In the series titled First of Many, the who’s who of the industry will revisit their first acting project. They will reveal how they landed the role and what was their experience on the first day of shoot.
Anang Desai has made a mark for himself in films and television. From movies like Parinda, Aashiqui, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, Yaadein, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Rustom, to TV shows like Bharat Ek Khoj, India Calling, Miley Jab Hum Tum and others, Desai has tasted success across mediums.
Popularly known for his portrayal of Tulsidas Parekh aka Babuji in television’s blockbuster series Khichdi, Desai has experimented with several genres too. But it was his debut project Gandhi, which gave him the perfect entry into films. Desai played the role of Acharya Kriplani in Gandhi. Though the role had decent screen time, the actor considers being a part of such a classic historical drama, an opportunity in itself.
But how did Anang Desai bag the Academy Award-winning film Gandhi? Here’s what the actor shared.
1. What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?
My first project was Gandhi. I played Acharya Kriplani in that film, a character who was quite important at that time. Though the role wasn’t a big one but it was a crucial one as my scenes were with Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel. So, my small role got highlighted too. And that too in a film which went on to become such a landmark one.
Director Richard Attenborough came to India with his casting director to scout actors in Mumbai, Delhi and other places. When they came to Delhi, I was working with National School of Drama’s rapporteur company. They came to watch one of our plays titled “Mukhya Mantri” and I had a very important role in that play. He came to backstage to congratulate me and said he would like to meet me after the play for a probable role. He said he has seen my performance, but since the film is based on real people, slight resemblance was required. Richard Attenborough himself had a theatre background so probably he judged my performance. He called me for some make-up and look tests. Next day I went to meet him at his hotel where we spoke and later did a make-up test according to how Kriplani ji looked at that time. He was young then. They did something with my hair and all. After they clicked some pictures based on Kriplani ji’s photos, and thought I suited the part, I was finalised for the role. This dates back to 1980.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I don’t really remember my very first scene. But I was very excited to be part of such a big film with such a distinguished director. It had talented actors from both India and abroad. The excitement to work in an international film was surely something I remember. Ben Kingsley was playing Gandhi. Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey and Rohini Hattangadi were present too. And how an international crew works, this I got to see for the first time. I worked with a lot of excitement throughout.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
There was no nervousness because I was trained in theatre. And I had to join television or films as an extension of it. That is what we are all trained to do. So, I did it with confidence, not any nervousness. Rather there was excitement.
If the director felt there was any technical problem or if he needed some better performance, then only we had retakes. I never took more than one or two retakes.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
That time we loved working with each other. Later, I kept meeting Rohini ji. She lives in Mumbai only. Alyque Padamsee is no more now. But when he was alive, we used to meet too. With Saeed Jaffrey, I did some more films later. So definitely we remain nostalgic about Gandhi. We even had a get together once. This film is an important part of our career.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
Now that I have grown as an actor, and if I do that role, I will do it in a better way. I don’t know how, but I would have definitely bettered my performance from whatever it was then.
Also Read | First of Many: Gajraj Rao | Vivek Oberoi | Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub | Rajpal Yadav | Rajeev Khandelwal | Govind Namdev | Neena Gupta | Pankaj Tripathi | Satish Kaushik | Mohit Raina | Shahid Kapoor | Jimmy Sheirgill | Tabu | Harsh Chhaya | Gaurav Gera | Saurabh Shukla
6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
I was a part of my school’s cultural activities. This only intensified in college when I became an integral part of theatre. When I graduated, I decided this is what I want to do. I spoke to my parents. They never opposed. They only gave this advice that whatever you do, do with utmost perfection. They suggested me to acquire another degree. So I kept doing theatre and got myself enrolled in NSD. If you enter this industry with training, you would be able to present yourself in a better way.