The actor sheds light on his acclaimed portrayal of the late controversial stockbroker Harshad Mehta.
Scam 1992 is my career's biggest turning point, says Pratik Gandhi
Mumbai - 22 Oct 2020 16:00 IST
Actor Pratik Gandhi has been working in various mediums for one and a half decades. But his critically acclaimed take on the late controversial stockbroker Harshad Mehta in the web-series Scam 1992 marks a watershed moment in his career. The true-crime show, which was directed by Hansal Mehta, was released earlier this month on SonyLIV.
In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, the actor said he never expected such a glowing response from critics and viewers. “With so many experienced people joining hands, including Hansal Mehta, SonyLIV and Applause Entertainment, I was sure something good was bound to come out of it. But I never expected the response to be so great,” said Gandhi.
“He told me that he thought of doing something with me after seeing them. And when he started working on Scam 1992, he felt a Gujarati actor should be cast, to add flavour and other such things. I gave an audition. This, coupled with what I had done before, landed me with this role,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi told us that he was startled to receive the fateful phone call from Hansal Mehta. “It was difficult to believe. He called me to his place and narrated the story and the character. He said I could take my time and think and let him know if I wished to do it. I straight away said, ‘There is nothing to think about. I want to do this'. And that’s how we started,” the actor said.
Scam 1992 tells the story of how a man from Mumbai’s lower middle class goes on to rule the stock market on his own terms. However, greed eventually gets the better of him and flagrant criminal activities ensue. Hemant Kher plays Harshad’s supportive elder brother Ashwin, while the young and fearless journalist Sucheta Dalal, played by Shreya Dhanwanthary, proves to be the biggest thorn in the anti-hero's side.
Gandhi and Hansal Mehta jelled instantly on the sets. “He is more than a friend. He is so cool and calm. Whenever you wish to approach him to discuss something or ask him anything, you don’t fear or any inhibitions. He quickly puts the actor in a comfortable zone,” the actor said.
Scam 1992 also saw the involvement of Hansal Mehta’s son Jai as co-director. Gandhi is all praises for the young “super-dynamic” filmmaker whom he says is knowledgable about the various aspects of filmmaking. “The team of Hansal and Jai Mehta is amazing going by the way they complement each other,” he said.
Gandhi’s chemistry with Kher’s character is one of the highlights of Scam 1992. The two knew each other before the shoot as both were involved in Mitron (2018). “On the sets, it was all the more enjoyable with him around. I guess that’s why our chemistry and bonding are visible on the screen,” he said.
The all-important step of researching his role was a smooth process for the actor. “A lot of reference material is available online. Plus, our script itself is 550 pages long; I went through that too. I discussed the character a lot with the writers and Hansal sir. I also saw one or two of his interviews online. After going through all this, we decided how to create the character,” he said.
“I knew I might not look like him. And our intention was never to reduce him to a caricature and mimic him. So we decided to imbibe his style, temperament and characteristics. It’s always interesting to play real-life characters. There is so much ambiguity. We might not know everything about the person. Also, you can’t go all out beyond a point,” said Gandhi.
Scam 1992 doesn’t treat Harshad Mehta as a villain even after he becomes a scam artist. To play him with objectivity was Gandhi’s main challenge. “He wasn’t famous. He was infamous. There was a lot of negativity and theories around him. People had a lot of assumptions about him. And all these scams were negative parts of his life. Even after knowing all this, to create this character with a neutral approach was a challenge,” he said.
He added, “When I perform, I shouldn’t think if the character is grey or dark, a hero or villain. I had to approach him in a humane way. To do it objectively was challenging, which was fun.”
Gandhi agrees that Scam 1992 is a personal milestone. “It is my career’s biggest turning point. Although I have worked in theatre and regional cinema for 15-16 years, this is my most mainstream work to date. And I have a lot of hopes because of this project,” he said.
The actor tells us he is open to performing in all mediums in the future. “But right now I want to focus on mainstream media as their reach is wide. I have also been waiting for this for years. I want to do films in various languages that deal with different cultures,” he said.