Pratik Gandhi: The best thing I have learned from theatre is discipline
Pratik Gandhi is living the dream with an interesting lineup of projects, including biopics of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jyotirao Phule
The success of web series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story (2020) catapulted Pratik Gandhi to stardom. But he wasn’t an overnight success. The actor had spent years at a full-time corporate job, while doing theatre and a few Gujarati films such as Bey Yaar and Wrong Side Raju on the side, before deciding to pursue his passion completely in 2016.
Over half-a-decade later, Pratik is staring at a packed line-up, of which two productions––Phule and Gandhi—announced earlier this month, will see him play the iconic titular characters from Indian history. “The physical transformation is a huge challenge. Jyotirao Phule was tall and well-built while Gandhi had a lean and vulnerable appearance. I will be shooting for the film, Phule, from April, after which I will have to shed a lot of weight and muscles to play Gandhi in July. It will be tough because I love working out,” he says about the multi-season web series covering the leader’s life.
The project will also see the actor reunite with his Scam 1992 director Hansal Mehta, who is directing the series based on Ramachandra Guha’s two books–– Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World. Hansal is also bankrolling the Anant Mahadevan- directorial, Phule.
Playing Gandhi should come easy to Pratik, who has earlier acted in a one-man play called Mohan’s Masala (2015) by Manoj Shah for which he performed a monologue in Hindi, English, and Gujarati in a single day.
It got him featured in the Limca Book of Records. “I have been performing the two-hour monologue for the last eight years. I always wanted to play Gandhi on screen. Finally, it’s happening,” he says.
Once considered for roles that were meant only for “cushioning”, today Pratik finds a drastic change in people’s perception since his dramatic portrayal of the rise and fall of Mumbai-based stockbroker Harshad Mehta in Scam 1992. “There were a lot of filmmakers who had seen my plays, but they never offered me roles. I was not given an opportunity even on television. I would often hear, ‘You are a good talent, but how will we sell the film?’ But after Scam, the same people are doing films with me,” he says.
What is probably working in his favour, he guesses, is the sheer variety of his characters. “Immediately after Scam, I played a gay character in one of the stories in Modern Love Mumbai, and then a CBI officer in the thriller series, The Great Indian Murder. I like the unpredictability where the audience is not able to guess in what avatar they will see me next,” says the actor, who plans to continue surprising viewers with his upcoming films.
While Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan with Taapsee Pannu is a quirky comedy, Agni will explore the lives of firefighters. With Vidya Balan, he has relationship drama Lovers. Then, there is social drama Dedh Bigha Zameen, where he will again collaborate with Hansal.
“It is like I am attending a wrap-up party on one set and landing on the other to start another film (laughs). I am living the dream,” says Pratik, who is currently shooting an untitled comedy in Goa.
Even as he is trying his hands at all cinematic genres, he admits that drama, with its scope to explore emotions, is his favourite, a conviction that stems from his two-decade-long training as a thespian. With over 15 plays in Gujarati and Hindi to his credit, Pratik continues to remain active on stage as much as he can. “I have explored theatre in all aspects––from being a co-writer to director and performer. I have also done a musical. But the best thing that I have learnt from the theatre is discipline,” he says, adding that the experience has built a strong foundation for his film career.