In the 2008 Marathi film Valu, directed by National Award winner Umesh Kulkarni, a youth called Aaba plays trick after trick to usurp the position of village sarpanch from a seasoned politician. The actor will now seek to reprise that role in real life.
Nandu Madhav, actor and theatre director, is the Aam Aadmi Party candidate against the BJP’s Gopinath Munde in Beed. An actor since 1985 in various Marathi and Hindi films, he played his most famous role as Dadasaheb Phalke in Harishchandrachi Factory, India’s official entry for the Oscars in 2009.
Madhav, born in the arid region of Georai in Beed, is a law graduate who was lured into the theatre. And he is known in the state not only for his artistic but also for his social sensibilities.
“Nandu is a socially committed man, and also a professionally committed man. When Paresh Mokashi was making Harishchandrachi Factory, funds would run out and the project be halted for months. Most actors would have taken on other projects. But Nandu wanted to be available any time the shooting resumed, and stayed committed to the project,” critic Shanta Gokhale says.
Madhav has made many films highlighting farmer issues in Marathwada. One film, Akda (The Hook), tells the story of poor farmers forced to steal power to sustain their farms. Shwet Angaar (White Fire) showcases the lives of cotton farmers of the region.
He also directed the play Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, written and acted by a group of farmers and actors from Jalna district of Marathwada region. The play questions the right-wing portrayal of the Maratha warrior king, and triggered calls for its ban.
Madhav says getting into electoral politics is an extension of his work. “I was earlier speaking thorough my work, which was also politics,” he says. “People for the past few years were fearful of taking the plunge into the electoral space. However the Anna Hazare movement has created a space and people who were waiting on the sidelines have got the push…”
Madhav says his fight is for the uplift of farmers and farm labourers who have no social safety net. “Established politicians seem to have created a ring whereby they share the spoils of the constituency at the expense of the people. My attempt is to challenge this structure so that real issues of the people of my region, including farmers, are addressed,” Madhav says.
For a resident of Marathwada, where caste plays a key role in deciding elections, Madhav is careful not to spell out his last name. “You can call me Nandu Madhav Kamble, Kulkarni, Qureishi, Munde, any name you like,” he says.