The world needs no introduction to Varsha Usgaonkar. We all have enjoyed her performances in many hit Bollywood and Marathi movies. She has been part of the film fraternity for almost 28 years contributing to close to 35 films in her entire career span. Varsha did not restrict herself to just Bollywood and Marathi films. She spread her wings wider and worked films in Rajasthani, Bengali, Goan, Chhattisgarhi, and even in English. After a reign of success in both TV and films, she decided to focus on family after getting married. Now with her plans on making a comeback, Varsha opens her heart to us and shares her story.
Varsha is originally from Goa. Born into a highly respected family, she is the daughter of Goa’s former Deputy Speaker A. K. S. Usgaonkar. She has two siblings Dr. Mrs. Tosha Kurade and Mrs. Manisha Tarcar, well settles in their respective career and home. Born and brought in this beautiful coastal city, Varsha has a special for Goa and Goan people in her heart. She has spent her entire childhood and did her education in Goa. Although she moved to Mumbai because of work, her connection with her roots is still strong. Varsha got married in March 2000 to Ajay Sharma, son of Indian film music director Ravishankar Sharma after reaching the peak of success in her acting career.
Varsha did continue working post marriage as well. She did few Hindi films but has rejected most of the offers as they were not what she aspired for. She continued contributing to Marathi Cinema as an actor and even received an Award for Best Actor in a Comedy role from the Maharashtra government in 2015 for the film – Hututu.
The onset of a new Star – The golden period of the 90’s
Varsha always had an inclination towards acting and wanted to proceed in the same. So, she made the decision to join the Goan film fraternity. Since she couldn’t find many opportunities here as the industry was still in the nascent stage, she took the call to relocate to Mumbai (that time Bombay) in search of better roles. Then there was no stopping her.
After a long course of the struggle, Varsha managed to bag some good roles as a lead actress. She started in 1982 as the lead actress in the super hit Marathi stage play Brahmachari. Consequently, she rapidly rose to become one of the top actresses in the Marathi film industry bagging more hit films like – Gammat Jammat, Hamal De Dhamal, Saglikade Bombabomb, Sawat Majhi Ladki, Shejari Shejari, Ek Hota Vidushak, Lapandaav, and others.
Simultaneously, she also started to get good offers from Bollywood. She starred as the leading lady in Hindi films like – Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi and Pathreela Raasta. She gained a lot of praises for her performance in the movie Mangal Pandey: The Rising in the year 2005. She made the appearance in other movies like Mr. ya Miss as a supporting actress and also in Faisal-Saif directed controversial Hindi film, Jigyaasa where she played the role of a mother to Hrishitaa Bhatt.
Varsha also started working in television serials in 1988. To begin with, she starred in the most successful epic TV series – B. R Chopra’s Mahabharata – where she played the role of Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu and mother of Parikshit. It has been one of the most successful series in the history of Television. This role in Mahabharata paved way for her entry Bollywood. She also played the role of Roopmati in another hit tele-series Chandrakanta in 1994, along with other serials namely Alvida Darling, Tanha and Anhonee. Thereafter she had appeared in the Marathi shows Aakash Zep and Eka Mekansathi.
One of her most prominent performances still talked about was in TV serial – Jhansi Ki Rani in 1990s which aired on Doordarshan. She played the lead character of Rani Lakshmibai, a significant performance and was admired by many from industry biggies to the masses.
The Goan Film Industry
Varsha feels that the Goan film industry has come a long way and has started to mature gradually. She is very keen on working in a Konkani movie. She says, “I am very comfortable with Konkani, as it is my mother language. It becomes much easier for as I can get up from sleep and speak the dialogues. It comes naturally to me.”
Varsha has observed that from the last 5-6 years the industry has been making good attempts in Goan and Konkani Cinema. She feels that now once can see Konkani cinema coming of age and moving into the mainstream cinema. In fact, it is also making its presence felt at the national level by receiving a number of national awards. Now Varsha feels that it’s the right time to dedicate herself to the Goan cinema. She is now considering offers from Konkani movies and decisively working strong stories and good directors. She believes everything happens for a reason and at the right time. “When a man proposes, God disposes – that is when you grab the opportunity.
She has just recently worked in a Konkani movie called Jawayii No.1. The role came to me at the right time and I just grabbed the opportunity”, she said. The movie has been directed by a successful film director from the Marathi and Konkani film arena – Harry Fernandes. He has to his credit another well-directed movies – Sofiyaa and Nashibacho Khel.
The Goa film industry is gradually developing but the movies still choose stars from outside of the state. Varsha adds to this – “Since the fraternity is still work in progress, they need get the technique and talent from the Maharashtra circle. The best movies like Nachuya Kupasar in a Konkani movie but the team behind this movie is a majority from Marathi industry. It is essential because the films should appeal to a national and should be marketable. But as far as production and other techniques are concerned like the camera, the crew, or lights are yet not available in Goa. Hence, they have to be brought in from either Mumbai or Kolhapur.”
Varsha also addresses the question of low budgets in Goan Cinema. She says, “I will never charge more than my market price of Goan Cinema. It is my love and passion for this art and for Konkani films that I really not work for them. The directors here will also not ask me to work for free as they understand that we are all professionals. First and foremost I see Goan film fraternity as my own. So my criteria working for them will be quiet different what I do for Hindi films or a Marathi film. You can’t compare the budget of these!”
Varsha, considering a comeback, has already started work in Konkani films. She feels comfortable and the love of her hometown inspires her, even more, to contribute towards the Konkani film fraternity.
The Goan industry is now really looking for talent like Varsha who can contribute to Goa film industry in a large way and help it grow further. Varsha has already started work here and she wished to focus on working as an actor rather than any other field of filmmaking. She feels going into direction is not really here forte and would like to jump to another side of the wagon for some more time. She will take it up when she feels the time is right. She mentions, “I can contribute as an actor and I certainly long to be a part of the Goan film industry in a big way. In fact, I have decided to dedicate myself to the Goan film industry for the next few years. I want to do more Konkani films. I have already contributed a lot to Marathi film industry in my own way, but now I really want to concentrate on Konkani films. So I will focus on films with good content and appeals to the Goans in a big way. It should not be a copy of any Bollywood or Marathi film. It should be an authentic and original Goan film. “
When asked if she wishes to venture into producing a film, she said I would not like to because am not that adventures and we all producing a film is a big game. It comes with its own pros and cons. So I don’t think that I am ready for it yet. But yes as far as promotions of the films are concerned I will do it in my own way.
In her message to the Goan Film Industry, she said, “I want to encourage directors here to make films which are culturally rich and showcase the true essence of Goa in a big way. Don’t ever miss it. I do understand to make a film commercially viable you need big star cast to make it successful in the market. But let the film will be truly Goan. Let it look like a regional film and full display of the culture of Goa. The dialogues have to be very good and colloquial along with a spectacular screenplay. So I really advise the filmmakers here to concentrate on these things rather than on spending on international locations, expensive costumes, and large extravagant set. I feel that if the story is not good, the screenplay is weak and it doesn’t showcase the culture of Goa, will miss the bus…