From Ponda to Tinsel town

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Goan boy Salil Gaunekar has made it to Bollywood with Ram Gopal Verma’s new film ‘D Company’ which releases online on May 15

NIRGOSH GAUDE | NT

After struggling for years, working as model and acting in a few small projects in the state, Salil Gaunekar, a local boy from Shantinagar, Ponda has finally stepped into Bollywood recently with Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘D- Company’ movie. The film is based on Dawood Ibrahim and showcases the events in his life from 1980 to 1982. The movie is set to release on May 15 on the OTT platform Spark OTT.

Having done his masters in pharmacy from PES College of Pharmacy at Farmagudi, Gaunekar was into body building in his college days. During the period of 2011 to 2013, he participated in several body building competitions and won several medals. His stunning physic also got him the attention of Prasad Pankar from CMYK Academy of Photography who called him for a bare body shoot, giving him his first opportunity in modelling.

From there, Gaunekar developed interest in modelling and started training himself under Pankar, fashion designer Monty Sally, and professor Rahila Khan. “These people taught me the basics about modelling. From walking to talking and figuring out the fashionable clothes to wear, they guided me in everything,” says Gaunekar. All of this fetched him several modelling assignments and advertisement work too.

But along with modelling, Gaunekar had an interest in acting too. He used to act in small plays and events in school days, but had not focused on acting seriously. However, after getting into modelling, he realised that he had a better chance to try out for acting now.

“Initially, I tried acting in small projects, but I was not able to pull it off smoothly. I gave auditions for several Konkani films but never got selected in it,” he says. Following this, he enrolled for professional acting classes in 2019 at Anupam Kher Actor prepares – The School for Actor. In the same year, Gaunekar had participated in Rubaru Mr India contest where he was a finalist and got good recognition.

Following this, Gaunekar continued his work as a model but struggled to get into films. He then got a chance to act in an English movie titled ‘Wow amorous adventures’ directed by Les Menezes, where he got six scenes in the film. This gave him first-hand knowledge about film shooting.

And it was in October 2020 that through a known casting coordinator that he got a call for an audition in a Ram Gopal Verma film. In December 2020 he was called for a screen test and selected for one of the supporting roles in the movie ‘D Company’, which was shot entirely in Goa by March 2021. “At first I could not believe I got it and asked for proof about my selection which they sent me later,” says Gaunekar.

Speaking about his role in the film, Gaunekar states that the film is basically about Dawood Ibrahim – a character which is played by actor Ashwath Kanth. “In this film Dawood has few key members in the gang and I am one of them named Ali Antulay,” he reveals, adding that when he first posted about this film role on social media, people assumed that his was just a junior artiste role in the film when the truth is that his character is present right through the entire film. “This is the first big experience for me, wherein I got the opportunity to work with a legend of Hindi film industry. Ram Gopal Varma is an ace director with his crisp and sharp directions and I consider myself fortunate to be part of his project,” says Gaunekar, who is presently working on two more projects in the state.

“After struggling for years to get good projects, this small step into Bollywood is a big push for my dream,” he adds.

Besides modelling and acting, Gaunekar manages the family-run pharmacy at Warkhande, Ponda. In fact, he says, that while acting is his passion and his priority too, working in the pharmacy is a necessity as the business is a steady one.

“People used to taunt me because despite being a post graduate in pharmacy, I just look after the medical store of ours. They used to tell me to go work in a pharmaceutical company so that I earn more in later years. I used to just smile and nod my head because my vision was totally different,” says Gaunekar, adding that had he listened to the advice from people, he would have been stuck in a monotonous job in a pharmaceutical company and would never have been able to make time for himself for shoots or for auditions.

“If you have strong determination to achieve something, the power to achieve it automatically gets developed within you,” says Gaunekar, adding that hard work, dedication, punctuality, sincerity, and honesty are his key words while going ahead with his career. And when it comes to fitness, he says, he has a fixed routine for workout and follows a proper diet.

“I feel this is just beginning of my career in acting and as per my goal there is a long way to go. But this entire journey has been wonderful so far with a lot of new experiences and teaching. In these times, my family, especially mom and sister, have been my big support throughout,” he says.

Gaunekar has already completed shooting for another project, while there are two-three in pipeline which are held up due to pandemic. “As the pandemic passes, I hope to resume shooting for the same,” says Gaunekar.