The Man of Many Talents Ananth Mahadevan

Four decades ago, a young man had a dream. He wanted to act on the stage – and go much further. Time has flown and today, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan is a well-known figure in the world of entertainment. One could say his dreams have come true.

Reminiscing the Past

Talking to us in between shots, Mahadevan goes back in time. “I started acting in professional theatre in 1980 and took my first step towards television in 1983-84,” he reminisces. A few years later, the screen for which he performed became many times bigger. Since then, this reticent man of many talents has juggled roles with commendable success. Mahadevan has directed two Marathi films, both of which have received magnanimous applause from the critics as well as mature film-goers. These films are Doctor Rukhmabhai and Mee Sindhutai Sapkal. Did Marathi pose a challenge? “I am at ease with Marathi, having studied it as a second language in school in Mumbai,” he says. After finishing college, he worked as a copywriter with Bombay Publicity, which produced publicity campaigns for films. “VP Sathe, Raj Kapoor’s associate, was one of its founders. After joining there, I soon got used to the idea of speaking in Marathi, the main spoken language in office. That got me closer to the language on a day-to-day basis.”

The Man of Many Talents

Doctor Rukhmabhai, his latest film, is based on the real-life story of an intrepid visionary, whose story was waiting to be shared with the masses. “Women doctors are important in every society, there being women-specific medical problems that need to be addressed by woman only and not the man. Her story needed to be told, which drew me towards the subject,” he reflects. Mahadevan’s directorial ventures, including his Hindi films, have been small-budget ones. Ask him why, and he responds, “Honestly, the budget doesn’t matter to me. It is the vision that does. I have always let the script dictate the budget, which is why I managed to make Gour Hari Dastaan for `5cr, for instance. Besides, the practical side is that the cost price of films is more than the selling price most often. It is easier to sell at a lesser price.” Mahadevan wears many hats.

Not only is he an actor and director, he has also shared the National Award (2010) with his fellow writer Sanjay Pawar in the category of Best Screenplay for Mee Sindhutai Sapkal. “Writing is an integral part of filmmaking. Filmmakers have been known to write, and understandably so, because the creative process that leads to a film acquires a seamless quality. That is the reason why I pick up my pen whenever I have a good idea,” he asserts.

It seems that he has slowed down as an actor, one tells him. But he disagrees, and explains, “I am ready to act, but I refuse to get assessed by guys who have no clue about acting.” Kamal Haasan is an actor he openly idolises, and he has been fortunate enough to work with the legend as well. “Kamal Haasan called me up for Vishwaroopam 2. We struck it off really well,” he recalls, adding, “He apparently told people that it was good to work with an actor, who is a director as well.

Stage and Theatre Life

Mahadevan had started out as an actor on the stage. “Theatre is what keeps me going. I believe that theatre is for an actor what running is for an athlete. It is really stimulating,” he says. Admired for playing Polonius in an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the outset of his career, he is frequently seen in successful plays such as Blame It on Yashraj, Last Over and August: Osage County.

A veteran on the small screen, he is currently seen in a comedy titled Aadat Se Majboor on SAB TV. What made him go for it? “It is being made by a bunch of very nice human beings. Shooting for it isn’t taxing, the location being merely half an hour away from my house, which is a boon in Mumbai,” he says.

Mahadevan’s story has been an exciting one. The man has invited a diversity of challenges and given each one of them his best shot all along. A passionate artist all his life, he continues to head towards unexplored territories in his quest for doing the best he can.

Words: BISWADEEP GHOSH

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