This actor needs no introduction. He was the youngest actor to get highest remuneration in the country when he was portraying Shree Krishna at the tender age of 16 years. Yet, he took a break and came back to be the superstar, who is known across the lengths and breadths of India. Swwapnil Joshi is a known name in the television industry and equally in the film industry too. He talks about his journey, working with biggies, the then and now scenario of the television industry and his recent film ‘Bhikari’. Excerpts…
With no background in acting, how did you chose it to be your career?
I didn’t choose acting, but acting chose me. An eight-year old doesn’t understand anything about career choices. I was selected to play Kush from over 2000 kids in Ramanand Sagar’s Uttar Ramayan. That was the beginning.
You took the country by storm with your performance of Shree Krishna. How did you handle the fame at such a tender age?
I owe this to Ramanand Sagar himself. He used to call me Prabhuji. He used tell me one thing every day before the shoot. He used to say, “Beta jis umar main maa-baap bacchon pe sanskar karte hai, uss umar main aap pure desh pe sanskar kar rahe ho. Iss baat ko kabhi bhulna nahi!” He taught me and sculpted me in three dimensions –the language, the lines he wrote had their sanskar on my tongue, the philosophy that he was preaching through me to the world sculpted my intellect and the person that he made me by instilling the humanity in me. Moreover, the typical Maharashtrian middle class values and the upbringingingrained all these teachings in me.
Usually, a famous child actor isn’t accepted as a hero. What did you do to shed that image?
I didn’t work! Ramanand Sagar had an amazing sense of equality complex. Once, I told him I don’t feel like working anymore. He asked me to take a month’s time and analyse. Even after a month when I didn’t feel any different, he gracefully let me go. My parents too supported my decision. I completed my graduation in law in the meantime.I then started feeling that I should return to the television, and luckily I got ‘Campus’ serial.
Usually, Marathi actors don’t easily get on the Hindi platform, mostly because of their pronunciation barrier. How did you remain an exception?
I guess my training in Hindi dates back to my role in Uttar Ramayana. At that time, I spoke purest Hindi, read Hindi in the purest form. My Hindi accent and vocabulary were enriched because of it. When I did Shree Krishna, it was a mixture of Sanskrit and Hindi. It also helped me. I’ve done majority work in Hindi and I grew up in some wonderful personalities.
What difference do you find as an actor in the daily soaps then and now?
We have become more aggressive in subjects as well as their scripts. The responses are overwhelming and the audience is proactive in making comments. Actors have become vulnerable and have to pull their socks to face the challenges.
Your first film was with Nana Patekar. How was your experience working with him?
You don’t need me to tell you that he is a great actor. That is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call from Partho Ghosh’s office saying that Nana Patekar has suggested my name for the role.He had seen me in Campus. Nana Patekar is an extremely gracious and giving actor. I learnt a lot from him. He helps the co-actors to ease out and works to make the film better.
Marathi films are evolving at a rapid pace. What is your take?
I always felt that it was high time for us to show the larger than the life picture as well. Why should I only see Bollywood stars living in mansions and driving luxurious cars? So we carried out this experiment, and luckily people liked it. We felt that if Marathi cinema should go abroad to earn, we should spend on it at the same level at first. We always had rich content, it was time to portray it equally rich. Aruna Irani always told us, “puchna free hai. Uske paise nahi lagte.” Following her ideal, we approached Shankar Ehsan Loy for Mitwa. Shankar-ji said, they were waiting for someone to ask them make a Marathi film. Though they earned almost nothing from the deal, they were happy to do it.
Are you not afraid of rejection?
I would lie if I say rejections won’t affect me. But it is the destination that matters, not who accompany you. Even the rickshaw puller sometimes reject you. All you do is find another rickshaw!
You are credited to be a sure shot reason for success.
(Breaks) I don’t think so. The only reason for success is hard work. Swwapnil Joshi might be the face of success, but there is a team of hundred or more people who work tirelessly for a year to make him successful. It is a team effort
You have contested, hosted, judged and produced comedy shows. Which avatar was your favourite?
I loved contesting! It gives a feel of live theatre with the rehearsals, back and forth, making mistakes, experimenting, etc. I think my partner on the show, VIP is the most talented voice imitation artist in the whole world!
Acting with biggies in Bollywood, how do you tackle pressure?
I’m in a completely different state of mind in front of the camera. On the sets, I believe, I’m the best actor and that is how the confidence builds in me. I always remind myself that I’m a middle-class Maharashtrian boy who works for an actor called Swwapnil Joshi. I simply work on his orders. This gives me zero pressure. This helps me believe I’m the best actor.
How is Swwapnil Joshi before the film’s release?
He is nervous, he is cranky, he gets sleepless nights! He starts self-doubting! I start doing everything people ask me to do. So if someone advises me to stop eating non-veg before the release, then I’ll stop eating it right away! Film release is just like daughter’s marriage! kashavarun samorchyancha papad model kahi sangta yet nahi! (You never know what would create a problem!)
How do you manage stress?
Everyone has their own ways. I’m a foodie. So after I deliver a good scene, I reward myself with my favourite food. I like any kind of food! Only condition is that the food should be of the best quality! I also have a group of my people with whom I share my inhibitions, my worries, my stress. They are my bouncing boards. They help me come back to normal.
You are famed to make your co-actors comfortable on sets. How do you do that?
That is who I am as a person! Like people have OCDs, I have compulsive pleasing behavioural disorder. When I walk in a room, I think its my personal responsibility that everyone in there have a smile on their face. I feel offended if I fail to do so. Also, when I entered this industry, people made me comfortable. I guess this is my way to thanking them.
What do you prefer? Serials or movies?
I prefer working! Comparison is always between things on one level.
You also did a radio show.
Red FM wanted to do a Marathi show across six cities of Maharashtra and its creative head Rohit Kulkarni approached me. Since I wasn’t comfortable with the typical setting, we decided to make it in interview format where I interviewed many of my friends. I felt like I met them in a new way when I interviewed them. It had extremely successful two seasons. I feel radio has grown exponentially well.
Tell us about ‘Bhikari’.
If someone is asked, what can you do for your mother, the answer is always, ‘anything’! This story is inspired by a true story of man from South India. Yet, it is not his biopic. It was fantastic working with Ganesh Acharya. Both of us are equally positive. His talent is undoubted! I trained for four months everyday for four hours to get in tune with dances. The film is emotional and entertaining.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’m working on a film called Waras in which I’m playing a villain has an extremely sweet face and an extremely evil mind. That is a challenging role.
Jeetendra Joshi and Swwapnil Joshi share a great camaraderie. While talking about confidence that Swwapnil has, he said, “Jeetu always mocks my confidence. He says, confidence was born three minutes before I was. So when my mother asked the nurse, ‘what is it’, the nurse replied, ‘well, it is just confidence now, the baby is yet to come!’”