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Interview Hindi

Our honesty has worked in Scam 1992, says Hemant Kher, the show's 'Ashwin Mehta'

Writer-director Kher, who bagged a meaty role in the web-series based on Harshad Mehta's life story, speaks about his experience and his career graph.

Keyur Seta

Director Hansal Mehta’s web-series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story is getting heaps of praise. Along with some smooth writing and presentation, the performances of the main cast have been one reason for the positive feedback. Pratik Gandhi, who plays the character based on the late stockbroker Harshad Mehta, has nailed his act.

But Hemant Kher, who has played the important character of Harshad’s older brother Ashwin Mehta, has also impressed one and all with his mature performance in a pivotal role. Kher's character was Harshad Mehta’s pillar of strength as well as his biggest critic.

Scam 1992 is based on the book The Scam by journalists Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu. It tracks the rise and fall of the stockbroker who was once known as the Big Bull.

Hemant Kher spoke to Cinestaan.com about his experience of shooting for Scam 1992 and about his own background. Excerpts:

How has the response to the web-series been?

It has been amazing. We weren’t expecting this. I also hadn’t expected this personally because this is my first major role.

We don’t work for the response. We work for ourselves. But after going through the responses, I am amazed. I also see memes made on it. It’s overwhelming.

We knew people would appreciate it but not to this extent. The team had met recently. We felt god has been very kind. Hansal sir also told me that this is unprecedented. I feel everyone’s honesty has worked. We are very happy.

With Pratik Gandhi and Chirag Vohra in Scam 1992

You have been a writer and director on reality TV shows. You have also been a dialect and acting coach on some films. How did you get cast for such an important role in Scam 1992?

I have been an actor since long. I passed out of the National School of Drama (NSD) and did some work. But then I got a writing offer for the show Shabaash India (2006).

Theatre teaches you everything. I continued doing this and people started liking my work. So I ended up doing many big shows like Dance India Dance, Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, etc.

I also used to train people for shows like India’s Best Dramebaaz and Cinestars Ki Khoj and have been an acting coach. So I was always involved with acting. I used to get calls for auditions. But if the role wasn’t interesting or was small, I never used to go.

Time passed. My audition for this role went very well. When I came to know that the story is about Harshad Mehta and the character is that of his elder brother, I felt there would definitely be something in this character. Thank god I accepted it. I enjoyed it.

How did you prepare to play this real-life character?

I researched a lot. I read a lot about Harshad Mehta and his scams. But there is not much information available on his brother Ashwin. Whenever I used to come across anyone connected to the share market during our preparation, I would ask them about him. Hansal sir had done a lot of research, so he had given me some brief on him. He said if Harshad was very flamboyant, this guy kept a low profile.

I saw one or two pictures of Ashwin to understand his body language. Slowly I started understanding that character. I realized that he is the type of guy who will warn you not to take risks. But even if you take the risk, he won’t leave you and run away.

Hemant Kher

Your on-screen rapport with Pratik Gandhi was impressive. How did it develop? And how was it off the set?

I almost became the official coach of everyone in the cast in Mitron (2018). It also starred Pratik. Nitin [Kakkar] sir was the director. After him if someone had to ask how he or she was performing, I was there. My friendship with Pratik happened there. There is another [upcoming] film titled Bhavai where I coached him for a while, not for acting but to explore his character. When I auditioned [for Scam 1992] I was happy to see Pratik on board. We address each other as ‘bhai’.

Plus, Pratik is a Gujarati from Surat. I am also a Gujarati from a place near Surat. For this show I always had this thought process that although he is younger to me, I will treat him as an elder brother. I follow him all the time. There is only one scene where I scold him saying that these cases won’t be solved in six months after my character becomes a lawyer.

The series has 10 episodes with each being long. Was it exhausting to shoot this much?

It wasn’t exhausting. The only exhausting part was that there were many locations. But we didn’t feel that exhaustion because on the set it was so beautiful. People like Hansal sir, Jai Mehta, our DoP [director of photography] and costume designer are all cool-headed people. Everybody was clear what they were doing. You would never feel tense. If there was any tension, it never reached us. I shot for around 55 days.

How was it shooting inside the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)?

It was overwhelming! As soon as I reached there, I felt a strong vibe. That hit me. I got emotional thinking how many people were made here and how many fell. It was like an akhara. I was thankful to god because to become a part of the BSE was a great experience.

And how was it to be directed by Hansal Mehta?

Hansal sir had complete clarity. There are some directors who don’t have such clarity. But he knew A to Z, everything. He was very clear about anyone’s specs, hair, etc. Even if my finger was pointed in a wrong direction, he would point it out. This touched me.

It was a smooth process. He would never push you to remember your lines and do particular things in a particular manner. Hansal sir leaves his actors free. He used to tell us, do however you feel and then I will capture it. There was a realistic approach. So we never had to 'act'. It was more about becoming [the character] rather an acting. I feel there is nothing better than directors who give you a chance to explore [your role]. I would want to work with him again and again and again. I would want to work with him even if he doesn’t pay me!

Shreya Dhanwanthary as Sucheta Dalal in Scam 1992

When did you decide to become an actor?

I used to act in plays at school. I was in a residential school in the eleventh and twelfth class. One teacher had asked for the NSD brochure. In hostels, things can get mixed up. So, somehow, that brochure was lying on our hostel terrace and it reached me by chance. It was like magic. As I opened it and started turning the pages, at that moment I felt I have to go here and do this. I realized later why it came to me. I was destined to do this.

But my father, who was a school principal, told me to get a degree first. Fifteen years ago people were still not so open about this career option. So I had to do my BSc in Chemistry. Then, after coming here, I struggled a lot and did different types of work to survive, thinking that some day I will get my big opportunity.

What are your plans now? Will you be focusing more on acting?

I have written a lot of scripts [and want] to direct films. I will also continue working as an actor. I will do the kind of work I feel excited about. Right now, I wish to do something absolutely different from [Scam 1992]. Like a comedy.

Generally, an actor gets flooded with offers after he is noticed in a film or series. Has it happened with you?

(Laughs) No, it hasn’t, unfortunately. I am waiting for it. My fingers are crossed.

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