This appreciation post is, in a way, an exception and in a way, it is not.
It is an exception because this character, Sajjan Rao, who I am absolutely in awe of and love with, is from a Marathi TV serial and not a web series. BUT! Since I have a Voot Select subscription, I get to watch the episodes on Voot 24 hours before the telecast. It’s safe to say that, at least for me, this Marathi serial is a digital-first show. That’s a lot of explanation for people who might get confused whether Sundara Manamadhe Bharli is a web show or a TV serial, after reading this post. Now, coming straight to the point – Sajjanrao!
What a performer! No, I won’t call him an actor. I think that is like putting his capabilities as an artist in a small, congested box. A performance that stunned me even as a kid was of Paresh Rawal in Raja. After Paresh Rawal’s Birju, it’s Sajjanrao who made me wonder if that is how this actor truly is. Does he speak the way Sajjanrao speaks in this serial? Does he walk the same way? The mannerisms – whom do they belong to? The actor or the character?
In search of answers to my questions, I started watching his interviews where I realised that Sandesh Upsham, the actor (just to be precise here) who is playing Sajjanrao in Sundara Manamadhe Bharli is nothing like this character. His voice is manly (to understand this, hear him speak in the serial, especially his most popular dialogue, ‘Manda Aahes ka Ga Tu?’), his walk is normal, his behaviour isn’t weird. In short, he is just like you and I. After all my doubts were cleared, I fell head over heels in love with Sandesh Upsham, an actor par excellence. Before that, I only loved the character.
If you read my yesterday’s Shershaah review, I have mentioned how good writing alone cannot save your film (or a show). Actors’ contribution matters, and it matters a lot. Where a good actor can save a badly written character; a bad actor can brutally murder a well sketched character.
Since Sandesh Upsham has blurred the line between the real person, Sandesh and the fictional character, Sajjan, I would talk more about the character now and you judge the calibre of this actor based on that.
What I love the most about Sajjanrao? Firstly, if you watch the first few episodes of this show (after Sajjanrao’s entry), you will understand that the writing has not transformed this character, the actor has. It is clearly his improvisation and inputs that has polished Sajjanrao. As a result of which, today, this character is the apple of the audience’s eye. When this character was introduced, he was someone the audience hated. And today, he has unpeeled the layers so well that in such a short time, you have gotten to see all the shades of Sajjanrao and you now understand his mind. Even if the story doesn’t, you will be able to justify his past behaviour and would also want to defend him.
Getting into the character’s skin and mind is only an actor’s job. If he does that, he delivers a performance worth-watching. But what kind of work is this where you give psychology lessons to the audience through acting? I haven’t seen anything of this sort before. I am mind-blown!
I would also like to appreciate the writing, at this point. Thanks for not making Sajjanrao a negative character. The viewers are tired of negativity. Even though fiction, we want to see actors be people we can relate to and Sajjanrao is as real as it can get.
For the ones who do not watch this serial, especially my non-Marathi readers, here is a little about the character.
Sajjanrao is a man in his mid-30s who is manipulated and controlled by his dominating father, to an extent where his father even hits him in public. Thanks to his greed and dowry demands, his son is still unmarried. When his marriage with Latika (the lead actress) is fixed, he comes across as a person who doesn’t have a brain of his own. He acts and behaves like a puppet. Desperate for marriage, Sajjanrao is someone no girl would like to settle down with. He is stubborn, childish, and also a little foolish. But when this marriage breaks, Sajjanrao decides to step out of his father’s shadow and starts living an independent life. Here’s where the character took an interesting and beautiful turn.
Being emotionally and mentally dependent his entire life, he now starts living with Latika’s parents. Though the reason on the surface is that he wants to live closer to his love interest, if you get into the depths of the character, you know that it comes from his need for attention which he constantly demands. With Latika’s family, especially around Bapu, Latika’s father, he feels loved. Here he gets the love he has been longing for his entire life. And then his confident and intelligent side starts coming out. A person whom you had at first discarded as an useless being turns out to be a reliable and dependable person you can run to anytime for solution to almost any problem. From a person who asks his would-be wife to not give her salary to her parents after marriage to becoming a person who gives Bapu money to gift his son-in-law during an important life event. What a transformation! Every time you see Sajjanrao on screen, you get a life-lesson. When under someone’s shadow, even if you are the brightest star out there, you won’t shine.
From a role that seemed negative at first to successfully making it a comedy character that is not limited to comedy as it brims every human trait especially humanity, is truly applause-worthy.
To simplify it for you, I would say that Sandesh Upsham is playing a complex character where he understands and holds the complexities of being human together, perfectly balance them, and then bring them out in different yet right proportions, as and when needed. This is next level mastery over the craft.
If ever write a book about my favourite fictional characters then Sandesh Upsham’s Sajjanrao would top the list.