I was in sweats to act with Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat in ‘Three of Us’: Swanand Kirkire

| Updated: 14 January, 2024 6:48 pm IST

NEW DELHI: A vacuum salesman from Indore successfully transitions to Bollywood, leaving his mark as a lyricist for enchanting songs such as ‘Piya Bole’, ‘Rat Humari To’, ‘Lut Put Gaya’, ‘Manja’, and more. Recently featured in the film ‘Three of Us’ alongside Shefali Shah and Jaideep Ahlawat, the actor reflects on his portrayal of Dipankar Desai in an exclusive interview with The New Indian’s Executive Editor Rohan Dua. Moreover, he expresses his opinions on the Maldives-India dispute, urging the exploration of Indian beaches as Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Rohan Dua: How did you transition from being a songwriter in Indore to the Swanand Kirkire who adds vibrant colours to songs in Mumbai, collaborating with composers like Amit Trivedi and Shantanu Moitra, bringing relief, joy, and empowerment to Indians through your music?

Swanand Kirkire: “My story is very simple. I come from a middle-class Marathi family in Indore. Indore is the city of Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar. A lot of Marathi people reside there. My father used to work in the Bank of Maharashtra and my mother also had a job but both were singers, although during that time it was not easy to be a professional singer. They were disciples of Pandit Kumar Gandhar and that brought skills and traditions into my life.

“I did many other things like even tried doing an NCC certificate but I wasn’t medically fit for it. Then I started working in various kinds of jobs like selling vacuum cleaners door to door. But one thing that I was really into was theatre. Music was present at home but my uncle used to do theatre. So, I thought I can’t do anything else but theatre, which I actually enjoyed, and I should pursue that. Then I applied to the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi in 1993. I came to Delhi in 1992.”

Rohan: By that did you have an interest in movies?

Swanand: “Yes, the interest was already there. In Indore, movies used to be released a day earlier. It used to be a testing ground. From art cinema to Manmohan Desai’s hardcore commercial cinema, I used to watch everything. By that time, VCR also came into the scene. Then I came to NSD where I studied design and direction. Then I met Piyush Mishra, who is a lyricist and writer, in a group. Seeing him I got inspired by him and then I started writing lyrics for the play, in my own way. In plays, I started doing direction. Although, I never thought I will become a lyric writer nor do I even have the calibre to it.

“I used to sit in Mandi house and eat food there. Whenever I go to Delhi, I still visit Nathu sweets in the Bengali market. I used to go to the Refugee market and there were two specific dhabas that I ate in. I also used to cycle near India gate and then go to attend NSD classes.”

Rohan: This was also a period when you were modest with your earnings, modest with your expenditure and with not many avenues for revenue generation, but still had the passion.

Swanand: “This was during NSD when we got Rs 600 as stipend and then about 300 was spent on mess and all. So effectively we had Rs 250 in hand with which you had to live your life. Sometimes, to manage I used to do somebody’s makeup or play a small role in Doordarshan’s serial.”

Rohan: Did you start writing songs from that time only?

Swanand: “I started writing plays, started translating them. I wrote songs for Hari Shankar Parsai’s play ‘ladi najariya’. I translated a play ‘chaltvat’ by a Marathi writer Vidhyadhar Pundli. I also wrote my own play ‘bela meri jaan’. When I was going out of NSD, I wrote a play based on Bhagat Singh’s documents which was played in NSD. I kept his ideology in front of people.

“So, that year was the 50th year of independence and a director named Manju Singh, who was commissioned by Doordarshan to do a show on Bhagat Singh saw my play on him. And since they needed a researched writer for it, which I was, she brought me to Mumbai from Mandi house.

“That was my entry into Bollywood. Unlike other people who go through a lot of struggle, this wasn’t the case for me when I came here. I had work in hand and I came by a flight. They gave me a place to stay and I started my work. The show went on for about 2 years. Then after it ended, I came to realise the true colours of Bombay.”

Rohan: Having not acted for an extended period, how challenging was it to portray the role of Dipankar Desai in ‘Three of Us,’ particularly given the character’s complexity as a sophisticated yet henpecked husband?

Swanand: “Honestly, I’ll say I consider myself very, very lucky that I got to do this. To do this kind of movie and this kind of a role. I wanted to do films and I also did some of them. I got a national award for a Marathi movie named ‘Chumbak’ produced by Akshay Kumar. And still acting as never my first passion.

“Avinash Arun, the director of the movie, called me one day. I have known him since the day he came out of FTII. Somebody suggested my name to him after watching ‘Chumbak’. When I got the call, I thought it would probably be for lyrics but then he told me it is about acting. I asked what the role is and when he told me it is Dipaknar’s, I couldn’t believe it.

“I asked him if he thinks I could play it and he said perfectly. Then I got to know that Shefali and Jaideep were in the movie as well. So I read the script once again and I was thrilled how Dipankar didn’t know poetry while I am a poet. He doesn’t know how to sing while I am a singer. Shefali said “I want to hear Swanand Kirkire sing badly.” So, I was just simply lucky that I got to do work with these amazing people.”

Rohan: What was your experience shooting in Konkan, especially considering the current discussions around it? Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis has encouraged exploration of the Konkan region, Lakshadweep also comes in that.

Swanand: “Konkan can become a really beautiful tourist destination. It is meditative and it’s not only beautiful, our spirituality resides there. There are so many temples. It is beautiful and untouched. We have so many places in India that are yet to be explored. So we should certainly explore these places with responsibility.”

Rohan: Did you follow what happened since the time the Prime Minister visited Lakshadweep islands, which the previous governments did not do, and how we pushed Maldives?

Swanand: “Yes, I followed it and that’s the correct path to follow. We showed Maldives its place and that we won’t take anything. If your economy is dependent on us then it is. What the Prime Minister said is absolutely right.”

Rohan: I was really impressed with your role in ‘Dipankar Desai’. There is a scene where you and Shefali are coming back from a hut where we can see sadness in your face and yet you are also a caring husband. There is a twist.

Swanand: “That’s the jist of my character. There is jealousy, he is also trying to find his place and yet he knows that he isn’t that good as her childhood friend. He is a poet, he does embroidery and my character knows that he is less than him. But he still cares for his wife. And in dementia, a lot of people just go away, so in a scene she goes away and he is guilty and worried because he also said things he shouldn’t have last night in the movie. When the person is alive and with you, you can fight with them but if they go away then what will you do?”

Rohan: There is a self-confession in a scene where you tell Jaideep about her dementia and ask him to go on the ride with her.

Swanand: “It’s such a beautiful moment that Jaideep does. He realises that he has to let her wife live those moments. Both of them know that she is sick. Jaideep also wants to go but he can’t himself. He needs that permission from me. When I say to go, he doesn’t look at me. He touches the cheek of the child but it feels like he touched mine as if he was saying “Thank you for letting me go.” Then there is a beautiful interaction with the child where she talks about forgetting. Then there is a moment of closure and everyone returns back to their life as usual.”

Rohan: Why do certain scars and wounds from our past leave an enduring impact on our hearts and minds, making it challenging to forget or recall them during cherished moments in life?

Swanand: “Our being is made of memories and dreams. We live in our past or future. It is said that nothing is happening in the present. That is why in our Hindu religion or philosophers say that the world is Maya. Our life is Maya and it is made of our dreams and memories. If our memories and dreams are erased then our being gets erased. ‘Three of us’ is about that only.”




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