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Exclusive! Director Satish Kasetty remembers Vikram Gokhale and his only Telugu film Kalavaramaye Madilo

Vikram Gokhale, in Kalavaramaye Madilo, played the role of a classical musician who nurtures the singing career of her daughter

Exclusive! Director Satish Kasetty remembers Vikram Gokhale and his only Telugu film Kalavaramaye Madilo
Vikram Gokhale and Satish Kasetty
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 02.44 PM, Nov 26, 2022


Vikram Gokhale, in an illustrious career as a performer for over five decades, conquered several peaks across various mediums - cinema, theatre and television. His credibility as an artiste is second to none in Indian cinema and some of his best works were for the Marathi and Hindi film industries. The thespian had made a mark in Telugu cinema too in his only film in the language, Kalavaramaye Madilo. Expressing his condolences to the family of the veteran on his demise, Kalavaramaye Madilo’s director Satish Kasetty spoke to earlier today. Excerpts from the conversation.

On the decision to cast Vikram Gokhale in Kalavaramaye Madilo

Our first choice for the role was S P Balasubrahmanyam and when he couldn’t take it up owing to his health condition, we were looking for other choices and then, Vikram Gokhale entered the picture. His role as a musician in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam struck a chord with audiences and we felt that image would suit our film too. He comes with a vast experience across decades as an actor and an editor too. He gets into the nuances of each shot effortlessly, be it the silences, pauses or the way he constructs his dialogues.

It was a masterclass on acting while working for him for Kalavaramaye Madilo. The discipline and dedication he had for his craft were unmatched. Despite not knowing Telugu, he gave it his everything to deliver the dialogues, except for one sequence where I didn’t want the language to come in the way of his performance and asked him to tell the lines in Hindi (we dubbed it in Telugu later). I wanted him to go berserk and not lose out on the performance. S P Balasubrahmanyam eventually dubbed for him in the film. Though I couldn’t have SPB, the actor, I compensated for that with his voice.

How Vikram Gokhale enriched his work with his understanding of nuances

Thanikella Bharani had great respect for Vikram Gokhale and he worked in tandem with him in the film and their scenes came out beautifully. Everything from the little gestures to mannerisms and improvisation, you didn’t have to tell him how to go about a scene. In the acting classes I conduct, I discuss how one should never direct an actor but in most cases, we end up doing it. Beyond acting, direction and editing stints, Gokhale sir came with rich life experience and used it to enrich his work.

I was in touch with him till last year and always wondered where I could cast him. When I saw him as Narendra Modi in URI, I was stunned and his age didn’t even show in the frames. The minute we say action, I think age disappears for Gokhale sir. Before the shot, though we may have our doubts about his agility in front of the camera, all such concerns vanish when we call for the shot. He uses his physicality so effectively in his performances.

Going beyond the script in Kalavaramaye Madilo

There’s a scene where Swathi hands over a cup of coffee to Vikram Gokhale in the film and that’s the only brief I gave to him that day. However, while performing it, he gave a reaction as if the heat of the cup caught up with him as he was sipping it and he shifted it onto the other hand. None of it was mentioned in the script but it added great drama to the sequence.

In a sequence between Thanikella Bharani and Gokhale sir, he keeps drinking endlessly and all I told Bharani was to come up with a gesture to stop him from having another glass. When Gokhale sir reaches out for the bottle with the right hand, Bharani garu places his hand on the former’s palm. Instead, the veteran used his left hand to take hold of the bottle. It was such a beautiful tradeoff between two fine actors.

He was cutting vegetables in a scene in the film and I was holding a placard in front of him to help him out with the dialogues. Even as he was reading out his lines from the placard, he never made it sound rehearsed and gave the right pauses, improvising spontaneously. The passion I have for my job is because of the experiences I’ve had with people like him, Thanikella Bharani, Kota Srinivasa Rao and Ilaiyaraaja.

On Vikram Gokhale’s respect for art and the creator

In a set filled with over 150 people, you know what Gokhale sir did? He came and touched my feet in front of everybody. I responded, ‘What are you doing sir? I am supposed to touch your feet.’ He only said, “You’re my first director in Telugu and my guru today. I am doing my first Telugu film because of you. This is my beginning in the industry.” He did that right in front of Bharani garu, Delhi Rajeswari and the other lead actors. That’s the respect he had for art and cinema. This wasn’t about me. It’s hard to find that in youngsters today, the grace and the value system. The best way we could celebrate him is by watching his performances. I’ll miss him a lot.

(Kalavaramaye Madilo can be watched on Youtube, Amazon Prime Video)