To Mumbai

In 1998, ‘Parichay’, although initially formed by amateurs, completed a decade – a decade of spectacular run and successes. But now several of its members had moved on, opting for other careers, getting married or settling abroad, leaving only a few old timers.

So, it now dawned on Upendra that he could no longer sustain the idealistic fervour that had driven him during the past decade. He realised he had to become practical about his career. He knew if he wanted to prove himself as a true artist, he had to go to Mumbai. He decided to shift his base there.

That marked the second turning point in his career.

He came to Mumbai in 1999 to act in a mainstream commercial play, ‘Dr Aaap Bhi.’ But he had also arrived there with all his ideological baggage from the ‘Parichay’ decade. Notions about commercial compromise, about never taking up certain roles clashing with his ideological beliefs etc.

Bogged down thus in an inner ideological turmoil and trying to make a foothold in the industry, he happened to meet Sachin Khedekar, well-known actor who was then featuring in several TV serials. During his talks, Khedekar helped Upendra clear his self-restricting ideological notions. Khedekar, who became another friend, philosopher, guide, told him, in essence, “You don’t plan anything. Let others plan something for you. But when a role comes to you, you do your best. You would become a good professional actor only if you could convincingly do a role that you feel you are not ideologically suited to.”

So, Upendra resolved that he would accept any role, big or small, whether it brought monetary compensation or not, but made a commitment to himself to do it sincerely, to the best of his ability.

This became his credo.

And it has remained his professional credo even since. And he feels the credo has served him well, because “sincerity always counts, though it may not always bring immediate benefit. But your sincere efforts are never wasted.”

Soon after, noted director Vinay Apte offered him a role in his play, ‘Superhit No. 1.’ Although the play flopped, through its advertisements, industry people came to know that he was now stationed in Mumbai. Around the same time, soap operas and TV serials were beginning to boom. He had come to Mumbai at the right time. He began getting small roles in films and TV serials. And, as the characters he played became popular among TV audiences, more work poured in. But whatever the role, he stuck to his credo: doing his best, doing it a little differently, injecting some novel element to make the character memorable.