A young theater veteran, a writer, reader, and brilliant actor, Mitra Gadhvi slid under the spotlight with his dazzling performance in the Gujarati cult classic, Chello Divas. He worked in Crime Patrol, following it with a string of well-known films like- Daav Thai Gayo Yaar, Shu Thayu, and starring alongside Jackie Shroff in Ventilator.
He wrote and directed the famous play called Listen-We Need To Talk. The role of a transgender person that he played in the unanimously acclaimed and award-winning play, Sikka Ni Triji Baju is a role that has been extremely close to his heart.
Read his entire interview as we unravel the most fun side to the actor-director Mitra Gadhvi.
Questions and answers
You have described acting as your meditation. Could you tell us more about it?
Acting is a lot like meditation for me. It gives me a feeling of happiness and calm. So, I always tell people if they want to find a very real or happy version of me, they should come and see me act because that is where you will find the real me.
You wrote and directed a play called Listen - We Need to Talk. How was the experience of writing and direction in it?
So, I have been co-writing a lot of plays, but at that point, I wanted to write a full-length play, and then I started writing the play, Listen – We Need to Talk without a title or a climax in my mind. I just started writing a story about a couple who stay in a live-in relationship and the issues they face. It was one of the finest experiences I’ve had.
Writing is a beautiful process, you learn a lot about people, how they think and you observe a lot about society and then put it into words. And then, I directed it as well. I wanted to act in it too, but it was becoming hectic to direct, design visuals, decide the lighting, and everything else, so a friend of mine acted in it. It was one of the finest experiences that I’ve had.
A lot of people face problems with their career as well as other life choices these days, which is why this play is essential to voice it out to the audience.
I stayed with a couple during my college days when I was pursuing my degree, where we had a shared space. Four of us stayed together, one of us got into a relationship, and his girlfriend came and stayed with us. So, I observed the couple closely, and that got stuck in my mind. This is the story- What kind of issues a couple faces? Then there is a point in their life where they have to choose between their career and the person they love, which is conflicting, and I wanted to address that. So yes, it was a massive success for me.
What do you do to keep yourself focused and inspired?
So I started working in the theatre when I was very young and after I started doing shows so never really got time to sit back. To be very honest, I wanted to do some good plays, but I wanted someone to direct them for me. I don’t want to write a play and then direct myself as well, because it is tough to do all of it together at the same time. So, I decided to wait for a script or somebody to approach me. But if your passion is your job, then I don’t think you need to do anything to stay focused or stay engaged.
What kind of difficulties did you have to face when you were starting out?
After I completed my masters, I shifted to Borivali in Mumbai, where I shared an apartment with a college friend. So, it wasn’t that difficult to stay since I lived with my friend. When it came to auditions, it became difficult when I kept getting rejected for almost two years, and usually, I wasn’t “fit” for the audition.
When you go to the studio they would describe the candidates as fit or unfit and only if you were deemed fit, would the auditions take place, which is why for two years I could not even audition for roles as they thought I wasn’t right for the character they wanted me to portray. Later on, I started getting small roles on television. I never wanted to do TV then. I was happy doing theatre, and I wanted to do films, but television had good money. I started working for Crime Patrol but I never really enjoyed it, so I stopped and went back to doing theatre. Then I got my first movie, and then Chello Divas happened, and here I am.
Did you feel discouraged when they would keep rejecting you or deemed you "unfit" for the role?
Not because of that, but after struggling for two years, I realized it wasn’t working out for me. I never had doubts, but sometimes I feel the luck factor plays a role along with the immense amount of dedication that is required. So after two years of constant rejection, I thought that I’d give my education a chance and returned to my hometown- Baroda, Gujarat. I started working at a firm as a business analyst, as an HR since I had a Masters degree in Human Resource Management. Three months down the line, I realized that I could not do this, so I went back to Mumbai, and in my head, it was clear that no matter what, I’ll keep doing this even if it took me ten years.
You worked in the movie Ventilator. How could you say it changed your life, if at all?
Every film and character leaves its impression on the actor and in his/her life. It always teaches you something, and you take away a lot from it.
Ventilator was sort of a celebration with all the legendary actors of the industry. I was already in awe of them as I had watched their work growing up. And then there was this moment when I was working with them, sharing the screen with actors like Sanjay Goradia, Jackie Shroff and other senior actors. This was a huge opportunity for me, and it was a very different character from the usual comedy roles I portrayed. My character and look in this movie was so different. After shooting for Ventilator for twenty days, on the twenty-first day, I was acting for my next movie Su Thayu, which was really crazy since I had to switch my look and character. Which means I had to complete the shoot for one movie and change myself for the next one. I was glad to be a part of it, as it is also one of my favorite Gujarati films. It is a very well-made film.
How was your experience working with Jackie Shroff?
He is amazing! He is a storyteller. Whenever there was a break between our scenes or the setting was rearranged, he would randomly start telling us his stories from different shoots and sharing so many episodes with us. He is super friendly and would always address people as “Bhidu, Yaar, Dost” and patting our shoulders. He was like a buddy to everyone on the set. He has a childlike personality. He would goof around with people on the set, asking, “Bhidu, aaj bahar jaake Pani Puri khana hai?” he is one of the most amazing stars I’ve worked with. Because even after being a superstar like him, you’d never feel like you are working with The Jackie Shroff. You just feel like you are working with someone you’ve known for years- your friend, your buddy, Jackie Shroff. For me, Jackie Da is the definition of cool.
What does a day in your life look like?
When I’m in Mumbai working, I have auditions and shoots all day long, but on days when we have nothing to do like this quarantine, I watch Netflix and Amazon. I have a huge list of shows to watch, and it keeps increasing every day when I start discussing them with my friends, and they recommend me to watch something new. But I am not a binge-watcher. I can only watch a few episodes in one go or watch two films at a time. During this quarantine, I have developed a habit of cooking, and I love it. Otherwise, I usually used to go out, hang out with my friends. Whenever I got bored, I’d hit one of my friends up and ask them to go out with me, somewhere to hangout. I love spending time with them.
Do you have a favorite character you have played?
I believe my favorite character would be from the movie Su Thayu. It was a complex character. People did not love the character but, at the same time, display a certain kind of likability towards my character. It was a very balanced, yet complicated character, and it had very few lines. It was all about gestures and reactions, which was quite difficult, and I believe people who watched the movie loved the character.
Which role would you describe as a challenging one in your career, be it theatre or film?
There was a play called Sikka Ni Triji Baju.
It is one of the best characters I’ve played, and it took away a lot from me. I had rehearsed for months on that character.
Our team went to national festivals with the play and even won awards for it. People recognized me as a fine actor for the first time in that play. It is very close to my heart as it was the role of a Hijra (transgender), and the play was based on their lives. Some plays and characters change you, and this one changed me too. I worked hard on the character, but it was a very intense play, and it took me six months to completely get out of that character.
Can you tell us three things your fans may not know about you?
My social media tells you everything about me, but if I really were to list some, they would be:
●I used to love photography, I still have a passion for it, but I lost my camera during a trip, so I just use my phone at times to do some photography.
●I am a very good badminton player. I used to play a lot during my school and college days and still have my old kit and shoes.
●I can sleep a lot. I can even sleep for 15 to 18 hours sometimes, wake up, have some food, and still go back to sleep.
Tell us something about your upcoming movie.
My upcoming movie is called Welcome to London. It was to be released during July or August, but we aren’t sure of the release dates right now due to the lockdown. All the movies that are to be released are kept on hold. So, it would take some time. It is a brilliant family film, full of fun, romance and comedy. It is in its post-production stage with just some VFX, Grading, and other bits left. Then we’ll have to wait for a suitable release date.
How are you keeping yourself active during this quarantine?
Actually, I have just been lazing around. I do not really work out; I have been reading a few scripts, writing something, and reading a novel, watching a lot of shows. I’ve started playing Ludo with my friends since they keep complaining about how I don’t play with them. I’m spending quality time with my family. Though I might have to start working out or I’ll start gaining weight :p
After working in the industry for many years, do you have any suggestions for aspiring artists, actors?
If anyone wants to work in the industry, the first thing they need to do is not run after fame and immediate success. Never look forward to that. Work on your performance. Try to do the theatre. Do a good amount of plays- like 7 – 10 plays in your life. That would help you perform better when you do films, facing the camera. It is the technique of acting that would change, and when you don’t know acting, there is no point. So learn acting, do theatre and don’t run after fame and money. Fame and money should be the byproduct of your performance. If you perform well, people will come to you.
Your favorite comedian is – Chirayu Mistry, Abhishek Upmanyu
Your favorite actor/ actress is – Deepika Padukone
Favorite movie in the last decade – Tamasha
The name of your autobiography would be – Keep it simple, silly
Favorite performance by you – Cheekno and my character from the play Sikka ni Triji Baju