"I didn’t know that a signature you give on a piece of paper shouldn’t be the same as the one on my cheque books"
In many of
his photos, you would often find Milind Gunaji in a cowboy hat. In real life,
the actor has worn many hats.
From a model who shot to fame with a denim brand in the 90s to an actor who made his Hindi film debut with Govind Nihalani's 'Drohkaal' and went on to essay negative roles in 'Virasat', 'Devdas' and 'Fareb', from former brand ambassador for the forest and wildlife for Maharashtra to author of books such as 'Offbeat Tracks in Maharashtra', 59-year-old Gunaji, it seems, has treated his life chiefly as a series of outdoor shoots.
In an intervew, the rugged multi hyphenate tells us why he prefers photographs to autographs and why he uses prefixes in his autographs
Do you remember the first autograph you ever sought?
My idol was Sunil Gavaskar, as I was also making a career in cricket. I remember going to Brabourne stadium once during my younger days for a cricket match where Gavaskar was playing, thinking that would be an easy process to get his autograph, but it wasn’t. After a long time, when I was playing a cricket match at Police Gymkhana representing the Bollywood 11, I managed to get a snap with him, when we were on the ground, but I couldn’t get an autograph because I had a bat in my hand instead of a pen.
What’s the most prized autograph or piece of signed memorabilia that you own?
Aur Main' by Gulzar saab with his autograph and a small message to me. And also
Uddhav ji Thackeray giving me a book on Sahyadris with an autograph and
And a book on Sahyadris by Harish Kapadia which was autographed by him with the help my close childhood friend and trekker Dr. Ravi Rupawate.
There are few autographed letters by legends like Hon. Balasaheb Thackeray, Lata Mangeshkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Govind Nihlani, Shabana Azmi with words of praises on my book on trekking called 'Offbeat Tracks in Maharashtra' which is also a lifetime treasure for me.
What is your earliest memory of giving an autograph?
Even before coming to Bollywood, I was a model for Digjam and my very first ad was a big hit, so I remember two college students coming up to me on the street, with my picture in India Today to get my autograph.
Do you regularly answer fan mail, even now? Has the number of people writing letters to you dwindled over time?
I'm not extremely active on social media and of course as the time has passed, the number of fan letters have reduced, but I try and respond to as many fan mails as I can.
Do you think an autograph can convey much more about a personality than even a photograph?
I feel photograph conveys more. Maybe because my handwriting is very bad, and autograph not being that attractive, I would’ve formed this opinion.
Do you remember any conversations or interactions with ardent autograph seekers?
After my initial hit films like Virasat, Fareb and Zor, I used to get huge number of calls on my landline. In the beginning I used to answer but later on it started becoming a nuisance for family.
How do you generally sign autographs? Did you work on your signature?
I had few photographs which were signed by me which I used to distribute in the form of reply to the fan letters. In the beginning I didn’t know that a signature you give on a piece of paper shouldn’t be the same that I use on my cheque books. A senior actor that time advised me not to use my actual signature and to add a prefix like with love or best wishes before the before to avoid any kind of misuse.
Are you particular about what to say in the autograph?
No. Generally, I extend my best wishes.
Do you recall any strange or quirky requests from fans seeking autographs?
People ask for autographs on their clothes, caps which I generally fulfill but when people ask for autograph on their arm or palm, I generally refuse that.
Why do you think the hobby of autograph seeking is dying?
I think it’s a lengthy process if you compare it with a selfie.
Do you miss giving autographs in these times of social distancing?
Actually I avoid even giving selfies, in these times of social distancing and anyway there’s no use of a selfie wearing masks.
Are you particular about what pen you use while giving autographs?
Yes, I used to use a cross pen.
What according to you are strict no-nos when it comes to giving autographs?
On plain paper and on body parts.
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