Sharad Kelkar on lending voice to Prabhas in Baahubali, Adipurush: ‘I don’t dub, I voice act’

Actor Sharad Kelkar is currently basking in the success of his Marathi historical film Har Har Mahadev. While Kelkar played Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Om Raut’s National Award-winning movie Tanhaji, in Har Har Mahadev, he portrays the role of Baji Prabhu Deshpande. Baji Prabhu was a commander of Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha empire. He is linked with an important rear guard battle enabling Shivaji’s escape from Panhala fort. Baji Prabhu was the hero who sacrificed his life for his king.

Kelkar says he started getting offers to do historicals after Tanhaji. However, he makes sure that he is not “stuck doing one kind of films and roles.”

He said, “We’ve seen in our industry how some great actors have played some iconic roles and then they’ve been stuck in the same role forever. As an actor, I don’t think it is good to be stuck in a certain image or a type of character because then you can’t do justice to other characters you’re playing. When I played Shivaji in Tanhaji, I was first worried if people would accept me in that role, if they’d be happy or not, but fortunately I was accepted by the audience. However, after that, many people wanted to see a similar kind of role. I was a little skeptical about it because then the growth of an actor remains in the backyard. So, the idea was to do something different.”

Talking about how he bagged the role of Baji Prabhu Deshpande in Har Har Mahadev, Sharad Kelkar shared, “Abhijeet Deshpande came and offered me Baji Prabhu Deshpande. Reading his script and realizing the idea behind the film, I was impressed with his vision and courage to approach an actor who is hugely known for playing Shivaji Maharaj on screen, and present him as Baji Prabhu Deshpande. There is one more film with a similar background in the making, so I asked him how his film would be different. But after reading the script I realized that it is a very different story and has nothing to do with any other film that’s being made or ones that have been made before.”

Kelkar confesses that he was a bit unsure of doing Har Har Mahadev because he had just come out of Tanhaji.

“I was coming from Tanhaji, which was a very big, expensive film. The visuals were fantastic. In any department, the film was an ‘A’. So, with this film, I asked Abhijeet if he’ll be able to justify it because we had restrictions in budget. But he was sure we’d be able to pull it off, and today, when I saw the film, I felt it was the right decision to believe in his vision. The film has Tribhuvan Babu as DOP. He’s a National Award-winning cinematographer who’s worked on several Hindi films. Then Lochan Kanvinde is the sound engineer. He was a sound engineer on Tanhaji as well. Vikram Gaikwad, a National Award-winning make-up artiste, and Nachiket Barve, the costume designer, were part of the film. So, I knew Abhijeet had a vision to make a great film as he brought in a great team,” shared Kelkar.

“When the film went on floors, as an actor, it was a delight for me because I realized that this filmmaker could bring out not only the best in me, but something that I have not attempted before. For me, if somebody is asking me for 25 takes for a single dialogue, I trusted him knowing that there was something inside me that he was excavating,” the actor added.

Sharad Kelkar, who has a career spanning two decades, thinks while every role comes with a sense of responsibility, historical characters come with an added responsibility. He says as an actor he takes his job seriously, but also admits that people who don’t have any knowledge about filmmaking should not be criticizing the film.

Kelkar said, “Remember there is an old song, ‘Kuch toh long kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehnaa, chhodo bekaar ki baaton ko.’ I believe in that. There are all sorts of people with a mouth, free mind, free time, so it is better to ignore rather than getting into a controversy. It is better to stay away and do your work diligently. People don’t understand we are making films. They should understand the message behind it and not get into nitty gritties because they don’t understand cinema. They don’t know how to make a film. Today, if I ask anyone making such comments on my film to make a movie, will they be able to make a film? No! It is a sad scenario, but we have to go on.”

“When we go to Mumbai airport, my daughter on seeing the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue there, thinks it is me. So, I have to be responsible. Nobody works without that feeling of responsibility. However, films are a medium of entertainment and if you get a message out of it, then good. If someone gets inspired or motivated, then it is a different thing. But a movie is primarily an audio-visual medium of pure entertainment, so they need to be more understanding. We live for the craft. It is our bread and butter. We’re making cinema. We focus on our craft, on doing as much justice as I can to my character, and being honest and responsible,” he added.

Apart from his acting, Sharad Kelkar is also known for his powerful dubbing. He lent his voice for the Hindi versions of Baahubali films and now has also given his voice for Prabhas in Adipurush.

On his voice having a separate fan following, Kelkar said, “I listen to my voice every day, and I don’t find anything special about it, to be honest. But people tell me they like my voice. I listen to Bachchan sahab’s voice every day and I know I am nothing close to that.”

The actor also revealed how he bagged Baahubali. He said, “What happened during Baahubali is that maybe Rajamouli sir thought my voice suited Prabhas’ personality as he had liked my personality very much. When he met me before I started dubbing for his film, he saw me from top to bottom and was reading my mannerisms and then he chose me to voice Prabhas’ character. It was totally his call. He chose me after not only meeting me but also studying and observing me. Also, I act. I don’t dub the film. I just cannot dub without acting. If one day you catch me in a dubbing studio, you’ll laugh because you’ll find me doing several different things, sometimes weird things while saying my lines. I voice act. I don’t dub.”

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