When Anupam Kher had decided to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of SARAANSH and invite his fellow actor Neelu Phule to savor the occasion, he had to literally hunt down Neelu Phule as he had walked away from the limelight. Who would have thought that this would again be his last function in the public realm, as within two months Neelu Phule has decided that he had enough with this world and he would now go and join his friend Vijay Tendulkar and create new dramatic oeuvres in the heaven. It is not out of place to mention that Vijay Tendulkar's immensely popular play 'Sakharam Binder' would not have been so, had not Neelu Phule enacted the role in it, and therefore Vijay Tendulkar would indeed be immensely pleased to welcome his friend Neelu Phule in the heaven.
The first exposure of his enormous talent was brought out in stark reality when he enacted the role of Nana in WOH SAAT DIN, the debut film of Anil Kapoor. Probably had it not been for his towering presence in WOH SAAT DIN, such convincing performance from Anil Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure would not have come with such consummate ease. It was followed by SAARANSH where as the corrupt politician he surpassed all the levels of meanness that could be displayed on the screen. As a matter of fact it was his performance in SAARANSH as a result of which the Hindi cinema had interesting portrayals of corrupt Maharastrian politicians for a long run, Sadashiv Amrapurkar being its most visible manifestation. But the entry to the same was provided by Neelu Phule's role in SAARANSH.
The major commercial success for Neelu Phule was with COOLIE where as the Mama of Amitabh Bachchan he excelled himself. It was followed by an interesting role in KABJA. The underlining motif of all the roles enacted by Neelu Phule was the energy that he brought out in each characterization as also the element of rustiness and the coarseness which had an element of shock associated with it. This portrayal was a manifestation of his long association with the Marathi theatre.
Neelu Phule was on the stage from 1965, and was a self taught actor who learnt from real life characters and experiences, and therefore his portrayal had such closeness to a character that we might be aware about and could be the primary reason for his longer sojourn with the world of drama, cinema and entertainment. In his passing away, while one does not know whether Hindi cinema has lost a doyen, but Marathi theatre has indeed been orphaned.