Anniversary Special 2021: Pratik Gandhi, The Star Of Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story
When Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story released in October 2020, people described Pratik Gandhi as an overnight success. This reminds me of a Lionel Messi quote about him being an overnight success. “It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.” Pratik Gandhi’s story is no different. He has been active in Gujarati theater and films for nearly 15 years. He came to be known nationwide only after Scam 1992. His daughter made an interesting observation after a number of people meeting Gandhi said they were proud of him. One day, she innocently asked, “Why are they saying this to you?” He replied that they were reacting to his new web series. Her counterargument was, “So what? You have been working on stage for so long. Haven’t they seen your plays?” Gandhi smiled.
His journey from the unknown to being known has been impressive. He reminisces, “In the beginning, when I used to approach people for work or for PR, they did not take me seriously, or would give unsolicited advice. I knew that no one would be interested in me until I create my own success story. The entire world operates in the same way, and there’s nothing to feel bad about.” Today, the media is abuzz with Gandhi signing Hindi films with some reputed names.
Gandhi first come to Mumbai in 2004 to audition, but after months of struggle when nothing worked out, he went to Satara, where he had secured a job. ” In 2005 when he came to Mumbai again, he was cast in a crucial role in a Gujarati play, Aa Paar Ke Pele Paar, last. He performed 250 shows across several states and countries. It was here that Gandhi bumped into theatre veteran Manoj Shah, the one-act-plays specialist. He not only took an instant liking to Gandhi, but also took him under his wing. Both of them are still collaborating. Their last collaboration was a play titled Mohan No Masalo (Mohan’s Recipe). Gandhi has performed the play in three languages, English, Hindi, Gujarati, all in one day. He inscribed his name in the Limca Book of Records for this feat. The last show was performed right before the pandemic hit, and the country went under lockdown.
Post his marriage to the actress Bhamini Oza in 2009, Gandhi started working a full-time job at Reliance Infrastructure, and continued acting as a side hustle. He auditioned for almost every show for leading entertainment channels, and received nothing but rejection. Industry folks commented on Gandhi’s appearance, saying that he neither had the looks nor the X factor to make it big.
It was the year 2014 when Gandhi’s life began to turn, in an interview with Huffington Post, he described his situation. “I had to vacate my rented home, and I didn’t have money to rent a new home. My wife was expecting, so I asked my company if they could give me company accommodation. They agreed, but they mentioned it would take some time. I asked my parents to move back to Surat. My wife went to stay with her parents. My brother stayed with our cousin, and I moved into a car. I lived like this for 45 days.”
Situation took a turn for the better when an Ahmedabad based film-maker, Abhishek Jain, offered him a Gujarati film titled Bey Yaar. Even the company accommodation came through. “I wanted to stay with my wife during her pregnancy, but I also wanted to do the film. She gave me her approval to go ahead with the film,” he says.
Once he completed his shooting for Bey Yaar, he dived back into his job, and didn’t keep a tab on what was happening in the entertainment world. He was offered author-backed roles in movies and plays, but he didn’t find anything exciting. Then came Wrong Side Raju, a film that was inspired by a real-life hit-and-run case that rocked Ahmedabad in 2013. He again took leave from work to do the film and during the post production of the film, he decided to quit his job and continue acting full time. The film went on to win the National Award for Best Gujarati Film that year. Elaborating on his life-altering decision, he confesses, “The decision involved many risks because I had just purchased a house on loan. I had resigned from my corporate job that was a source of a steady income. It can easily be perceived as madness. At that one moment, I had no fear left. I thought, ‘Itna kya sochna?’ People close to me kept asking why I took such a drastic decision. Given my age, it was very unlikely that I would land big projects. If I kept doing theater and Gujarati films, I wouldn’t earn enough money to sustain a desirable lifestyle.” It paved the way for Gandhi to act in a string of successful Gujarati films, including Luv Ni Love Story, Dhunki, and Ventilator. All these films were instrumental in helping him grab the lead in Scam 1992.
Critics and audience members showered love not only on Scam 1992 but also on Gandhi. Veteran actor Shabana Azmi took to Twitter and wrote, ‘In Pratik, a Star is born.’
One of the best things about his performance was that he didn’t mimic Harshad Mehta, but tried to humanise him, and succeeded in doing so. Some perceived his character as a hero and some as a villain, but everyone loved his portrayal of the character. Cherishing the praises, he shares, “An actor’s work should be timeless, so that it invokes the same emotion every single time it is revisited. As far as my performance is concerned, it would only have a long lasting impact if I kept it real. By real, I mean a performance that generates from a place of sincerity within. This is what I set out to do with all my performances.”
Many offers are pouring in for web shows, theater, and films, and he wants to continue in every medium. He explains, “I’m a very greedy actor. I want to explore any and every content form there is or will be available in the future.” In fact he is also working on an app for auditions, wherein an actor can audition from wherever he is. This idea came to him when he had to miss out on many auditions due to work timings or being stuck in long commutes.
Finally, Pratik Gandhi is reaping the benefits of his 15 years of hard work.