Raqesh Bapat: I pulled off high octane war scenes wearing 60 kg armour

There is already a lot of buzz around Raqesh Bapat’s character in Pravin Tarde’s historical drama ‘Sarsenapati Hambirrao’. The film, which is based on the life of Hansaji Mohite, who was a chief military commander in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s army, will see Raqesh play the main antagonist. Breaking away from his image of a chocolate boy, this is the first time that the actor will don the avatar of a ‘baddy.’

‘I surrendered myself to my director’

Elaborating on his role, Raqesh says, “Playing an antagonist, that, too, in a period drama is definitely challenging. As an actor, when you have done a lot of positive roles, you are already aware of the nuances that you have to bring to the character. You also know what works for the audience, but when you’re playing a negative person, you have to go with the vision of the director – it is not about being a hero or a villain but what he has envisioned. And, that’s what I did in this film, surrendered myself to Pravin Tarde. I had to follow his vision because it is based on history. Of course, as an actor, you can add your own flavour and touch to the character but you can’t really change what went down in history.”

‘It used to take me two hours to get ready’ ‘Sarsenapati Hambirrao’ that also stars Gashmeer Mahajani, Shruti Marathe and Pravin in pivotal roles. It features the battle of Wai where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s army fought against Aurangzeb’s army, and Raqesh’s character is an integral part of the latter. The battle scenes were shot in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. Raqesh, who underwent physical and mental transformation to prepare for his role, says, “Costumes for a historical film, where you have war scenes, clothes are different, heavy and quite uncomfortable. It used to take me about two hours to get ready and if anybody saw me in the get-up, they won’t be able to recognise me. I pulled off high-octane war scenes wearing 60 kg armour, which made movements quite restricted. The challenges were many, but I love the fact that I got to do a lot of scenes where I had to ride a horse. As an animal lover and a good rider, the experience was quite enjoyable. I would often talk to the horse in between shots, who have their own mood and temperament.”

‘It is a magnum opus’

While for physical transformation and to bulk up to look like a warrior, the ‘Vrundavan’ actor had to train hard, the process of getting into the skin of his character involved rehearsing action sequences and training. “For me, the whole process of switching on and switching off was very interesting as onscreen you have to show animosity and bad blood, but as soon as the director said cut, you go back to being friends with your co-stars,” says Raqesh.

When asked if he is hoping that he character will be remembered as larger than life ‘villain’ as is the case in many recent period dramas, Raqesh says, “You can’t take the character home. It is a magnum opus film and the cast member is huge. So, for me, the impact that matters.”

‘Pravin is a well-read man’

Raqesh, who can’t stop raving about his co-actor and director Pravin, says that he is a ‘chalta phirta encyclopedia.’ “Pravin Tarde is extremely intelligent. He is a well-read man, and an amazing writer and director. One only gets to learn by being around him and working with him,” concludes Raqesh.