Sayaji Shinde (born 1 February 1952) is an Indian film actor, who has acted in Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam films. Sayaji started his acting career in 1978 with acting in Marathi one-act plays. His acting in a 1987 Marathi play titled ‘Hijada’ (Eunuch) was very well received and since then he started gaining popularity among the circle of stalwarts. Later he moved on to Marathi cinema and later started acting in other languages.
Born in a farmer’s family, in a small village named Vele-Kamthi near Satara District in Maharashtra; Sayaji completed a Bachelor’s degree in Arts in Marathi language; and started his career in 1974 as a watchman for Maharashtra Government's Irrigation Department for a meager pay of Rs. 165/- per month. During his service as a watchman, he developed an interest in theater and his passion for acting drew him to the theater and films. After his initial struggling years, he moved to Mumbai.
Sayaji started his acting career in 1978 with acting in Marathi one-act plays. His first Marathi film as an actor was Aai (Mother) in 1995. He acted in many Marathi movies thereafter, among which, his role as an Agricultural Minister in movie Goshta Chhoti Dongara Evadhi was to be remembered. Hindi film actor Manoj Bajpai happened to see an article on Sayaji in Times of India and the former recommended Sayaji’s name to Ram Gopal Varma.
Varma, who was at that time making the movie Shool, immediately offered the role of Bachhu Yadav to Sayaji, thus marking the latter’s entry in the Bollywood. Shool gave Sayaji a decent start, however, it was a Tamil film called Barathi which made his career. Sayaji received tremendous appreciation for his acting in the said film. In spite of not speaking Tamil, Sayaji effectively played the role of Tamil Nadu's greatest ever poet and writer, Subramanya Bharathi in the movie directed by Gnana Rajasekaran, and was honored with Tamil Nadu State Award for his efforts. Later on he also acted in Tamil blockbusters like Azhagi and Dhool.