Dear Mr Patekar,
I can’t thank my friend Mahesh Manjrekar enough for reminding us where you come from. I watched your return to your performing roots in Natsamrat. It’s a film every Indian should see, and why just Indians? Every man or woman who has spoken rudely to his aging parent would recognize his own guilt in Ganpat Belwakar’s hurt pride when his favourite child humiliates him.
I felt the same way when I saw you in Welcome Back. Hurt and humiliated on your behalf, as you played the slapstick-savvy buffoon, I thought of writing an obituary on the death of the actor. Prior to this, I saw you in a sloppily done sequel to Ab Tak Chappan.
Which devil prompts an actor to put himself through such indignity merely because an actor needs to act? Dr Shreeram Lagoo who played Natsamrat on stage has been missing from the screen for some years now. And thank God, we didn’t have to see him doing a Welcome Back just to stay professionally active.
It’s a terrible thing to see good, even great actors reduce themselves to a mockery merely for the pleasure of working. It may give the actor joy to just face the camera.
But it is not a joyful experience for the audience when the charismatic Dharmendra appears a pale shadow of his endearing self in Second-Hand Husband. Or when the greatest superstar ever Rajesh Khanna does a z-grade film like Wafaa in the twilight years of his life. Or when the sex goddess of the 1970s, Zeenat Aman shows up in some indeterminate atrophied film on alternate sexuality called Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyon, Or when Rehana Sultan, the National award winning actress from Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Dastak, returns a shadow of her fiery self to play Chitrangda Singh’s mother for exactly 3 minutes in Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar.
It seemed like you had also betrayed your audience when you played the buffoon in the situational comedy by Anees Bazmi. The film and the role were more suited to Shakti Kapoor. From you we expect glory and greatness, nothing else.
And that’s what you got out of yourself in Natsamrat. After the fall in Bazmi’s bakwaas, Natsamrat marks your almost instant-resurrection as an actor of a formidable stature. It is the kind of work that doesn’t come easily to actors above the age of 60, unless you are an Amitabh Bachchan.
Seeing how actors (and actresses) are treated beyond a certain age in our country, it's a good thing Suchitra Sen, Vyjanthimala and Dilip Kumar never looked back after their voluntary retirement. I shudder to think what mainstream Bollywood cinema would have made of them had they decided they couldn’t live beyond the arclights.
You, Sir, made a quick creative recovery. Welcome Back.
Subhash K Jha