Updated: December 20, 2020, 5:51:36 pm
First role: A Gujarati piece in school when he was in Class III
Outstanding act: Play Harshad Mehta in Scam 92 on Sony LIV
“When we did Scam 92, we knew it was something unique. It is one of the first financial thriller series based on real events, for example, but we never thought that it would have an impact of this magnitude, ”says actor Pratik Gandhi of the massive success of his OTT debut Scam 92: The Harshad Mehta Story directed by Hansal Mehta which was released to great reviews on Sony LIV in October.
When Gandhi arrived for an audition at casting director Mukesh Chhabra’s office, he had no idea what was ahead of him. He got a very vague idea of the show. So he was thrilled when he got the lead role in the stockbroker Harshad Mehta. “When Hansal asked me if I would like to play Harshad, I said ‘yes’! I later found out that Hansal hadn’t even looked at my audition tape. For the past 15 years I’ve been running a column to post and sometimes doing several auditions a day for a break, so I was quite surprised. But Hansal said he saw my work in the Gujarati film Wrong Side Raju (2016) and does not need any further confirmation of my work, ”says the 40-year-old.
It was in 2004 that Gandhi landed in Mumbai after trying hard at the Gujarati Theater at home in Surat. “Surat is an interesting place. The city administration has been organizing a city-level theater competition for 50 years. The city has around 15-18 established theater groups. I was entrenched in the performing arts from a young age, ”says Gandhi, who also holds a degree in industrial engineering from Kavayitri Bahinabai Chaudhari North Maharashtra University in Jalgaon, Maharashtra. His parents were both teachers who encouraged him to follow his passion. “When I was trying to balance my entrepreneurship and theater career, my father asked me to quit my job and focus on my acting career. But I hesitated because I loved both equally passionately. I’m glad I had this trip too. Since I didn’t depend on the theater for my bread and butter, I was able to experiment a lot. For the past eighty-nine years I’ve only done monologues and minimalist theater, ”says Gandhi.
Films – always the endgame for Gandhi – took place organically. Director Abhishek Jain approached him on Facebook for the Gujarati film Bey Yaar, which was released in 2015. “This film earned me Wrong Side Raju, who won the 2017 National Award for Gujarati Film. It was the beginning of the good times for Gujarati cinema. People really wanted to invest money in them, ”says Gandhi, who has since worked in many Gujarati films like Tamburo (2017) and Luv Ni Love Stories (2020). Cheating 92, he says, gave him the opportunity to play someone who was complex and layered and very different from the characters he’d played previously. “Harshad Mehta had so many shades that I wanted to make the audience sit up and take notice, as any great piece of literature and art should,” he says, even when waiting for a suitable project.
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