Meet the National Award winning actress of Dhag
National Award winning actress Usha Jadhav made her family so proud, they cried when she went up to receive the Best Actress award for the Marathi film Dhag.
The 30-year-old actress has struggled a lot to get where she is. She started working at the age of 20 to support her family. When she decided to become an actress, she was almost penniless.
Her determination to make a mark in the film industry kept her going. In just her second film, she has proved that she has "the calibre of Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi" according to acclaimed director Sai Paranjpe.
Patcy N speaks to Usha about her struggle and what the National Award means for her and her career.
On her National Award
I never thought I will get a National Award. I took the role because it was a strong female-oriented role and I loved it.
Even after the shoot was complete, it didn't strike me that it was such a good film. Then the film went to the Goa film festival and I got responses from people in the industry and audiences.
Sai Paranjpe saw the film and said it was one of her favourite films. She told me, "After so many years, I have seen in you the calibre that Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi had."
When a director like Sai Paranjpe praised me that's when I thought I had done some good work and may be I will get some awards for this role.
But, still, I never imagined it would be the National Award.
Image: Usha Jadhav
'The proudest moment was when my entire family cried in appreciation of my award!'
The best compliment
I got lots of compliments from different people.
But for me the proudest moment was when my entire family cried in appreciation of my award!
That was my achievement, when my father told me he was proud of me.
Image: Usha Jadhav
'I am a director's actor'
Milind Salvi, a friend of my director Shivaji (Shivaji Lotan Patil), recommended my name to him as he had seen my work. He called me and I mailed him my work and after that, he immediately cast me.
Dhag is the story of a family that runs the village crematorium. The son doesn't want to follow the tradition and get his father's job. His mother wants to educate him and doesn't want him to do this work which is done by lower castes only.
People who work in a crematorium think differently. They pray that people should die so that they get money for their living. When somebody dies, they thank god saying 'let people die like this so our family survives'. It is a tragic life.
My character in the movie, Yashodha, is the mother. She doesn't like to stay in the vasanvaat (crematorium) and she doesn't want her kids to do this job. She tries to educate them and fights with everyone to get them educated.
Circumstances in her life change and she has to force her son to work in the vasanvaat. That decision changes her life.
I am a director's actor, so I worked with my director. We sat together and discussed my character and her mentality and psychology, her emotions. I was hundred percent sure what he wanted from me.
Image: Movie poster of Dhag
'You can call me an encyclopaedia of films'
I am from Kolhapur (a city in the southwest part of Maharashtra). I did my schooling there. My father was a school teacher. He taught music. My mother is a housewife. My father retired but did not get the provident fund money that he was supposed to get due to some problem.
Our financial condition was getting bad -- we were five sisters and one brother. I am the second youngest.
I went to Pune because I got a job in a tourism company doing air ticketing. I was paid Rs 3000. I worked there for three years. I was doing my graduation by correspondence course but did not finish my final year.
After working for three years, I thought that's enough of family responsibility. I have to go to Mumbai and pursue acting.
It was my dream to be an actress. I felt I had to at least try so that I don't regret it later in my life. That's my nature; if I fail it is okay, but I have to try.
I was highly influenced by films. You can call me an encyclopaedia of films. I have seen lots of films. I was so glued to the television set that my father would be upset. I would even study watching television.
I would take part in school dramas and when I was still a kid, I decided that I wanted to be an actress. But I never told my parents that.
When I came to Mumbai I got a job in a tourism company as a travel executive. I then informed my parents that I am shifting to Mumbai as I have a job there.
Image: Usha Jadhav
'I am not a trained actress but yet Madhur Bhandarkar gave me a role without any audition'
First break in acting
I worked for six months and simultaneously I started giving auditions on weekends. I met a girl called Geetanjali Rao who was also an actress. She had worked with Madhur Bhandarkar in Satta and Corperate. She told me that Madhur Bhandarkar was looking for actors for Traffic Signal.
I went and met him. I did not even have to give an audition. After seven months in Mumbai I landed my first role in Traffic Signal. I am not a trained actress but yet Madhurji gave me a role without any audition.
I couldn't work on a 9 to 5 job and work in a film simultaneously so I had to give up my job. It was the first time my family came to know that I wanted to be an actress
My father was upset when I left the job and my three-year graduation course in Tourism. I just left everything to be an actress. He told me working in the film industry was very uncertain, you are making a mistake. But I had made up my mind.
After Traffic Signal, I did my first commercial with Preity Zinta for Head and Shoulders. I did around 14 to 15 ads -- for Idea, Jeevansaathi.com, Hindustan Times, Rin, Fevicol, I have even done an ad with Rahul Dravid.
I had got my first break in 2007. It took seven years to get my next film, Dhag.
To be honest, I have seen bad days. I stayed in a rented apartment in Mira Road and the second class train pass for a month would cost Rs 125; I often didn't have the money to buy the pass.
I started working at the age of 20 and always had at least some money in hand. But once I joined the film industry I had major financial problems.
For Traffic Signal, I got paid Rs 6000. Since the budget for Dhag was Rs 50 lakh, you can imagine how much I got.
I have two films in hand now, one in Hindi and one in Marathi. I signed both before the National Awards were declared. I want to do meaningful cinema.
Image: A scene from Dhag