Mehul Buch Interview
He has had a meaningful journey of over three decades and is still going strong. The talented Mehul Buch, the actor with a deep rich voice, is also a director and writer, who has straddled the world of films, TV, theatre and commercials with equal ease. Buch has been a popular face in over 230 commercials but it is his work on stage that has been the highlight of his acting career, with plays like MAHARATHI, SNEHRANG, TRISHANKU, HAARJEET, KHANDAAN, RESHAMDANKH, GOODBYE GOMTI, BAA RETIRE THAY CHE. Sharing his journey of three decades Buch talks about his life on stage and more.

 By Jahnavi Pal

"I always loved acting since my childhood. But in those days it was not easy to take a plunge into the world of acting, "Buch begins. "I belonged to a family which had MBAs and doctors so education was of great importance in my family and hence I forayed into acting only after completing my graduation. But parallelly I did grab opportunities to do plays at the college level and at all such events that gave me a chance to interact with the audience. This was the trigger point which sowed the seeds for my acting career. My first major public performance was in 1989 after I attended a workshop with Kanti Madia. The workshop went on for nine months out of which I took three months to understand the play as i was so raw! The play titled PANKOR NAAKE JAI which was about Vishnu's avatars was written by Madhu Rye and I played the role of Kalki, a negative character. After this I made my switch to commercial plays. Then opportunity came knocking on my door as Kanti Madia asked me if I would like to do a play. This was a huge thing for me as he had selected me out of 108 students and this meant a lot.

"The play was TRISHANKU written by Pravin Solanki; Feroz Bhagat played the lead whereas I was doing the backstage as well as was acting in just one scene. I had the opportunity to act opposite Madia himself. Kanti Madia was like a school, I was his favourite, and I then began to assist him. Whatever I know is because of him. The other milestone play I did was MAHAMANAV with Siddarth Randeria. After this Madia offered me a lead role in SNEHRANG in 1991. It had co-actors like Arvind Trivedi and Kalpana Bhatt so I was all charged up. Unfortunately I was diagnosed with jaundice and was advised complete bed rest. My dad called Madia and told him about my illness. Madia in his inimitable style replied: don't worry Deepak will take care. He was referring to Deepak Dave. I was devastated and thought I had lost the play. But after a month when I was fine and fit to be in action I was called to Tejpal. Deepak was standing outside the auditorium and welcomed me with great warmth and shared all the instructions that Madia had given him. I was overwhelmed. He gave me back my play and till date I thank him for this magnanimous gesture.

"The most interesting part of my journey is that I belong to a generation who started with Madia. Soon after I got an opportunity to work with Arvind Joshi in a production where I was playing a psychiatrist. It also had Darshan Jariwala in just a one scene role, but that was the climax scene. It so happened that for a show in Rajkot Jariwala couldn't make it and Arvind Joshi asked me to take over his role. God gave me the opportunity to show my talent and Arvind Joshi then asked me to do both the roles even after we returned to Mumbai. This was possible as in both the roles I had a very different get-up.

"After this I got one more chance to work with Joshi in a play called HAAR JEET. The ads carried my name with stalwarts like Joshi, Meghna Roy and this was an honour to share a parallel role with him. Life had just begun for me and I did plays with legends of Gujarati stage. I did PADKAR with Sarita Joshi playing my wife, MAHARATHI with Paresh Rawal, RESHAM DANKH with Homi Wadia, KHANDAAN which was also a major hit. I can say what I am on TV today is because of Homi Wadia. I kept working for 30 years non-stop. The kind of progress I experienced is from the time I worked backstage when I would help Siddarth Randeria with his shoes and also helped Feroz Bhagat backstage by getting him his tea or helping him with his shirt, to the time Bhagat gave me a play and told me that it now rested on my shoulders and Siddarth went on to direct me.

"SNEHRANG, my debut, remains the turning point in my life and I got appreciated for my work. From then on I got a chance to show my talent. But I can say all my plays are in some way a turning point in my life as each one gave me a chance to do something different."

Buch goes on to share some interesting anecdotes in his life. "I must share a wonderful moment in my professional life when Mayur Puri, the writer of the hit film Om Shanti Om wrote a play directed and produced by me titled AMASTA AMASTA. It was a musical where we launched Sachin of Sachin-Jigar fame. It was the first play that launched digital sound and the play was received very well. In all this Mayur one day asked me to come to Yash Raj Studio and I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't even own a car then and went there in an auto. He was writing a film for Yash Raj and the director Sanjay Gadhvi had seen me in my play and said he wanted to sign me for his film. In 15 minutes I was signed for Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai and this gave me a new lease to life. I can say I was blessed as I was lucky to have been part of the transition phase for theatre when three act plays moved over to two acts. I was a witness to this transition and to also witness the change in audience temperament. This was also the start of TV serials and I was blessed to work with Ekta Kapoor. It was that time when she didn't even have her office and we would go to Ekta's house to collect our cheques."

Like most stage actors theatre remains his first love. "I became an actor when I was in KG class and the applause I got during my performances was my biggest high. And there is no other place like stage for this. I can't imagine myself without theatre. I have been an integral part of it as i am not just an actor but a producer and director with equal intensity."

Buch, who is married to actor Alpana, talks of what it is like to be married to an actor. They were seen in the Gujarati film Love Ni Love Stories where they played parents to Pratik Gandhi. "We met during Kanti Madia's workshop where she was a year senior to me. In fact friends referred to us as the ‘magai jodi'. But it was way back then that we decided that we would never pitch for work for each other. If we were offered roles together it would be great but we would never ever insist on it. We had decided that professionally we are two different individuals."

The actor has been busy writing a lot during the current lockdown plays. Along with this he has also made short video films which have been very well received by his fans. "I wrote and acted in a monologue called Tathastu which people have loved. I will soon announce my new serial too."

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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