Panchayat’s Raghubir Yadav worries about the quality of the show: ‘I don’t want to be too happy or sad’
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Panchayat’s Raghubir Yadav worries about the quality of the show: ‘I don’t want to be too happy or sad’

Nearly four decades after his first film and more since his stage debut and numerous small screen appearances later, veteran actor Raghubir Yadav says ‘Panchayat’ took his success to the next level and people recognized him as ‘Pradhan ji’ wherever he went will appear.

“It’s like what I’ve done in the past has been forgotten. My name is Pradhan ji,” Yadav, one of the most prominent faces of the parallel movement of cinema and theater whose career spans decades and various mediums, told PTI.

He is also concerned about the adulation following ‘Panchayat’, about the daily struggles of villagers in Uttar Pradesh, currently in its third season. The series reintroduced him to the viewers as the beloved and slightly bewildered Pradhan ji, who always wants to improve the lives of the people of his village.

“Wherever I go, people call me Pradhan ji. I am shooting in Varanasi at the moment and people are wondering what Pradhan ji is doing among us,” he said in a telephone interview from Varanasi.

The 66-year-old is aware of the huge success of the OTT show, but is also wary of overdoing it as it could affect his performances.

“I will only accept it when the next seasons are over. Right now I’m just worried about the quality of the show. I don’t want to be too happy or too sad,” he said. “The characters shown in the show are people I grew up with or met during my days in Parsi theater. Life was one of simplicity and ease, which is still inherent in our villages. This is what the show has managed to translate without any major tricks,” added Yadav.

He grew up in one such village in the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Raghubir didn’t even have a school, but he was steeped in melody. He sang film songs at local functions and performed bhajans at the temple built by his maternal grandfather. And so he began to dream of a musical career.

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“Sometimes your wishes pave the way for you. I joined a Parsi theater troupe run by my father (actor) Annu Kapoor and worked there for six years. I got Rs 2.50 a day and I count it as one of my best days. I was often hungry, but it taught me a lot. Thodi takleef na ho to maza nahi aata,” he said.

From the Parsi theater in Madhya Pradesh, Yadav continued his education at the National School of Drama in Delhi, where he stayed for 13 years as a member of the repertory company, honing his acting and singing talents. “Since childhood, I have neither been happy nor sad about things. “What people call a fight, in my opinion, is just motivation to work hard,” he said.

Recalling his student days at NSD, where his “Panchayat” sister Neena Gupta was his younger sister, Yadav recalled that Ebrahim Alkazi, then director of the drama school, asked him to choose a specialization, to which he replied that he wanted to teach everything.

“And that’s how I came into contact with scenography. All the students warned me that you would have to work hard, but I went ahead. It helped me a lot in acting. I never need any guidance or sign. I know where to stand, when to stop and what distance should be between my co-actors during the performance. I have a little workshop at home and when I’m not doing anything, I make little things like flutes and stuff. Sometimes I also take a broom and clean the house or go to the kitchen. I find it therapeutic,” he added.

Gupta, who plays his on-screen wife Manju Devi in ​​’Panchayat’, recently posted a widely shared photo from their youth. Yadav said it seems surreal that life has led them to this moment.

“We did a lot of shows together and while working on the show, we realized that we had come such a long distance and we were still like family. This is how we behave when working on a show. This is a photo from the time when she was in NSD and I was in the repertoire. This photo made us realize what a journey we had been on. This experience is now reflected on our faces,” he said.

Acting, says the Mumbai-based artist, who first gained attention with ‘Massey Sahib’ and the Doordarshan serial ‘Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne’, is a continuous learning process.

“The field of art and culture is like an ocean. You can never have enough. To be honest, I think one life is not enough. There is so much to do for everyone. I feel that I should study as best as I can and maybe I will succeed in the next life because one life is not enough,” he said.

From playing Mungerilal, the dreamy hero of ‘Mungerilal…’ to Pradhanji in ‘Panchayat’, it has been an interesting journey. He made his debut with Pradip Krishen’s ‘Massey Sahib’. From then on, the most important thing for him was quality, not quantity.

Yadav has also starred in acclaimed films such as ‘Salaam Bombay!’, ‘Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda’, ‘Dharavi’, ‘Maya Memsaab’, ‘Bandit Queen’ and ‘Saaz’. Then there were commercial performances, including: ‘Dil Se..’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Dilli 6’, ‘Peepli Live’ and ‘Piku’, ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’ and the latest ‘Kathal’.

His television appearances were equally impressive, whether it was ‘Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne’ or Chacha Chowdhary from the beloved comic book adaptation. His theater years and the musical work he has done over the years do not count.

He didn’t like all his movie roles. It was difficult to say no to films that were of lower quality but offered attractive checks,” he said. But he always believed he should stay true to his craft, he said.

“I always feel like I shouldn’t do something that isn’t right. You can make money in the short term, but what will you do later. Coming from a theater background, I understand the joy of playing diverse characters. With other types of work, after a certain point you play the same character in different outfits,” he said.

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  • Yadav was always interested in theater, but the pandemic changed everything for a while. Now that everything is back to normal, he has planned not one but three stage shows in Delhi.

    ‘Piano’, the Hindi adaptation of the Hungarian drama written by Ferenc Karinthy, is back, as is ‘Sanam Doob Gaye’. He also adapts great Hindi writer Fanishwar Nath Renu’s famous short story ‘Maare Gaye Gulfam’ into a play. “This is from Renuji’s story. I also created music for it. Since I belong to Parsi theater, I carried these elements into the play. I adapted it in my own way,” he said.

    (This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a news agency feed – PTI)

    Chirag Sehgal

    Chirag Sehgal works as Associate Editor, Entertainment Team at News18.com. Wit

    first published: June 11, 2024, 21:24 CEST