Harshad Mehta succumbed to his own greed and ego: Pratik Gandhi who played the stock broker in ‘Scam 1992’
- Pratik Gandhi has played Indian stock broker Harshad Mehta in a web series ‘Scam 1992’
- In an interview with Opoyi, he spoke about what prompted him to take up acting full time
- Pratik Gandhi's Gujarati roots helped in playing Mehta, he says
He came, he performed and he conquered – well that’s how Pratik Gandhi’s role in ‘Scam 1992’ can be described. With strong theatre background and an ace in Gujarati movies, he went on to play Indian stock broker Harshad Mehta in Hansal Mehta’s directorial web series with such an ease that the actor became “man of the moment” and received accolades from some of the industry veterans.
While the actor is currently enjoying the success of the show that has got IMDB ratings of 9.6, he does sense a kind of added responsibility and expectations from the audience. “…they say great success comes with great responsibility,” he said in an interview with Opoyi and hopes to “restore their faith and love” for him with his future performances too.
He also takes us back to the time when he along with his family had to collectively take a decision of him taking up acting full-time, quitting his secure job.
Excerpts for the interview
Opoyi- ‘Scam 1992’ has hit the Bull's eye, people are absolutely loving the series. Tell us the back story, how did you get this project and what preparations you did from your first yes till first shot, and after?
Pratik: When director Hansal Mehta watched ‘Wrong Side Raju’ and ‘Bey Yaar’, he immediately knew somewhere in his head that I could portray Harshad Mehta with honesty. A call went from him and I was called in for an audition at casting director Mukesh Chhabra’s office in Juhu. The biggest reason why I chose to play the role was Hansal Mehta, and also I loved playing real-life characters on stage, I have done quite a few which included playing Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. So it was kind of a dream to portray a challenging character like Harshad Mehta. There were a lot of layers to the character. Also, I enjoy playing characters which have complex human emotions.
This is one of the biggest projects in my career so all these reasons were key in accepting the role. A lot went into the research as well. Though I was given a lot of reference material to read online, there were few videos available as well. There was an interview with Pritish Nandi which I saw. The script itself is such a detailed document for me to get into the details of the characteristics. So all these things helped me a lot and to add to that - multiple discussions with writers and the director himself. As far as the technicalities of the ‘Scam’ are concerned, I was in school at that point in time, so I don't have any detailed idea about it.
I did have some idea about something big / (some) irregularities happening in the share market because one of my close relatives lost a lot of money at that time - so in a way I was connected to this. But as far as other technical aspects and jargons are concerned I had to learn about the transactions that happened without computers. So I read about it as well as met people who were active in the investment business at that time. I did this because I wanted my dialogues to be believable, and not come across as if I am just saying the dialogues without understanding.
Opoyi: Read that you had to entertain kids at one of the parties to take care of your expenses. Do you want to share when did you first meet with the actor in you?
Pratik: I had been introduced to the theatre during my school years in my hometown Surat. I used to study in a school there called Pravruti Vidyalaya where all vocational subjects like agriculture, carpentry, bamboo culture, sculpting, and theatre were compulsory. We learnt theory and practice both and even gave exams for it. So in a way I was lucky to have had an unconventional schooling.
Theatre happened at a very early age in my life. I was in 3rd or 4th standard when I started performing on stage for school, function, inter-school competitions. In a way I have grown up in theatre, on stage. In 2004, I shifted to Mumbai, seeking and hoping to create my space in commercial Gujarati theatre as I at that time had knowledge about just that aspect of theatre.
I am a passionate engineer too! So with an engineering degree in hand, I came to Mumbai, started working simultaneously in both fields. I was a consultant engineer with the National Productivity Council for 4 years after which I took up a job with one of the most prominent and biggest corporate companies in India and I did that job for almost 8 years. So from 2004 to 2016, I was juggling between both my passions along with the third thing which I was really good at - comparing for live shows. I did it to survive in the city at the same time I had to keep my craft crisp.
I wanted to keep myself well prepared for that big moment which could have been on theatre or on screen. In 2012, I got my first Gujarati film Bey Yaar which materialized because of the theatre projects I was doing. The makers and writers of the movie saw one of my plays and had faith that I will be able to do justice to one of the roles. And since that movie, a lot of things changed for the Gujarati film industry as a whole. I took a break for 22 days to go and shoot that film. It became a run- away success and in a way, a cult film in Gujarat and I had no inkling about it here in Mumbai. I was in my routine hustle with work. Two years later I landed another movie Wrong Side Raju, so I again applied for leaves for 22 days because I had accumulated around 200 leaves in my account in the hope for these kinds of things, some day will come, when I will be able to succeed with acting and by God's grace that has happened.
The movie went on to win the National Award for best Gujarati film in 2016. That was the time I was in a dilemma- I had to choose one of the fields - my engineering and corporate career or a career in films because the next promotion in office would have put me as an Additional Vice President which entailed a lot of responsibility and a big portfolio. If I would have picked it up, I would have been away from my creative side with acting. I was not willing to give up my creative side yet. And I was being offered work which I couldn't do because of the daily job.
So my family and I came up with a collective decision that this was it, I had to take the leap of faith and get into acting as a career full time. So from 2016 I am a full time actor and since then I have done around 10 Gujarati films, 2 Hindi films and in 2018 I got into talks with Hansal sir for Scam 1992 and finally it's out!
Opoyi: Were there inhibitions taking up the character that had grey side to it and was charged with many wrong doings?
Pratik: Well I think Harshad Mehta was a classic case of confidence converted to ego and dreams converted to greed. So I don’t see him as a completely villainous or a heroic character. He was a very normal human being with a great, genius mind who was eventually unable to control his own aspirations. I feel he succumbed to his own greed and ego. That is how I see this character.
Well getting into a character and disconnecting with it is not very difficult for me per say because of my background and experience in theatre where we do it day in and day out. I don’t have any particular method to connect or disconnect with a character. I just feel the emotions and I try to stay true to the character's emotional graph which helps me in my performance.
Opoyi: Did your Guajarati connect help in learning Harshad Mehta's mannerism and antics?
Pratik: As far as the Gujarati connect is concerned, yes it helped me to an extent understand his thought process because of the cultural background. In his earlier times, his dream, his risk taking abilities or the entrepreneurial qualities, the fact that you want to do something by yourself which is a part of each and every Gujarati's DNA. But being a Gujarati gave me an upper hand in understanding the mannerisms, habits, the jokes, the way we react to certain things. All these things helped me to create a character who was in a believable zone.
Opoyi: Playing up Harshad Mehta- the things you learned, unlearned while working on the project?
Pratik: As far as his journey is concerned, his initial part of life is where I can relate with myself and I am sure a lot of people who have come from nowhere and created a space for themselves on their own without any support or backing will also be able to relate to that. I could draw a lot of parallels there. Coming from a family where my parents were teachers, I had no background in the entertainment industry, trying to create a space for myself and dreaming big and then making it happen. So ya, the initial journey is similar, so that is what I can relate to.
What I learned - there are a lot of catchy phrases in the entire series. But one of my favourite is “Success kya hai? Failure ke baad ka naya chapter”. I absolutely love this line, I love the logic, philosophy and spirit behind it because that is the only spirit that kept me going all these years after each and every rejection, failure - you still feel that now there will be an upward graph that will come in your life. Because after any failure, I feel motivated that after this I will still make it. I think that I have got just one failure which will take me one step closer to success.
Opoyi: With you, the Indian entertainment industry has got a new star, so are you liking the accolades and expectations people now have from you as an actor.
Pratik: It is every actor’s dream to be loved by his audience as it motivates us to enhance our craft. I am overwhelmed with the response and the kind of love I am bestowed upon.
Opoyi: Is this going to bring an added responsibility on you to live upto audience expectations going forward?
Pratik: Yes, it is, they say great success comes with great responsibility. I hope I satisfy all my future audiences with my performances and restore their faith and love for me. This excites me to do more experiment and play such characters
Opoyi: What next now? More OTT platforms or big screens soon ?
Pratik: They will see me in both places. I will continue with my work on OTT, Bollywood, Theatre, and Gujarati Films. In the end, I am an actor who is drawn towards interesting concepts and scripts. I make my decisions based on my gut feelings.