Prashantt Guptha: The cross-cultural Bollywood icon, on acting, stardom and life

Still from The Tashkent Files. BTS copy. Photo: courtesy Prashantt Guptha

The  make-believe  world  of  celluloid  that imitates life, inspires an artist to chase that luminous reflection that a child throws up on the wall in the dark. It blends realism and fiction  into  a  formula  that  automatically rewrites its code, such as the one built into the impervious and resistant vault. It is easy for people with weak willpower to dismiss it and label a safe as unbreakable. No, he is not the thief who is planning a grand heist. This kind of heist also has the potential to someday make it to the Netflix catalog. It will also have a subtext, ‘Inspired by True Stories.’ He is an artist who shows up to work each and every day with his box of tools. He hopes to unlock that invisible  vault  that  holds  the  secret  to creating a work of art that is unmatched and timeless. Every night he comes back and sharpens the tools and keeps them secure in his invisible toolkit. Every day he will take yet another stab at cracking the code, and the irony is that he may never actually succeed at that. But in the process, he ends up becoming a finer actor, and a person who is nothing but a better version of himself.

Prashantt Guptha is an Indian-American actor. He has acted in some of the top Hindi films and projects in India like NEERJA, THE TASHKENT FILES, ASHRAM 3 and SPECIAL OPS. His forthcoming project  in  India  is  a  Hindi  feature  film starring the late Vikram Gokhale and Revathy. It is called JAGJIVAN KI PATNI KA TEESRA PYAR, and is written/directed by Rajesh Bachchani. This film was recently acquired by Panorama Studios, the creators of Drishyam, Drishyam 2 and many other hit films/shows. In this film, Prashantt had the privilege of sharing screen space with two towering institutions of acting and also debuts as a singer. It is heartwarming to notice that his song ‘Meri Mai’ has netizens swooning over his soulful voice. This has caused them to profusely  express  their  love  for  their  own mothers in the comment section. From getting his first break in the film, EK VIVAH AISA BHI, made by the legendary production house Rajshri Productions, to his first venture in America; a feature length film called ‘A NEW CHRISTMAS’ that he co-produced and starred in as the lead as well, which received official acceptance to over 15 film festivals, Prashantt has come a long way. He is now a partner in a production house, and also is the brand ambassador of a shoe company called Solm8 that promotes cricket in the USA. The city of Long Island where he has recently resettled, treats him like its very own local movie star. He is often invited to give lectures to film students. Behind all the glitz and glamor is the story of a boy who not many know fought a tough battle with depression and anxiety. But with enough grit, persistence and determination to bounce back, he chose to fight his inner demons and embrace Kishore Kumar’s classic song, “Ruk jaana nahin, tu kahin haar ke” in spirit. Prashant also recently created the first ever mental-health masterclass for artistes called CINEMA & SANITY.

Scene from Special Ops. Photo: courtesy Prashantt Guptha

I spoke to Prashantt about his passion and pursuit of acting, his life after moving to the United States, and more…

Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. As a kid I wanted to be the next big Bollywood superstar. My screen idol was Amitabh Bachchan and that was the only life, persona and career I aspired to emulate. Fifteen years into the industry, I have learned enough about superstardom, the trappings, the true meaning of health & happiness, and so much more. I only want to be the best version of myself each day. I’ll always be a student and fan of Bachchan saab. But I cannot be him in this lifetime, and I’m wise and content enough to accept that and welcome the glory of my own fate.

Q: How do you handle performance anxiety?

A: Performance anxiety is a necessary component of delivering. As an artist, it is your responsibility to care enough about what you do. Those butterflies, overthinking, breathlessness … all that is good. Nevertheless, you need to channel that into your performance. How do I do that? Read the script many, many, many times! Find the essence of the ‘subtext.’ If you have questions, have a chat with the director. Be on time for the shoot and practice deep breathing. Frequently visualize yourself delivering a solid performance. And lastly, I invite God into the scene/shot. “You take over, it is all you.”

Q: What’s the very first job you had (that’s not on your resume) and what did you learn from the experience?

A: My first job was a TV & Print commercial for Back in college, I got paid $100 and it really helped shed my inhibitions in front of the camera, besides that first feeling of being noticed. Nice to see that the man who started the company is one of the biggest entrepreneurs of India, Anupam Mittal from Shark Tanks.

Q: How did you discover your passion for acting? How supportive was your family?

A: My passion for acting began at the community events in New York where I would dance to Bollywood numbers. The Jewelers community of Jaipur held annual Diwali parties in the 80’s and 90’s. My family has been in the jewelry business for nearly 50 years, and I’ve been raised very well on Indian culture, music and films. That would be the original source of inspiration and draw towards pursuing acting as a career. The family was, is and will always be supportive. However, if I could travel back to my 20’s and make any changes, I would say, “Prashantt, take those  blessings  from  your family but find a way to support yourself.” I am convinced that this line of work is so uncertain that getting through the doors of showbiz and feeling like you have accomplished something will take time regardless of talent and looks.

Prashantt Guptha with Prakash Jha.Photo: courtesy Prashantt Guptha

Q: Talk about your struggles in Bollywood.

A:My Bollywood struggle could take a whole book to elaborate upon, or could best be described with the famous lyrics, “Yeh Jeevan hai, iss jeevan ka yahi hai – yahi hai rungroop…Thode ghum hain, thodi khushiyan, yahi hai – yahi hai- yahi hai chaon dhoop…” I haven’t received any advice about the industry. I’ve only learned from  my  own  experiences.  How  could  I  have survived on what other people said? Some felt I would be the next superstar, some said I must quit right away as I have no scope. Some thought if I invest in their film, I’ll be a star, some thought if I compromise on their terms, my life would change overnight. I was told to do TV serials by some, to join the family business by others, and to do X, Y, Z by others. “Kuchh toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna…”

A New Christmas. Photo: courtesy Prashantt Guptha

Q: Who are some of your favorite people to follow on Twitter and why?

A: I don’t follow anyone on Twitter, and I’m not very active on it. In fact, I no longer have role models that I want to emulate or be like. So much is brewing in my life, I can only see what it is I want to become and what impact I hope to leave on the world as an artist, family man and an entrepreneur – all with a high spiritual quotient. In fact, I find LinkedIn to be more resourceful, and also use Instagram for my work. I do this without a speck of envy or jealousy toward other  people’s  lives, achievements or portrayals on social media.

Q: Which is more critical for an actor, their talent or their training?

A: Talent is more significant than training. Both Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are untrained actors, yet  thousands  of  students attend acting schools and struggle to find work. But then again, a life of divine grace and a blessed destiny will take you much further.

Aashram3. Photo: courtesy Prashantt Guptha

Q: What advice can you give to others in your industry who might need that push to make something, and think outside the box?

A: My advice to others would be to ensure they have sustainable jobs  while  pursuing  their dreams. Don’t give up on safety, and don’t give up on the dream. Both must co-exist. And yes, learn the craft, network well, be patient, and don’t compare yourself to others. Why? It’s not only about looks, talent, and efforts, but also about destiny. And trust me, it’s pointless comparing destinies. Too big a horizon, beyond one lifetime.

Prashantt still hasn’t lost his sense of humor, which he says is his greatest achievement till date. As an actor he is hungry and wouldn’t mind playing anything on screen but off-screen he wants to be a happy man. Traveling between Mumbai and the US, Prashantt is now a New York resident who reminisces about the last 15 years of his life as an actor with gratitude, and life-lessons. Every day of his acting choices and career, he gets one step closer to cracking the code, which only a select few can do or keep up with.



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