“Risk hai toh ishq hai,” says Pratik Gandhi’s Harshad Mehta in SonyLIV’s Scam 1992. And the risk of entering the OTT space with a web series on the notorious stockbroker has yielded rich dividends for Guajarati actor Pratik, who is now being hailed as one of the breakout stars of 2020.
In this exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Pratik Gandhi looks back at the year gone by. He also reveals his plans for 2021.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Looking back, how do you compare this time of 2020 with 2019?
Last year, at this time, we were shooting for Scam in full force. The excitement was the same as I was working with the best of people, on a great subject and an author-backed character. Such dream projects don’t come to an actor every day. And I see the entire process from a very spiritual angle. It’ll happen if you’re destined to do it, and you have to make the most of it. I knew something good is bound to happen with the show. But nobody anticipated that’d become this huge. I haven’t seen a single negative comment (about the show) on social media.
You are seen as one of the breakout stars of 2020. Has all the success and adulation sunk in?
For the first five days, I was awestruck. I was unable to find words. When someone is constantly praising you, beyond a point, you don’t know what to say beyond a ‘thank you’. I didn’t know how to express myself. It’s been more than two months, and the appreciation still continues.
What do you think worked for Scam 1992?
I had experienced a similar kind of euphoria during the release of Bey Yaar, my first Gujarati film, which was also an honest, small attempt. Suddenly it became a rage and changed the face of Gujarati cinema. So, I suppose what worked with the audience was honesty. Scam 1992 humanises the entire angle. We weren’t approaching it from a hero or a villain angle. Also, before Scam 1992, the shows on the OTT space were crime-based with a lot of bloodshed, skin-show and abuses. Scam came as a breath of fresh air. It’s a family show. So, a lot of factors worked for Scam 1992.
Do you have any memories of the Harshad Mehta scam?
Very faint memories. I was in school in 1992 and I knew that something had happened in the country which had shaken up the whole financial system. Also, my cousin lost a good amount of money.
What was the most challenging part of playing Harshad Mehta?
The most challenging part for me was to humanise the character. I had to forget all the research I did for Harshad Mehta and make him come alive as a normal man. Sometimes people should feel for him, sometimes they should hate him. In one instance, you feel he’s the hero and then suddenly you feel what he’s doing is wrong, which is very human.
If you could meet Harshad Mehta in the flesh, what would the two of you chat about?
Firstly, I’ll ask him if he liked the show (laughs). Playing a real-life character is very intriguing. And then I’ll also seek some investment tips.
Hansal Mehta is a dream director for many actors, and you got to work with him on such a big project. Also, the show’s high point was its casting. How was the entire experience?
Despite being such a brilliant director, Hansal Mehta is a simple and down to earth man. He is very sorted and driven by passion. So that’s a rare combination – being a good craftsman and a good human being. He understands emotions and that’s why it is easy for him to translate all this in his storytelling.
Working with the cast was an interesting experience as well. The series has all the senior actors I could dream of working with. And if I just talk about Rajat Kapoor, he is a phenomenal actor. He flows like water. You won’t ever feel like he is performing. He’s that natural.
On the set, our favourite time was lunchtime since there were a lot of Gujaratis around. We used to share home-cooked food that everyone brought.
What was your most favourite scene in Scam 1992?
There are so many, but if I had to pick one, it’ll be where Bhushan, Harshad and Ashwin are having a confrontation in the last episode. Emotionally, it’s a very complex scene because each one of them is right in their mind. For the first time, Harshad was also scared of going to jail because of Bhushan. He felt betrayed, and his ego was crushed that how could somebody cheat him since he thought of himself as the mastermind.
Is the way you approach your characters and projects going to change now?
I don’t succumb to the pressure of expectations. I try to convert it into excitement. There are interesting projects coming my way, and I’m excited to create those interesting characters. The biggest challenge, however, is that earlier I had to select from one or two projects, now it is between 8-10 projects.
How did you cope with the lockdown?
We hadn’t experienced something like this before. I had a bit of an experience of the plague in Surat after the 1994 floods. We were in school, so it didn’t affect life that much. This time, I and my family tested positive for Covid-19 in July. So that month-and-a-half was difficult. Rest, I kept doing something or the other to keep myself busy. I read a lot. We tried a lot of theatrical stuff over Zoom. Also, the first 60 days went into shedding those extra kilos I put on to play Harshad Mehta.
Any other show or film this year you wished you were a part of, and why?
I liked Ram Singh Charlie. What a character to play!
What change did 2020 bring in you?
Scam 1992 changed my life completely. Then the experience of Covid-19 changes you as a person. Suddenly, you feel content. Nature makes you understand that you are a very small part of this big world. So, don’t give too much importance to yourself.
How do you see 2021 on the work front?
I’m looking forward to creating more interesting characters and learn from experienced actors and technicians around me. I’m excited to have some interesting projects coming my way, including mainstream cinema as well as web series. Earlier, I had to literally drag people from their homes to come to my theatre performances. But the little fame that I’ve got post Scam 1992 should also help me experiment more on stage.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines