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What Nishikant Kamat was really like

By SUBHASH K JHA
August 18, 2020 12:51 IST
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Subhash K Jha remembers a decent, kind, gentle person who didn't quite get his due.

IMAGE: Nishikant Kamat directed Ritiesh Deshmukh in Lai Bhaari. Photograph: Kind courtesy Ritiesh Deshmukh/Instagram

I knew Nishikant Kamat for 15 years.

He was always polite, soft-spoken, respectful and shy of the media, except me, who he said he respected too much to avoid.

Nishikant had a habit of disappearing for long periods.

He said he was constantly travelling into the interiors of the country.

I first got to know Nishikant when he made that exceptional Marathi film Dombivali Fast, which was remade into Tamil as Evano Oruvan, with R Madhavan in the lead.

Nishikant quickly became a successful director in Bollywood.

But he hardly had any friends in the film industry except John Abraham, with whom he did the successful Force and Rocky Handsome.

My favourite Kamat film will remain Mumbai Meri Jaan. It traces the trauma after the train blasts on July 11, 2006.

 

In an interview with me, he said cinema must reflect the reality of the times.

'We are going through very troubled times,' he had said.

'Cinema is meant to reflect contemporary reality. All these films on terrorism coming together is a bizarre, not bazaar, coincidence. My idea behind making Mumbai Meri Jaan is to show how people survive a personal tragedy.'

'I was more interested in the characters than the tragedy of the train blasts. I am sure a lot of people went through the same emotions after the blasts.

'I haven't experienced any of the things shown in my film, but I am sure they have happened to people.

'I lived with my characters for two years. They drained me emotionally. Any act of extremism over a city causes the anthill effect. A stone hits the anthill, the ants are traumatised. But they immediately get to rebuilding it.'

'We are truly tolerant. After each attack, people feel helpless. But Mumbaikars have the inner strength to bounce back.'

Sadly, Nishikant got bogged down into making remakes, like the Ajay Devgan-starrer Driysham, which I don't see as his best.

He was far more effective while directing original films like Riteish Deshmukh's Marathi film Lai Bhaari in 2014 and the 2017 Irrfan vigilante drama, Madaari.

We used to discuss why Nishikant needed to do so many remakes when his original films were his best, and he promised he would make more original films in future.

Not many know this. But Nishikant was a terrific actor.

See him a bipolar college professor in Prawal Raman's 404 Error Not Found.

Prawaal said he would not have made the film if Nishikant had not agreed to play the pivotal part.

Nishikant did not enjoy facing the camera. But he was stellar as a villain in Vikramaditya Motwane's Bhavesh Joshi Superhero.

'How can a man so gentle play someone so brutal?' I asked him.

'Even I don't how, Sir. There must be some unexplored evil inside me,' he had laughed.

I only saw a decent, kind, gentle person who didn't quite get his due.

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