Actor Pratik Gandhi on playing Harshad Mehta in 'Scam 1992'
Gandhi reveals how his life has changed after playing the infamous Indian stockbroker.
A few years ago, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan mentioned in an interview that the next generation of stars could very well come from outside the film industry. Today with the influx of web-based platforms, we are seeing it happening. Names like Sumeet Vyas, Mithila Palkar and Arjun Mathur who has recently been nominated for an International Emmy Award for his role in Made In Heaven, are shining bright post their stints on OTT platforms.
Where digital platforms have helped resurrecting careers of various has-beens, they have also brought terrific talent under the spotlight. A recent addition to this list is theatre actor Pratik Gandhi who has shot to fame after portraying infamous stockbroker Harshad Mehta in SonyLIV’s Scam 1992. Based on the 1992 Indian stock market scam committed by Mehta, the series is adapted from journalist Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu’s 1993 book The Scam: Who Won, who Lost, who Got Away.
Pratik’s masterful performance has added to the show’s appeal.
Excerpts from an interview:
What has been the biggest change in your life since Scam 92 received such an overwhelming response?
I am completely overwhelmed by the response I have received for my performance, and the compliments we collectively got as a team from all around the world. It’s absolutely surreal right now. There is something that is so relatable about this series and people feel connected to it. The most special thing that has happened is that my success feels personal to actors from Gujarati cinema who have seen me grow as an actor and have seen my work. They feel someone from their family has reached this level. That’s a different level of high which I am enjoying right now.
What’s your opinion of Harshad Mehta? Was it easy to come out of that character, since you seemed very invested in it?
I think Harshad Mehta was a classic case of confidence leading to ego and dreams turning into greed. I don’t see him as completely villainous or a hero either. He was a genius who eventually was unable to control his own aspirations. I feel he chewed more that he could swallow and eventually succumbed. That is how I see this character.
And as far as getting into the character and disconnecting from it is concerned, it is not very difficult for me per se because of my theatre background. In theatre we play characters day in and day out. I don’t have any particular method to connect or disconnect with a character, I just try to feel the emotions while acting which helps me in my performance.
How were you chosen for the role?
When director Hansal Mehta watched Wrong Side Raju and Bey Yaar, he immediately knew that I could portray Harshad. In a few days I received a phone call for an audition and there I was at casting director Mukesh Chhabra’s office in Juhu.
What went into preparing for this character?
I love playing real life characters on stage; in fact, I have played quite a few, including Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. So it was a dream to portray a challenging character like Harshad Mehta, to keep the sympathies of the viewers intact despite the fact that he was involved in some illegal methods of trade.
This is one of the biggest projects in my career. A lot went into the research as well. Though I was given a lot of reference material to read online, but there were very few videos available. There was an interview with Pritish Nandy which I saw innumerable times.
The script itself was such a detailed document for me to get into the details of the character. So all these things helped me a lot and to add to that, multiple discussions with writers and the director. 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 memory of it. I just recall that someone committed a fraud in the stock market because one of my close relatives had lost a huge sum of money at that time, so in a way I was connected to this. But as far as other technical aspects and jargon 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 sound believable so I wanted to understand stock trading thoroughly.
Harshad Mehta is a clear rags to riches story. Did you find a parallel somewhere in your life and his ?
As far as his journey is concerned, his initial life is somewhat relatable and I am sure a lot of people who have come from nowhere and created a space for themselves on their own and 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 and was trying to create a space for myself and dreaming big, then making it happen. So yes, the initial journey was similar.
Were you aware of the stock market and the terms used in the show prior to starring in it?
I had no idea about the share market, nor was I interested in it. But after doing this series, I was intrigued. I did some transactions to get the hang of things; though I’ll have to say that the process in the digitalised world is far easier than in the ‘80s and ‘90s I researched by reading about it and talking to people who used to trade in those days. I also met a lot of people who worked inside the Bombay Stock Exchange ring and if you watch the show, they use a lot of sign language to communicate and carry out a transaction. That used to happen in reality.
What’s the biggest risk that you have taken according to you?
The biggest risk I have taken is that of juggling between acting and engineering; so I was sailing in two boats literally. It was only in 2016 when I chose to leave my well-paying corporate career to pursue full-time acting, even after knowing the uncertainties attached to this industry. The plunge I took was worth it I guess.
There are many catchphrases, like ‘Risk hai to ishq hai’, and that cigarette and lighter one, or ‘jaib mein money ho to kundli mein sunny’ and so on. Which one is your favourite and why?
One of my favourites 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 multiple rejections. But I was hopeful that things will turn around.