Kiwi Indian actor and thespian Shailesh Prajapati’s name is not new for the Kiwi Indian community living in Auckland. He is a prominent face in the theatre community, works in the TV industry, is a director, screenplay writer and also has his film ‘Saheb’ streaming on Amazon Prime.

Mr Prajapati has recently played a pivotal role in a Gujarati film Hellaro that won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards in India earlier this year.

Hellaro is a Gujarati period drama film made by debutant director Abhishek Shah and has won accolades at several film festivals in India. It is also the first Gujarati film to have won the National Award for the Best Feature Film, and its 13 female actresses won a Special Jury Award this year.

Sailesh Prajapati's film Saheb streaming on Amazon Prime

“I was there in India shooting for my film ‘Saheb’ in February 2018 when Abhishek [film Hellaro’s Director] spoke to me about his new project which was in its scripting phase then,” Mr Prajapati told The Indian Weekender.

“I have known Abhishek for some time now, have worked with him in a short film produced in 2017 and he was the casting director for my film Saheb,” Mr Prajapati added.

Mr Prajapati added that when returned from India early last year- he was contacted by Abhishek who insisted on being a part of his film in a character that only suited him in the role.

“Abhishek narrated the script to me and insisted that the character ‘Mukhi’ the village head was best suited for me.

“After listening to the script, I readily agreed to do his him- it was simply brilliant, and I scheduled to travel to Gujarat to shoot for the film,” Mr Prajapati added.

Hellaro revolves around a small village in the Rann of Kutch which is shackled by patriarchal mandates. The women of the village are not allowed to perform ‘garba’, a dance that men only perform and celebrate. Women, while doing their house chores and fetching water from a faraway pond, meet a ‘Dholi’ who allows them to openly perform ‘garba’ and free themselves from that suppression.

This secrecy, when revealed creates havoc and eventually becomes a revolution for the women in the village.

The film focusses on women’s right of expression and freedom - that could be as mundane subject as ‘garba’ which is considered as a basic right of a Gujarati.

“I was in India for 13 of the 40 days of shooting, and it was a fantastic experience.

Sailesh Prajapati as Mukhi in Hellaro

“My role as ‘Mukhi’ who is the head of the village is a very strong character. Without Mukhi’s permission, nothing can move in the village, and he makes the decisions for the wellbeing whole community,” Mr Prajapati added.

The film was submitted for with the Directorate of Film Festivals upon completion last year and competed against over 400 films to win the Best Feature Film at the 66th National Film Awards.

Hellaro releases in India on Friday, November 8 and is scheduled to release overseas including Australia and New Zealand in a few weeks time.

All Images are supplied