanasia — withholding food and treatment to allow patients who are terminally ill or in a vegetative state to die — was legalised in 2018.

Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s upcoming Marathi film Aata Vel Zaali (It’s Time To Go) has been inspired by many such case studies of couples in Australia, Japan, and India, including Maharashtra and Kerala. “The idea came to me in 2021, after the world experienced the horror of the pandemic and started rethinking about life and its culmination. We wrapped up the film in July 2022, after which it did the round of the festival circuit,” informs the National Award-winning writer-director.

The film, which released on February 23, touches on the subject of active euthanasia through a healthy Mumbai-based couple who petition the President for the right to die, believing that merely existing, as opposed to living a productive life, is a signal for a dignified exit. “I like the word exit, a planned exit, over the term death. I’m always looking for something new, and when Ananth approached me with this story, it triggered a chain of thoughts I had never had before. Immediately, I said “yes”. Working with Rohini (Hattangadi) was an added incentive,” smiles Dilip Prabhavalkar, who plays 70-year-old Shashidhar Lele, with Rohini as his 65-year-old wife Ranjana.  

The National Award-winning actress admits she would watch her co-star’s plays when in college and particularly remembers a children’s play, Albattya Galbattya. “Dilipji’s a brilliant actor and it was enjoyable working with him even though there wasn’t much time to chat between shots as we were shooting in a chawl and it was chaotic,” recalls Rohini whose Kasturba in Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1982 Gandhi remains unforgettable.

Rohini wasn’t nominated for the Oscars, but bagged the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role category. Interestingly Dilip Prabhavalkar won a National Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Gandhi in the 2006 Lage Raho Munna Bhai. “I’ve seen the film, but the coincidence never struck me till you mentioned it. Dilipji looks like Gandhi, has performed really well, but he’s a very different Gandhi, appearing intermittently with a purpose,” she points out.

Dilip agrees, pointing out that while Ben Kingsley’s Oscar-winning performance in Attenborough’s biographical drama brought the real man to the screen, his Gandhi in the satirical comedy drama was an illusion, triggered by the chemical locha (reaction) in Munna’s brain. “But (Vidhu) Vinod Chopra (producer) and Rajkumar Hirani (director) gave me a lot of reading material, including Louis Fischer’s book, Mahatma Gandhi His Life and Times, Gandhi’s speeches and Films Division clips, like the one of the 1930 Round Table Conference in London, so I could grasp his personality. It was the first time I was playing a character role, and since it was Gandhi, it was a huge responsibility. What he preached, like sympathy, empathy and non-violence, is still relevant,” the veteran actor asserts.

For Rohini too, the prep was arduous as the role spans a lifetime, from 27-74 years. Since she was only 27 at that time, she sat with the script of Gandhi to figure out Kasturba’s age in every scene. Then with the make-up person and hairdresser, decided how much white would be in her hair and how many wrinkles.

“Surprisingly, there’s a lot of literature on Gandhiji, but almost nothing on Kasturba. I’d assume she’d wear a big bindi, like my grandmother and great-grandmother, but discovered she’d apply only a tiny dot on her forehead,” the actress shares, recalling her director never raised his voice on the set, and once, when a schedule in Delhi had to be extended to eight pm, Attenborough surprised her by politely asking for permission. “I understood later that abroad they have very strict laws on overtime while in India woh hamein nichod lete hain (they squeeze us dry),” she dimples.

Prabhavalkar continues to enact the Mahatma, in his talk show Chimanrao Tey Gandhi. He selects eight-10 of his famous characters from film, TV shows like Chimanrao Gundyabhau, and the stage.  Screening video clips of these performances, he explains how he prepped and even performs a few of the roles live. “I’m going with it to Europe in April. There’s also a stage show in May,” he informs.

Rohini is busy with Chandrakant Kulkarni’s play, Charchaughi, playing mother to three daughters born out of wedlock, who have shaken off the bond of patriarchy themselves. “There’s also a Marathi film, Respect, revolving around seven characters, living in the same city, state and country, who don’t know each other, yet represent every woman in the world. And a Telugu film, Telusa Manasa,” she signs off.

At 68 and 79, both these actors are busy and creative, even as they experiment with new subjects and different mediums.

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