May 7, 2002 
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Shivaji Satam
Shivaji Satam: Awards boost your ego!
A portrait of an actor

Dr Rajiv Vijayakar

The Maharashtra State Best Actor Award is the latest feather in Shivaji Satam's cap, for his performance in the Marathi film Ek Hoti Vadi.

To think that the actor, like any middle-class Maharashtrian, was working in a bank before he found his niche.

Having won other awards in various categories from the State as well as the Alpha and the Sahitya Sangh, Shivaji stresses that while awards here do not help you professionally. Though they are definitely good for the ego and self-confidence, he says. "They are welcome."

A shade philosophical about not getting Hindi film awards, he smiles ruefully, "I was nominated twice. For Ghulam-e-Mustafa and Nidaan. But I realised that I would never win because without if lead artistes were not awarded, there would be no glamour attached to the functions. Being nominated was enough though!"

To Indian television buffs, Shivaji Satam --- a genial, down-to-earth successful actor --- is the chief cop of the intrepid team in CID. To Marathi audiences, he is a familiar face on stage (Dhyaani Mani, which won him the State Best Actor Award) and television (Ek Shunya Shunya).

In Hindi films too, Shivaji has put in memorable performances --- the hapless husband with a politically ambitious wife in Hu Tu Tu; the politician in Kurukshetra; the army chief in Pukar; the honest cop framed in Daag -- The Fire; and the sympathetic doctor in Filhaal.

He seems to be a constant feature in Mahesh Manjrekar's films --- from Vaastav to Pran Jaaye Par Chaal Na Jaaye.

For Shivaji, acting was never a childhood dream. "But I firmly believe that every Marathi boy has an actor within him, right from childhood when he is exposed to films, plays and television. When watching any scene, he always thinks how he would have done it himself. Of course, few enter showbiz. The rest are avid theatre and film buffs."

Shivaji's childhood interest in theatre came about thanks to the lavish Ganeshotsav festivals in his locality, during which plays would be performed. Once, his friends persuaded him to act in one of the plays. "I realised this made me really happy. Bal Dhuri, noted Marathi stage giant, was chief guest on the occasion and he was impressed. Later, he offered me a professional play Sangeet Vardaan, a musical, as a substitute for an actor who had got some problem. Actually, I had turned down the offer, but my friends forced me to agree!"

Among Shivaji's plays are Savitri, Mahasaagar, Khandobache Lagin, Swapna Gaane Sampale and his latest play (for which he also won the State Best Actor Award) --- Dhyaani Mani.

Shivaji has formed lasting associations with collegues like Nana Patekar and Mahesh Manjrekar. He staunchly defends Manjrekar's films, which he feels reflects life. Asked why most of them haven't worked, he replies, "Nowadays, romance clicks. But entertainment should stimulate some introspection and one should identify with it. I am extremely happy that Marathi theatre today is very popular. Even the comedies tackle social problems and offer solutions. That's why, at the risk of sounding parochial, I find Marathi serials superior."

The actor was to play Gracy Singh's father in Aamir Khan's Lagaan. Due to date problems, he refused friend and fellow CID officer Ashutosh Gowariker. "Lagaan and Gadar do romanticise things, but the general depiction is realistic. Besides, the films make you nationalistic and proud of heroes. You want them to take on their enemies and make India win."

How does he approach a role? "I have lots of inhibitions. My directors are slowly removing them. Mahesh, for example, is the only director who never repeats a role for me. Even if I play a father, he makes sure the shades are different every time.

"I am doing a comic role in his Tere Pyar Ki Kasam, which I never thought I could do. It was very subtle. I even played a paedophile in Split Wide Open. I am a director's actor."

Compliments, like awards, are very precious to Shivaji. "I had done a cameo in Fiza and Rishi Kapoor --- whom I had never met --- hugged me and praised my performance. For Split Wide Open, compliments poured in from Brazil and Spain."

Will we see him as a director? "I'm too lazy for that!"


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