Actor and NCP MP Amol Kolhe, facing flak in certain quarters for portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse in an upcoming Hindi film, has asserted he is a 'firm believer' in Gandhian thoughts and maintained he took up the controversial role only to challenge himself as an artiste.
Kolhe, facing criticism from a senior party colleague and also political opponents over the role, clarified that he does not support the ideology of Godse.
However, NCP president Sharad Pawar has come out in support of the actor.
In the film, Why I Killed Gandhi, directed by Ashok Tyagi and produced by Kalyani Singh, the 41-year-old actor-politician will be seen as Mahatma Gandhi's assassin.
The movie was shot in 2017, but is slated to release on January 30 -- the day Gandhi was assassinated on the same date in 1948 -- on an OTT platform.
Controversy over the actor's role has kicked off a month after the trailer of the movie was dropped online.
In the trailer lasting 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Kolhe, known for playing the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his son Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in two separate Marathi TV serials, is seen expressing his angst against Gandhi, whom he holds responsible for the atrocities on Hindus in Pakistan.
In an interview to PTI, Kolhe spoke at length about how he was initially hesitant to play the role of Godse, the key reason to pick up this part, and how he feels fortunate to have a considerate party leader like Sharad Pawar.
"I had done roles in Marathi movie and television, when the offer (for Why I Killed Gandhi) came, I was initially excited that I am playing a role in a Hindi film. But when I came to know about the role (of Godse), I told them (makers) it is against my personal ideology," Kolhe said.
"But as an actor, many times you play roles which are not congruent with your ideology and still you play that role. I was told that this role is all about the confession that Nathuram Godse gave in the inquiry commission held by Justice J L Kapur. I said I will be doing this role as an actor," he added.
Citing an example of Russian theatre legend Konstantin Stanislavski, the actor-politician said, this method of acting is difficult, especially when you don't believe in the ideology of the character and yet you portray it with conviction.
This is a 'difficult task' to do as an actor, Kolhe said, adding, "It becomes a different kind of a challenge. It is a challenging task as I don't believe in the ideology and yet I had to portray the role. As a challenge to an actor, I picked up the role. Once the camera starts rolling, you have to put it aside."
However, Kolhe insists that as a person, he is a 'firm believer in Gandhian thoughts'.
"I follow the ideology that none of the killing can be justified, you cannot justify a murder and my ideology remains the same. I personally feel it (assassination of Gandhi) is one of the most unfortunate incidents in Indian history and a murder can never be justified," he said.
Speaking of his process of getting into the skin of a character, Kolhe said that as a performer, it is essential to understand the psychological graph of the role.
"When you play characters like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the process is very simple. I go by the psychological graph of the character.
"Once you get hold of the psychological graph, the body language, speech, diction and other things automatically follow. And in the same fashion, I went ahead with the role (of Godse)," he explained.
The MP from the Shirur Lok Sabha constituency in Pune district said that when he acted in the film way back in 2017, in his wildest dream, he had not thought of joining the NCP and contesting the parliamentary elections (in 2019).
However, Kolhe does admit that the thought of inviting 'conflict and criticism' did come to his mind and that there can be some controversy over his role as Godse.
But he thinks, "Personal ideology and professional commitment are two different things and one needs to differentiate between the two."
"One thing is very clear: the party has nothing to do with this film simply because I did the film in 2017 when I was not associated with it," Kolhe asserted.
"The party should not be dragged into this controversy, is my earnest request," he said.
The actor-MP said he has huge respect for his party leader Sharad Pawar and feels fortunate that he has stood by him.
"The freedom for artistes and personal ideology are two separate things and this has been shown by Pawar sahab for a long time. And the same stand he took that whatever Amol Kolhe has done is in the capacity of an artiste.
"He has shown trust in my ideology. And I am very thankful. After hearing his reaction, I feel fortunate to work under his leadership, that is so considerate," Kolhe added.
On a concluding note, Kolhe said, now that he shoulders a responsibility of a Lok Sabha constituency and his party's ideology too, as an actor he will consider the ideology of the party and choose roles more wisely.
Kolhe's portrayal of Godse on the silver screen has not gone down well with some in the NCP.
While NCP leader and Maharashtra minister Jitendra Awhad has targeted Kolhe over the issue, the opposition BJP sought to know the actor-turned-MP's 'exact stand on Godse'.
Awhad has said that even if Kolhe had played Godse in his capacity as an actor, "It is indeed an endorsement of Godse's views."
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said Kolhe should clarify his 'exact stand on Godse and his views'.
However, Pawar has backed the actor-politician.
"Dr Amol Kolhe's decision to act in that movie should be seen as an artiste's choice. If he played that role, it does not mean he subscribes to Godse's ideology or views," Pawar said.
"If someone plays the role of Aurangzeb in a film, it should not be seen as the actor becoming a supporter of the Mughals...Ravan abducted Sita (in the Ramayana), does it imply that the actor playing Ravan actually kidnapped her?" the NCP president added.