indian cinema heritage foundation

Ashok Saraf

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Ashok Saraf, the actor with the undeniable flair for comedy, had started his career in the 1980s, featuring as a lead actor in films such as Ek Daav Bhutacha (1982), and Ashi Hi Banava Banavi (1988). Along with other popular names such as Laxmikant Berde, Sachin Pilgaonkar and Mahesh Kothare, he rode the comedy wave in Marathi cinema that started 1985 onwards and sustained for more than a decade. He featured in several hit Hindi films as well, including Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi (1979), Nagin (1981), Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1994), Karan Arjun (1995), Army (1996), Koyla (1997), Jodi No.1 (2001), and Singham (2011). He carved a successful career for himself playing a variety of roles in Marathi theatre, and in cinema and television serials in Hindi and Marathi. Saraf has been honoured with several awards including the Filmfare award for Ram Ram Gangaram (1977), the Maharashtra government award for Pandu Havaldar (1975), the Screen award for Sawai Havaldar (1999), and the Best Comedian in Maharashtracha Favorite Kon. 

He was born on 4 June, 1947 in Bombay, and was apparently named Ashok after veteran actor Ashok Kumar. Growing up in Chikhalwadi in South Mumbai, he schooled at DGT Vidyalay. Starting off doing theatre at 18 years of age, he went on to carve a successful career for himself in films from the year 1969 onwards, making his debut in the Marathi film Janaki  (1969) that year. Acting in more than 250 Marathi films, of which more than 100 were commercially successful, his films during the 1970s and 1980s include Donhi Gharacha Pahuna (1971), Jawal Ye Laju Nako (1976), Tumacha Amacha Jamala (1976), Chimanrao Gundyabhau (1979), Deed Shahane (1979), Haldikunku (1979), and Duniya Kari Salam (1979). He worked in Marathi films with Laxmikant Berde, Sachin and Mahesh Kothare. Part of the new phase of comedy in Marathi films of the time, he went on to act in films such as Dhum Dhadaka (1985), Ashi Hi Banava Banavi (1988), Balache Baap Bramhachari (1989), Bhootacha Bhau (1989) and Aayatya Gharat Gharoba (1991). 

Successfully pairing with Sachin Pilgaonkar and Laxmikant Berde, he delivered many successful Marathi films, foremost among which was Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi, the runaway hit of 1988. Incidentally, he is popularly known as Mama (maternal uncle), in the Marathi film industry.

Making his Hindi film debut with Damaad(1978), he won appreciation in films like Karan Arjun (1995), Gupt (1997), Koyla (1997), Yes Boss (1997), Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998), Joru Ka Gulaam (2000) and Singham (2011). Some of his roles that he is best remembered for include the comic Munshiji in Rakesh Roshan’s action thriller Karan Arjun, Shah Rukh Khan’s friend in Yes Boss, and Ajay Devgn’s colleague in Singham as head constable. 

Saraf also enjoyed a successful career on television, acting in popular serials such as Yeh Choti Badi Baatein, Hum Paanch, Don't Worry Ho Jayega, Raju Raja Rajasaab, and Tan Tana Tan.

Active and popular on the Marathi stage, some of his important plays include Hamidabaichi Kothi, Anidhikrut, Manomilan, He Ram Cardiogram, Darling Darling, Sarkha Chatit Dukhtay and Laginghai, Vacuum Cleaner. 

Ashok Saraf has been honoured with several awards in the course of his career, including the Filmfare award for Ram Ram Gangaram (1977), the Maharashtra government award for Pandu Havaldar (1975), Screen award for Sawai Havaldar (1999), an award for the Bhojpuri film Maika Bitua, and Best Comedian in Maharashtracha Favorite Kon?

On the personal front, he married actress Nivedita Joshi in 1990. They have a son, Aniket Saraf who is a chef. They also developed their own production house Aniket Telefilms.