Among those who expressed their condolences on social media were actors Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpayee. “Indian cinema lost (a) gem of an actor,” posted Bajpayee, who acted with him in Aiyyary (2018).
Popular in both Marathi and Hindi films, Gokhale received the National Film Award for best actor for his portrayal of a distressed old man struggling to pay his comatose wife’s medical expenses in Gajendra Ahire’s Marathi film, Anumati’ (2013). And he was first-rate as the confidante of an angst-ridden stage legend in director Mahesh Manjrekar’s ‘Natasamrat’ (2016). Gokhale also received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2011 for his contributions to the stage.
Cinema and theatre legend Vikram Gokhale passed away at the age of 77 at Pune’s Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital at 2.30 pm on Saturday.
“He gave a new dimension to the acting style prevalent on the Marathi commercial stage before the 1970s,” said friend and occasional collaborator Satish Alekar.
Actor-director Amol Palekar, who collaborated with him in the musical ‘Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaayein’ (1990) said, “I particularly remember his performance in the play, Barrister. It is a landmark performance in Marathi theatre. Future generations should learn from it. However, theatre did not provide him the roles that were worth his salt. His style of acting, or rather under-acting, was so effective and good, few can achieve with dignity. Unfortunately, the film industry did not provide him his due, particularly the Marathi film industry.”
Versatility was his calling card. The actor lent grace and added depth to the characters he performed.
Vikram Gokhale’s expressive eyes and commanding voice – he was also a voice coach later – were fundamental to the creation of the socially-conservative guru who’s generous at heart but also bound by tradition in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. And yet, in ‘Thoda Sa Roomani…” he handled the role of a remote town’s district collector, who’s the object of an unfussy young woman’s (Anita Kanwar) secret attraction, with equal aplomb.
He also acted in a bunch of television serials: from ‘Katha Sagar’ and ‘Udaan’ back in the DD monopoly days of the 1980s to ‘Virrudh’ and ‘Kuch Apne Kuch Paraye’ in recent decades.
Pune-born Gokhale acted in over 200 films and tv shows and was a worthy descendent of his pioneering ancestors starting with his great-grandmother Durga Kamat, considered to be the first actress in Indian cinema, and her daughter, Kamlabai, both of whom made their debut in the same film, Dadasaheb Phalke’s ‘Mohini Bhasmasur’ (1913).
Gokhale’s father, Chandrakant, was also a veteran of the stage and film, and was also a well-known philanthropist, a tradition carried on by his son.
His family supports war veterans at the Queen Mary Technical Institute in Pune and works for welfare of orphans and lepers.
He also nailed his political colours to the mast, criticising prominent politicians for casting aspersions on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Last year he agreed to portray Dr BR Ambedkar in a new OTT series about the life of the social reformer on the Baba Play app.
Gokhale, who had caught everyone’s eye playing Lord Krishna in the 1977 film, “Yehi Hai Zindagi’, was recently seen in the Hindi comedy-action Nikamma, and received critical acclaim in the 2021 Marathi film Godavari (2021) where he played an important character role.
The actor is survived by his wife Vrushali, and their two daughters.