Embarking on a journey into the mesmerizing realm of talent and versatility, Pratik Gandhi has left an indelible mark. From the riveting portrayal of Harshad Mehta in “Scam 1992” to a tapestry of diverse roles in cinema, his path is nothing short of inspirational. In an exclusive interview with The New Indian’s Executive Editor, Rohan Dua, Pratik unfolds the pages of his dual journey—both as an actor and an engineer.
Rohan Dua: At a time when most Indian engineers and Indian-origin CEOs of US companies are ruling the roost, from Microsoft’s Sundar Pichai to others, how did you leave behind such a spectacular career in engineering to choose a career in acting?
Pratik Gandhi: I keep saying that engineering is not just a degree; it’s a way of life. It’s a way you think, an approach. So I owe my life and approach towards life to engineering.
Engineering never happened with any pressure or the thought of there being a second career option. It was always by choice. I am proud to say that I am equally passionate about engineering. The subject I chose (was) industrial engineering, and I worked in that field for almost 14 to 15 years. (However) for both acting and engineering, I was equally passionate.
Acting has been with me since childhood. It happened when I was in 4th standard, performing for the first time on stage. Since then, I wanted to pursue acting. I juggled between both these careers, but in 2016, when I had to decide, I had good offers from the engineering firms as well as from the theatre world and Gujarati films. That was the time when I chose to be a full-time actor.
Rohan Dua: Many people still believe in India because so many Indians have done so well in the engineering field, to the extent that when the two countries’ heads meet, it’s because of the CEOs and a strong diaspora. So, do you regret that if you had pursued it, you would have reached the height of success, or is touching the hearts of people through acting more rewarding for you?
Pratik Gandhi: Actually, I don’t regret anything. I am still fond of engineering, but I never had regrets of this sort.
Rohan Dua: How do you look at Scam 1992’s success, considering that there was the trouble of Covid and the biopic of the man you had to portray, for which you had to put on weight — so, what was more difficult, tackling Covid or preparing for the character of Harshad Mehta?
Pratik Gandhi: As actors, we keep creating different characters, and I have been doing this for the longest time on stage, but Covid was unprecedented. The most difficult thing I have ever experienced is Covid, as my brother was critically ill, and we were confined to the house. I could not go out, so nothing could beat that situation.
Rohan Dua: How do you look at India’s rise from Covid? Many believe India’s Make in India vaccine, Covishield and COVAXIN, or the government initiative, sort of helped us to recover from the pandemic.
Pratik Gandhi: Yes, India did pretty well that way, but in whatever limited understanding I have about the medical field, one thing I have understood is that it is not a definite science. It’s an experimental science. For the first time, I heard the doctor say, “Try this medicine.” Before that, doctors used to be sure while prescribing medicine.
Rohan Dua: But if we talk about the time when you won the hearts of people on OTT, the fact that Covid gave you that opportunity as people were confined to their homes, and OTT was the only source of entertainment, as people could not go to cinema halls to watch movies, did you benefit from that?
Pratik Gandhi: Yes, I benefited from that. Like you said, people were confined to their houses and were constantly searching for entertainment—something that can make them feel good, and engage them, because it was not easy for people to sit at home and wait for better days to come. So, in this particular time, OTT helped actors like me to be in people’s hearts and be on the TV screen.
Rohan Dua: I also wish to draw your attention to your gay character in Modern Love, especially at a time when just three days back, India’s apex court has now left the decision on marriage rights on same-sex couples to the legislature. So, do you think India has come a long way, or these decisions should be left to the constitution and not the judiciary or the executive?
Pratik Gandhi: As far as I know, India has come a long way. We have started at least discussing these topics to this level, at the national level, and we are giving hope to the whole community that better days are ahead because denying the existence of homosexuality is like denying the existence of dinosaurs. References to this are there in age-old literature, so I don’t think this is unnatural.
Rohan Dua: Many people still have the perception that this may harm India’s culture and the traditions that regular marriages are used to only to produce babies and carry on the culture of progenies, and this will halt that culture.
Pratik Gandhi: I don’t think that our culture was ever that narrow or that shallow because whatever Indian culture that I have learned since my childhood from my elders was always inclusive and much deeper than what we can understand in just two lines. So, I guess if there is any space for anything anywhere in the world then I think it is here.