Interview
 
Bhamini Oza Gandhi Interview
For the beautiful, vibrant, talented actor life is a challenge just like any role that she takes up. Having been an actor for over two decades she is a known face on stage and the small screen. She also has to her credit many short films and three untitled Gujarati films soon to be released. With plays like MRS MANJULA MARFATIA, EK KHOBO JHAKAL, 7x3=21, SIR SIR SARLA, THE WAITING ROOMS, JAADU TERI NAZAR and many more she has made her mark on Gujarati stage.


 By Jahnavi Pal


With a repertoire as impressive as this she needs no further introduction. Married to the current big star on the OTT platform Pratik Gandhi who played the lead in the critically acclaimed webseries Scam 1992 they have a daughter Miraya.

Tracing her journey of 20 years the actor says,"While in school I was always academically inclined as I was a topper. In fact I wanted to be a doctor. Nobody in my family has been an actor so the thought never even crossed my mind. But unfortunately I didn't get a seat in medicine and so thought of the next best thing, to become a chartered accountant. But during college I was a part of the drama team and even did a play. Though I never thought of taking up acting as a profession when I was offered my first commercial play, MRS MANULA MARFATIA ,which was directed by Vipul Mehta who had also directed my inter- collegiate plays, I accepted it for a lark. I had a miniscule role in this but I thoroughly enjoyed it as it had a cast of about 28 actors which included most of my college friends.

"This experience was so good that I thought it would be fun doing plays. I had graduated by then so my dad asked me to pursue a course that would help me get a job. I enrolled for an international trade management course and alongside started working for an export house in Lower Parel. This was a tedious job as the travel was very tiring. I quit after a year. After that I went on to do my M.Com and Law and in 2003 I was offered yet another play. By then I was doing a lot of Gujarati serials both as an actor and also as an assistant director to Jyoti Vyas who was a big name on the small screen. A brilliant lady she taught me the ropes and I learned a lot from her. I also assisted in Marathi serials. But I was a little reluctant to continue as an assistant as it required me to be on set even when I was not required and this affected my acting opportunities. I had to decide between wanting to be a director or an actor. I opted for acting. I was soon offered a play called NATU I LOVE YOU in which I had a good role.

"Simultaneously I was offered a place in Hema Malini's dance ballets. As a kid I always wanted to be a dancer. I am not a trained dancer but I learnt quickly as I had an aptitude for dancing. I remember Hema Malini asking her team to call the girl who wasn't trained but the one who was trying hard! She loved my expressions as a dancer and for me this was a huge high. I didn't want to make a career of dancing but the thrill of dancing on stage was great. I then started to learn the Odissi dance form. I danced with Hemaji's troupe for nearly two years but then quit as acting offers began to come my way. I did one play after another and my life as an actor was now quite set!"

Talking about some of her most challenging roles Bhamini says,"Honestly I have enjoyed all the roles that were offered to me. I would have quit the profession had I not enjoyed my characters. But if I have to choose a few then I would say I loved my role in BAPU TAME KAMAAL KARI which was directed by Dilip Joshi. A powerhouse of talent I learned a lot from him. The biggest lesson he taught me was that in any comic scene the audience doesn't really laugh at the dialogue rendered by the artiste but it's the reaction of the other artiste that brings in the laughter. So even if an artiste doesn't have any lines it's how he reacts that is more important.

"Then in 2009 I got a play called EK CHOKRI SAAV ANOKHI. This was a very difficult role as I played the role of a disabled girl who did her daily chores using only her lower limbs. Her exemplary courage and grit were something I imbibed even as a human being. We did about 275 shows of this play and very often many similarly disabled people came to watch the play who would come backstage to tell me how motivated they felt after seeing me in this play. I realised then that as an actor we have a lot of responsibility to our audiences. People come with a lot of expectation and it's our duty to live up to this."

Bhamini's longest running play was THE WAITING ROOMS which did about 472 shows."It was a very interesting play where I got a lot of liberty to explore myself as an actor. It was the role of a woman who was not very educated but she was a woman of substance. The play is written so beautifully that I feel that it should continue forever."


Then came 7x3=21 which Pratik directed. "Both of us wanted to do a project together and this was offered and we grabbed the opportunity."

But along with her super success as an actor came a huge setback when Bhamini was detected with a brain tumour. This was a trying phase in her life but the courageous actor took it on her chin and is today free of the disease."I had no idea that something of this magnitude could ever happen. Pratik too didn't share the details of the reports of my MRI as he was completely shattered. But when I did realise what was happening I didn't cry or lose courage as I have been raised to be strong. When there is no way out one has to learn to accept the situation. In fact I had gone for the MRI all by myself. But due to the gravity of the situation the doctor called Pratik and told him about the tumour. We immediately took an appointment and saw the doctor and since the surgeon was not available for the next two months I took a call of going in for the surgery in the next two days. I didn't want to wait as there was a risk of even getting facial paralysis. On the day of the surgery I insisted on walking into the OT and not going on a stretcher. The surgery took over eight hours and the first thing I asked on coming out of the surgery was if my face had been affected. Of course I didn't even hear what the doctor answered as I was in a semi-conscious state but fortunately I was lucky."

When I was detected with this I was signed for a show for Star Plus for which I had already shot the pilot. It was a bi-lingual and I shot for both in Hindi and Gujarati. Unfortunately I had to opt out as they would have to wait for at least two months till my hair grew back. The producers JD Majethia and Aatish Kapadia were very considerate and even opted to wait but it would not be fair on my part and though I was very excited to play the lead in the show I asked them to cast someone else."

She was soon back on her feet and started life once again as an actor. Currently she has done a Gujarati film which is awaiting release but for her films are not as exciting as theatre. She candidly says that serials do get monotonous after a while and hence she tends to lose interest. And after theatre, her next best bet is the OTT platform.

A proud wife, Bhamini is elated with the super success of Scam 1992 which has catapulted her husband in the big league. "Life has changed to a great extent. We do all our work with equal dedication so when Scam 1992 became such a huge hit he was surprised. He knew it would do well but wasn't prepared for such a windfall. We are blessed that the correct thing happened at the correct time. Everything from the writing to the direction to the acting was near perfect."

So are the husband-wife duo doing any project together? "We are going to do a Gujarati film titled Avartan. Though we haven't started shooting due to the pandemic we are hoping we will soon take off."

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff








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