In conversation with Gulshan Devaiah whose role in MX Player’s Shiksha Mandal has received much appreciation.
Tell us about your role in Shiksha Mandal. What drew you to the script?
I’d heard a lot about such scams but not the details; you start noticing things when the script comes to you or when you read more about it because of interest. The story / show is based on many real incidents. They’ve been happening for a long time, and now in the internet age, we are more likely to come across more information on such things. I play a teacher who’s running quite a successful coaching class; he’s an honest man. I believe it’s a job that comes with great responsibility. The role, the story and the people I’m working with all seemed pretty interesting to me. I can’t pick out one particular thing that I found mind-blowing; you’ll have to watch the show to find that out.
Shiksha Mandal talks about scams in the educational sector. Why do you think these scams take place?
I feel like there is a loophole which is exploited and through the show, you will realise, at some level, why these scams take place. When something is very sought after then people try to find shorter ways to get to the place. And especially with medicine, as it is one of the toughest exams.
Take us through your preparation process, what’s it like ?
I use a lot of my imagination and tend to imagine the character to be a certain way. I had some ideas about how my character in Shiksha Mandal should be. I discussed it with Afzal, our director and did a few readings together; some of them worked and the rest we left aside. It helps set a basic foundation. It’s been a little over 11 years that I’ve been working and I can rely on that experience as well. A lot of it comes from reading the script though. You also have to make room for this to be part of your life. If I like something, I’m always thinking or talking about it with my friends or family.
The best part of becoming an actor is that you can pretend to be people you are not. I believe in curating my career, and being diverse and versatile is in my nature. So I want to keep experimenting, and this has enabled me to do exactly that and, in a way, get attention where people say, “Oh yeh, bhi kar leta hai’
Do you think OTT has helped actors find their footing? How has the medium helped you?
I came here with dreams in my eyes, and I’m very happy that I’m living my dream. That’s a stroke of luck and good fortune. Of course, I put everything I had into it and the work as well. After that it’s a struggle because there are many aspects of being an actor. Acting is easy…being an actor is difficult. The life of an actor, be it a star, or somebody who is just starting off and auditioning, the struggle and rejection is always there.
I’ve always said that with OTT platforms, there is more work for everybody now. It is empowering to storytellers. A little different from the cinema business model. It is liberating that way. I don’t have the pressure of the sword of the box office collection hanging on your head but you have other smaller daggers that are hanging.