In August 2011, just like millions of Indians spread across India and abroad, Shashank Udapurkar had closely watched Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill movement at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, that had garnered nationwide support. And just like any other Indian, he was hugely affected by Hazare’s ideologies and his simplistic ways of bringing change in the society. Meet the man who plays Anna Hazare in the biopic — Anna — scheduled to hit the screens on October 14.
While the idea of making a biopic on Hazare’s life kept playing with his mind for sometime, six months after the Ramlila Maidan movement, Udapurkar began penning his script. He was determined that unless he collected all the facts about the social activist’s life, he will not meet him. For nearly a year, Udapurkar, who has also directed Anna, visited all the places associated with Hazare’s life — Bhingar (his birth place), Ralegan Siddhi (his ancestral village) and Aurangabad (where he took military training). After a year, when he went to meet Hazare, he expressed reluctance a couple of times. However, later he agreed to meet him for five minutes. “The first question he asked me was why do I want to make a film on him and not on someone like Swami Vivekananda or Gandhi. I explained it to him how he is a living legend and an inspirational figure for many youths. When he saw my script, he was quite impressed with my homework and asked me how did I manage to collection so much information about him.
Essaying Hazare on the screen wasn’t easy for Udapurkar. “His strength is his simplicity. With his simple ways, he has been able to shake the system. I had just one fear – Will I be able to justice to this role. I realised that I could not achieve this by ‘acting’. I had to live like him and think like him. Here, my own ideologies, which are quite similar to his (Hazare), helped me.
I have always felt strongly about the imbalance in the system and how it is associated with corruption. Since I had also written the script, it became easier for me to essay it on the screen,” he says. Other than Ralegan Siddhi, Aurangabad and Bhingar, Anna has been shot in nearly 50 locations such as Ladakh and Mizoram where Hazare was posted during his stint with the army. The look of Ralegan Siddhi of 1975 was created in a rustic area in a village in Chikhaldhara in Vidarbha district.
As far as his look in the film is concerned, a number of people have congratulated him on his “Anna-like looks”. Achieving this though, he says, wasn’t easy given the huge age difference between him and Hazare. While he is in his early 30s, Hazare is 79. “We didn’t want to use prosthetics. We wanted portray the physical and mental transformation, naturally. I was living with his life’s journey for such a long time that his mannerisms – the way he talked, walked etc – everything came naturally to me,” said Udapurkar, who hails from Amravati and did theatre before working in Marathi films, the recent ones being Kartavya and Dhavadhaav.