The auditorium of Balgandharva Rangmandir in Pune was jam-packed with theatre connoisseurs. The play began with a young urban couple chatting about the husband’s documentary project. After 10 minutes, one could feel that the audience was yearning for something more. Then walked in the veteran theatre, film and television actor Rohini Hattangadi as Saraswati Marathe. Akin to what happens in a cinema hall on the entry of a superstar in a film, the auditorium broke into claps and cheers. Hattangadi played the protagonist in the Marathi play Aai Tula Mi Kuthe Theu, that was recently staged in the city was written by Ashok Patole and directed by Purushottam Berde.The play revolves around Marathe, an old woman who has lost her husband a decade ago. Grappling with old-age diseases such as
diabetes, blood pressure anomalies and arthritis, Saraswati is dependent upon her two sons and their wives. Though the sons love her, they are dominated by their wives, who despise their mother-in-law.
What drew Hattagadi to a story that gives a sense of déjà vu? “Yes the story has been attempted by filmmakers in the past but what makes this play universal and contemporary is the way it is dealt with. That the mother is unwanted is just a part of the play. The larger message that it portrays is that every woman, when she is young, should take care of herself so that when she grows old, she is not dependent on anyone physically and financially,” says Hattangadi, who, in addition to this production, is busy with Marathi TV serial Honar Sun Mi Ya Ghar Chi.
Playing a mother is something that comes naturally to Hattangadi, who has played a number of memorable roles as a mother in films such as Saaransh (1984), Agneepath (1990) and Munnabhai MBBS (2003). “In Hindi films, it’s easy to get typecast. After I played the mother in a few films, I was only offered mother roles. I just wanted to act; so I don’t regret doing any film. As an artiste, I made sure that the
character sketch and look of each mother I played, was different. I never had to carry a wig from one set to another,” says the actor.
So has she taken a conscious decision of staying away from current Bollywood films? “Not at all. But someone who has played the mother of Amitabh Bachchan cannot expect to get offered a role of playing Shah Rukh Khan’s mother,” says Hattangadi, who attended school and college in Pune before enrolling at National School of Drama in Delhi.
In the Hindi film industry, where even the established actors keep craving for that one “dream role”, Hattangadi is just one of the very few actors to have played not one but several such characters — Mohini in Party (1984), for which she received the National Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Arth (1982), in which she plays Shabana Azmi’s maid, a role which was widely-acclaimed, among others. While the role of Amba in Chaalbaaz (1989) revealed her versatile side, she held her own as Suhasini Chauhan in Agneepath.