By: Mohnish Singh
While she is now popular for delivering award-winning performances in several successful Gujarati plays and films, Bhakti Rathod first received attention for her roles in such popular soap operas as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand as a child artist.
After essaying starring roles in Gujarati movies and plays, Rathod returned to television with the popular comedy show Bhakharwadi on SAB TV. The actress garnered a great response for her performance as Urmila Thakker on the show which ended its successful run two months back in August.
During a candid conversation with Eastern Eye, Bhakti Rathod talks about how she has been coping with life in the new world of social distancing amid the Coronavirus pandemic, her time on the sets of Bhakharwadi, and the deep connection she established with the entire cast and crew, and her dream role. The multiple award-winning actress also opens up about her upcoming international feature film, The Last Kaon.
With the entertainment industry crawling back to normalcy after a complete shutdown of almost four months, how are you coping with life in this new world?
Honestly, it is more difficult than it used to be. With the regular pressure of prolonged working hours, the added load of self-service in order to avoid contact has been physically and mentally tiring. Also, the fact that the audiences lost touch and got used to the pace and language of OTTs, makes it a challenge for ongoing TV shows to recreate their interests and win them back under the pattern and censorship of family television. But then a challenge is what makes us strive for excellence, so it is most welcome.
Was it difficult to shoot for your show Bhakarwadi under the new normal?
Yes, as I said being careful while working with so many departments and thus developing the whole “self-service” habit was a huge stretch, and maintaining my immunity with all the load was a priority. It did become difficult. But as I remember a line from a popular movie “life is a box of chocolates,” so be prepared for a piece of dark chocolate sometimes.
How did you feel when your show went off air in August?
It felt like a break-up. I cried hugging most of our crew. We were emotionally attached. In business, what begins, ends one day, but emotionally it was too much. I knew the names of each and every setting and light boy. I have distributed sweets on the birth of their children and celebrated festivals and patriotic moments together. They were all my family and will be!
Did you feel that you have anything in common with your character on the show?
Oh yes! Her smartness, wittiness, optimism, strength, and her innocence! Also, Urmila Thakkar and I are both good looking (laughs).
What is the post-lockdown version of Bhakti Rathod?
Health-conscious and more patient, minus a lot of weight!
When did you know you wanted to be an actress? How did your life change after you become one?
In my early years of school, I knew I was an actress. I would do scenes inside my head during classes. I am fortunate for the set of parents God gifted me with; they know the world is to be won by skill and not just a degree. They taught me books and life both. My life has always been about being an actor and is still so.
You have had a lot of experience in acting. What is it about your profession that appeals to you so much?
I have learned things on my way up and will keep doing so. My profession gives me the scope and pleasure to keep doing what I love until my last breath. Also, the immediate appreciation, as I don’t have to wait until the end of a month or year to know that my work is applauded.
Looking back at your career so far, what is your proudest achievement?
My consistency and stable integrity are my proudest achievements.
What would be your dream role and why?
A classic which will require me to learn a lost art or maybe, even a new language. The more I am forced to evolve again and again, the happier I am. But to answer your question with a name for example Pakeezah (1972) or Scarlet O’Hara from Gone with the Wind (1939).
Tell us something about your experience working in the international film The Last Koan.
Tough locations, the complexity of the script, the simplicity required to portray it, the team, and their processes were so different than what we are used to. Director Satyaprakash Choudhary was my favourite person! He discussed each and every line and made me brainstorm over it – the taking, frames, and its metaphors. He was open to ideas and suggestions. The technicians improvised with the artists. It was memorable!
What are your biggest passions away from work?
Bag-packing, reading, and writing.
How do you see the Indian entertainment industry during or post Covid-19 era? How is creativity changing if we talk about the television industry in particular?
It was a difficult time for the industry to only survive during this lockdown. It is a constantly rolling business and has infinite feet running it. It affects members from various departments and all strata. After these difficult times, the industry will take a little while to start breathing normally and then will be back like nothing happened, that is the strength it holds in it. But creatively, I don’t think it needs a lockdown or a pandemic to instigate a change. It, like any art form, will self-evolve creatively when the time and generation is right. Nothing can force it to change its course creatively. It will when it will.
How do you feel about winning the Gujarat Government State Award 2018 for your exceptional performance in films?
Appreciation is what an artist is most happy with. It is an honour to be appreciated by a Government body of your nation. It is encouraging and fuels me to work even harder.
Your message to your fans in the UK?
I will soon see you at Piccadilly street. Just wait until we are able to take off our masks and shake hands.