Ashwini Ekbote


Actress-danseuse par excellence (1972-2016)

Transition into a scene after a break is the most important phase for an artiste”, opined Ashwini Ekbote, Marathi danseuse-actor.

True to her love, while performing brilliantly,during the closing act of her programme, Natya Trividha, at Bharat Natya Mandir in Sadashiv Peth, Pune, she suffered a cardiac arrest and died within minutes on 22 October 2016, aged just 44, leaving people shocked. As it was the premiere show, not only close friends and relatives, but also her parents saw her collapse. Initially, the audience thought it was part of the act, but unfortunately it wasn’t. This memory of her performing will be etched forever in the minds of upcoming Marathi artistes and performers.

Ashwini Ekbote, a known popular face in Marathi world, remembered for her splendid performances, be it theatre, TV or films, preferred to keep a low profile as an actress, her strength being entering the skin of the character. An actress par excellence, she was so involved with work that she had to be sometimes reminded to take it easy, reminisced her fellow artistes.

After completing education in Pune, Ashwini whose surname before marriage was Katkar, was active in cultural activities particularly dance and plays, and also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, (she had also performed in Sydney, Australia to a houseful audience), which helped to shape her career in the creative field and thus landed up in the acting world. It all started with her theatre performance in two different plays, Ekakshanaat, Nandi and Tya Tighanchi Gosht.

She then headed to the TV world to a couple of TV shows including Durva, which was aired on the Marathi TV channel Star Pravah. This was then followed by others like Radha Hi Bavari, Tu Bhetashi Navyane and Kashyala Udyachi Baatand then currently on air serial Duheri, Ganpati Bappa Morya, and Aaisaheb.

Soon she got the chance to do Marathi films, which started with High Command, Kshan Ha Mohacha, Aarambh (2011), Dankyavar Danka, Debu, Baavare Prem He, Taptapadi, Mahaguru, Akleche Kande (2001), Dumkata (2007), to name a few. Besides, she also got the chance to do a Hindi film called Ek Pal Pyar Ka. Bho Bho was her last movie co-starring actor Prashant Damle.

Sharad Ponkshe, an actor with whom she had chemistry, being associated for 15 years in several films, TV serials and plays, who had also directed her in the play, Eka Kshannat, recalled that Ashwini had insisted on him being present for the premiere, saying, “Maybe she had an intuition of things to come”. He reminisced about the day fifteen years back when he had first met her during an advertisement shoot in Pune, and how she climbed the ladder of success patiently without opting for shortcuts. “Though she was not interested, in August 2001, I got her, her first break in a television serial opposite Girish Oak. Later, she bagged several good roles on various platforms.”

In an interview to a Marathi magazine, Ashwini, during the rehearsal of her play Ekakshanat, when asked to comment on the requirement of a button artist in the acting field, said, “It is very easy to break a scene, after the director calls ‘cut’. Sometimes, you are disappointed. But, the transition into a scene after a break, is the most important phase for an artist and I pay more attention to this aspect”.

Vishwas Pangarkar, an actor, said her performance that night had been one of her best. He lamented that Ashwini didn’t have any history of heart-related disorders.

Another colleague, Bhagyesh Desai, remembered her as an artiste with a social conscience, actively involved in women’s empowerment and environmental issues. Apart from running a dance training class, she often conducted shows without charging any fee.

She is survived by her husband Pramod Ekbote, and son Shubhankar.

– A.Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance journalist, poet, short story writer.