Versatile Marathi film and stage personality Nilu Phule died at a hospital in Pune early this morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
The actor had been admitted on July 5 for treatment of cancer of the oesophagus. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.
The demise of Phule -- described as the most 'accomplished villain' -- drew the curtains on one of the most memorable chapters that spanned over four decades in Marathi films and stage. He had acted in over 130 films.
His first stage performance was in a folk play called Katha Aklechya Kandyachi. Phule later became a vital part of Marathi cinema with his portrayal of villains rooted in rural politics and displaying a rustic cunningness. His debut film was Ek Gav Bara Bhangdi. Clad in dhoti and sporting a Gandhi cap, he immortalised his roles as village sarpanch and the character he played against Shriram Lagoo in Saamna.
His Hindi films include Coolie, Saraansh, Woh Saat Din, Naram Garam, Malmasala, So Din Saas Ke, Bhayanak and Garibo Ka Data among others. Phule was also known for his social activism.
A recipient of many awards, Phule worked hard to promote the interests of folk artistes in various branches of the traditional art forms. In Vijay Tendulkar's controversial drama Sakaharam Binder staged in 1972, he played the protagonist with a bold projection of social aberrations that invited wrath of the puritans who staged protests against it.