Sharad Kelkar talks Operation Romeo: 'This is the first film where I was not at ease playing a negative role'

Sharad Kelkar talks Operation Romeo: 'This is the first film where I was not at ease playing a negative role'

Sharad Kelkar talks Operation Romeo: 'This is the first film where I was not at ease playing a negative role'

Sharad Kelkar is one of those few actors who have successfully transitioned into Bollywood from the television industry. Right from his big break with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela, to TanhajiThe Unsung Warrior, to web shows like Special Ops and The Family Man, Kelkar has come a long way.  Earlier, the actor may have got typecast as a villain as he played negative characters in many films post his big break like Bhoomi and Housefull 4 but with films like Tanhaji, in which he played Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj; and Laxmii, where he portrayed a transgender, and most recently The Family Man, he managed to break the stereotype. “Around three years back I was playing negative characters back-to-back. I was getting typecast and once I did The Family Man the perception changed. People felt I can also play a vulnerable, flamboyant, nice guy,” he says.

However, getting typecast doesn’t bother Kelkar much as he believes being a good actor is far more important than playing a hero or villain. “When I was getting typecast, I said to myself that I was first an actor…villain is the hero on the wrong side. For me playing any character whether negative or positive has to be heroic and for any central character you have to not only go by what is written in the script but what else can you bring to the table. Also, negative is more fun,” says Kelkar.

He will be next seen playing a crucial part of that of a villainous cop in Operation Romeo, a Hindi adaptation of the runaway Malayalam hit Ishq: Not a Love Story. Produced by Neeraj Pandey and Shital Bhatia’s Friday Filmworks and Reliance Entertainment Production, the film deals with the harassment of a young couple under the cover of moral policing.

The cast and crew of Operation Romeo

“The script is fantastic, it is a very interesting subject and I wonder why nobody has attempted this subject till now. When Neeraj sir narrated I was so intrigued. It is very challenging to play what you are not and there was no reference point. You can’t connect with the character at all,” says Kelkar, who has earlier collaborated with Pandey on Special Ops.  “When Neeraj sir calls you for a role it means that the role is meant for you. He will not call random four to five people, the first assurance is if he has chosen you then you deserve this and you can do it as he thinks. But there are a lot of shades to the character. There is a 35 minute crucial scene and in that you have to be in the same zone, same feeling, it is complete reciprocation of other actors. When you rehearse several times you tend to get prejudiced about the next move. Therefore we didn’t rehearse much,” he adds.

Operation Romeo, apparently, is based on a real-life incident, “but such incidents have happened with most of us where we are harassed, bullied… It has happened with me as well… you are with your girlfriend, you don’t want to mess around, you always try to escape from there and don’t fight back. This film is all about harassment in the garb of moral policing. People misuse their power, or there are corrupt practices, or a bunch of people may bash up couples who are just sitting peacefully. Everyone will relate to the film because they must have experienced it in some form or the other,” says Kelkar, whose best preparation, he says, was to not to watch the original. “Because it can misguide you, or you get intimidated with the actor who has already done it. You may probably take 15 percent of what he has done but then why should I do that? I just heard out my director and writer, and reacted to my co-actors rather than preparing and mugging up lines. In such films you need spontaneity and do whatever comes to your mind instantly,” says Kelkar.

Sharad Kelkar_1

While the actor has played many challenging roles in the negative space, he says, he found it extremely difficult getting into the mind of a “disgusting” cop. “Being a father of an eight-year-old daughter makes it very difficult to get into that zone. Very often I would be thinking of my daughter…wondering what I am doing? This is not right, this is not me, how can I think like that? But I had to be in that character. At the end of it I got so disturbed that I went to Neeraj sir’s office and told him I was feeling dirty and disgusted, what should I do? It feels terrible. I have played negative roles in many films, I have even played a rapist but this is the first film where I am not at ease. I am disturbed. Neeraj sir said that if I was feeling terrible, if I was upset and not feeling good then that suggests that I have acted well and it works for the film,” says Kelkar.

Besides lending his voice to Prabhas in Baahubali 2, Kelkar, who recognises the fact that regional cinema is at its peak and winning over audiences pan India, has been part of many Marathi and a couple of South films. “I have decided to do at least one Marathi film every year,” he says, furthering, “Regional cinema is growing…South is killing it. I might do a Kannada film in the latter part of this year. My Tamil debut film Ayalaan will release at the end of this year and I am looking out for a Telugu film also. So far I have done just one Telugu film. I have always been fascinated by the South film industry. I have worked with Rajamouli sir and obviously being part of Baahubali is the biggest experience. I am a fan of South actors, they are the heroes. I haven’t seen the craze of actors as it is down South. Over there shows at even 5 am go housefull,” says Kelkar, who, post success of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise early this year, had expressed concern saying that South cinema might overshadow Bollywood due to lack of good masala entertainers here.

“Lot of people ask me about the current scenario and I feel we need stars because they create the industry and only then we should go for content-driven films. We can’t be dependent solely on content-driven films because it is the stars who shoot up the box office. Ultimately, it is about business,” he concludes.

Operation Romeo releases in cinemas on 22 April.

Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.

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