Laksha: An actor for all times

Chaitanya S Deshpande

Marathi Film Superstar and popular comedian in Bollywood Laxmikant Berde's third Death Anniversary is on 16 December 2007. The author pays tribute to this great artist and comedian.

‘HE WAS not for an age, but for all times’ said Ben Johnson once about the great William Shakespeare. It is possible for very few artists to remain for all times. Laxmikant Berde was one of those figures who will be immortal and alive forever through billions of minds and hearts.

The name Laxmikant Berde factually ruled over Marathi film industry for about two decades. Gifted with the wonderful timing of comedy, this reverent artist performed all kinds of roles with the same excellence. Regrettably, he hardly got the roles fitting to his ability and talent.

In fact, Laxmikant confirmed his distinction through several serious roles but his uniformity in doing comic roles constrained him as a comedian. Born and brought up in small village of Konkan, Laxmikant was passionate about stage since his childhood. This passion fetched him miles away in Mumbai where he joined ‘Sahitya Sangh.’

Laxmikant’s struggle was full of untiring hard work. He got his first break on commercial stage through the play ‘Tour tour’ that became a milestone in Marathi drama and granted Laxmikant a celebrity status. His ‘Shantecha Karta Chalu Ahe’, ‘Bighadale Swargache dar’, ‘Karti Chalu Ahe’ and many other plays also turned out to be super duper hits. Laxmikant’s dream run initiated with the grand success on stage and glorified when he entered on silver screen where he portrayed a middle class Marathi young man struggling for a job and a rented house in crowded Mumbai. He portrayed an innocent youth from smallest village of Maharashtra with tiny dreams in his eyes. His characters, his talent, and his attachment to the common people made him a part of all Marathi families. Laxmikant become Laksha of every Marathi heart.

Laksha’s genuine rule on Marathi film industry began when he paired with Mahesh Kothare. Mahesh was so much fascinated with his talent that he wrote many scripts just keeping Laxmikant in mind. All films by this duo were not only the commercial super-hits but also responsible for keeping Marathi film industry alive in those diverse circumstances when comedy was clutched in Dada Kondeke’s duel meaning films and tragedies were out of Marathi film world.

Mahesh and Laksha’s pair gave milestone films like ‘Dhumdhadaka’, ‘Dhadakebaz’, ‘Thartharat’, ‘Maza Chhakula’, ‘Zapatlela’ and Laksha’s last appearance ‘Pachhadlela.’ With classic filmmaker Sachin, Laksha shared screen in ‘Banvabanwee’ , ‘Aytya Gharat Gharoba’ and many all time hits.

Acting was god’s gift for Laxmikant. His sense and timing of comedy was just perfect. Through his long career in drama, he acquired a special quality to grab the public attraction within minutes. At one point, his craze was so captivating that a film like ‘Chal Re Laksha Mumbaila’ was produced to cash his popularity. Besides this, many scripts were written genuinely for him.

Meanwhile, Laxmikant and Ashok Saraf created a treasured legacy in the history of Marathi films. These two artists had an incomparable tuning but very few directors made a quality use of it. The Ashok-Laksha pair performed through more than 300 films among which many were mere droops. Whatsoever, their films made billions laugh forgetting all worries and stress.

While on the top of the Marathi world, Laxmikant received the offers from esteemed Bollywood filmmakers like Rajashri Production. In ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, Laxmikant portrayed main supporting character of Salman Khan’s friend with excellence. Soon, he became the inseparable part of Rajashri’s films. In ‘Hum Aap Ke Hai Kaun’, Laxmikant got only a single serious scene in which he literally makes everyone cry. His forte was to stern the audience at once while laughing but he hardly found such roles in films.

In ‘Ek Hota Vidushak’ written by legendary PL Deshpande, Laxmikant proved his prominence and received acclaim from all over. He expected state award for this film but his dream could not be fulfilled. Later, he worked extremely hard for ‘Manus’ which was again a strong disappointment for him as the film failed to accomplish his expectations. He was very much keen to do serious kinds of roles but was not fortunate enough to get them. He even planned for an autobiography written in Charlie Chaplin’s manner.

In recent times, Laxmikant returned on stage with ‘Lele Viruddha Lele’ and ‘Sir Ale Dhawoon’ but his return was momentary as the destiny was planning for the worst. One who used to bring smiles on weeping faces at once left all of us lamenting and passed away due to serious kidney failure. His demise was a shock not only for his fans but also for his industry, as this herald of happiness never let anyone know about the gravity of his illness.

Laksha took his final exit from this world on 16 December 2004, three years before, but it is hard to believe even today that he is not with us. Even after three decades and three centuries, his remembrances would remain vivid as ‘Laksha was not for an age, but for all times.’

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