A tribute to Ramesh Bhatkar – The Marathi industry loses an icon

It’s a signature tune that Marathi-speaking viewers in their late 30s and early 40s today are sure to remember. A female voice would croon “Hello, Hello, Hello…..Hello Inspector.” This was the signal that Marathi-speaking families waited for. They would then gather around their TVs to watch Hello Inspector, a Marathi TV series from the 90s. A moustached gentleman with expressive eyes solved complex crimes in that iconic TV show. Ramesh Bhatkar, who played the dapper and suave investigator, is no more with us.

On February 04, 2019, Bhatkar passed away in a Mumbai hospital after having battled cancer for more than a year. 
A doyen of Marathi entertainment, Bhatkar acted in numerous films, TV shows and plays. He was an accomplished and versatile actor who could easily slip into any character. Be it the flawless husband, the tough cop or a revered seer, he played all roles with elan. 

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His first significant success in Marathi cinema came with the hit movie Aai Pahije (1988). Bhatkar played Mohan Dada, the ruffian son of the central character; an adopted mother. Yes, you read it right! An adopted mother!  Aai Pahije was way ahead of its time and struck a chord with audiences. However, it was the blockbuster Maherchi Sadi (1991) which established his credentials as a character actor. His spontaneous and intense portrayal as the husband of the lead actor played by Alka Kubal won him many accolades. His power-packed performance in Aai Tuza Ashirwad (2004) further cemented his reputation as an essential character in family dramas. By now, it was almost mandatory to cast him in Marathi family dramas. In between, he shone in the role of the sharp cop in several TV shows. Hello Inspector (1990, Marathi, Doordarshan) and Commander (1992, Hindi, Zee TV), underlined his versatility. 

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Although he achieved success in Marathi films and television, his best performances were reserved for his first love; theatre. He was a theatre icon, especially for audiences in Maharashtra’s hinterland. Theatre aficionados still remember his lead role in the play Ashrunchi Zali Phule. The play ran to packed houses across interior Maharashtra during the late 80s and early 90s. Legend has it that people in Ratnagiri queued up in thousands to buy tickets to his play Yayati. They even agreed to watch the play from the sides and the aisles of the auditorium when seats were full. Such was his following!
With his trademark moustache, dimpled smile and gravelly voice, Bhatkar was the darling of Marathi cine-goers and theatre lovers. The unassuming and affable veteran will always be remembered for lighting up the lives of his audiences.  

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