PeepingMoon Stars Unplugged: There was a time I gave 500-600 audition, would tell my mother “Aaj main fir audition dene jaa raha hu, firse fail hokar aaunga”- Vishal Jethwa
Being an actor is no mean feat, especially when you decide to brave the odds of the glamour world all by yourself. In PeepingMoon's latest series, titled Stars Unplugged, popular actors and actresses will talk about their experiences of making it big, gaining popularity with their body of work and the challenges they faced on their way to success.
The fourth episode of Stars Unplugged features Vishal Jethwa. Having started at a young age, Vishal is reaping the fruits of his efforts. He is one of those who made a successful transition from television to films and now OTT. Known to play Akbar in the daily soap Bharat Ka Veer Putra Maharana Pratap, Vishal got his big Bollywood break as the main antagonist opposite Rani Mukerji in Mardaani 2 (2019). After a long unexpected pause due to COVID-19, Vishal impressed everyone with his performance in his debut OTT show, Human.
Talking to PeepingMoon exclusively, Vishal opened up about facing failure, hitting the low phase in life and his journey from television to films. The young actor further spoke about the outsider vs insider debate.
Excerpts from the interview:
You started your career at a young age. Did you face any objections from family?
No, in fact, my family has been very supportive and I feel lucky to be around them. They stood by me when I started my career. When self-doubt started consuming me and when I felt I don't have any talent left to show, they became my strongest pillars of support. There was a time I thought of quitting the industry but they didn't let me take any decision in a haste.
Why did you decide to shift from TV to films?
When I started working on television, I acted just for my passion and as a hobby. I worked as a background dancer and one day, I saw an acting school. 'Acting' is a fascinating term and like many others, I got attracted too. I enrolled myself in an acting school. I went from basic to advance and also did theatre. At that time, I never knew that my life journey would make me an actor. Acting was my hobby and now, my profession.
I did TV for 10 years and felt I am not worthy enough to try auditioning for films. I just wanted to give my best no matter how big or small a role was. I never dreamt that life would bring across such a big change. I believe I didn't have the power to choose Bollywood, YRF did it for me.
Did you face any difficulty in getting your first project?
Yes, I did face difficulties. I roughly gave 500-600 auditions initially but got selected only for 2% of them. My initial journey was challenging because we were not financially stable. There was a time when I would tell my mother, “Aaj main fir audition dene jaa raha hu, firse fail hokar aaunga.” I would rarely get shows I desperately wanted. I have seen failure but I took it sportingly. I can say that I am living my dream right now.
Was financial security one of the reasons for shifting from TV to films?
No, I never mix work and money. I never think of the monetary aspect when I sign a new project. Yes, I definitely make sure that my basic needs are fulfilled. Otherwise, I never took work to be financially stable. For me, everything depends on the character I am getting to play. My craft is more important than money.
The entertainment industry is known to be difficult and biased. Did you ever experience that ugly side of it?
I am lucky that I never witnessed that side of the entertainment industry. One of the reasons is I was surrounded by people who motivated and encouraged me. I remember, on the first day of acting school, my guru Shoaib Khan spoke about the harsh realities of the industry. I went to attend the session with a different point of view but nothing of that sort happened. Back then, it was a boring lecture for me, but now, it has become the most important thing for me.
On TV, I did a show titled Bharat Ka Veer Putra Maharana Pratap in 2013 and people started recognising me as Akbar. I became a household name. My well-wishers in the industry told me success is temporary, once the show ends, your popularity can decline. They were right. Yes, even I went through a low phase in life but never got uneasy because of that. My family stood by me.
When did you hit that low phase in life?
It was before Mardaani. I had done many TV shows and was getting offers for similar roles. I had no problem doing it but I felt I don't have anything new to show my audience. Self-doubt started consuming me.
The positive point in my life came when Shanoo Sharma called me for Mardaani and appreciated my audition clip. That's when I realised that I have enough talent to showcase since the person who launched stars validated my work. After watching myself in Mardaani and Human, I realised self-doubt karna bohot buri baat hai.
Did you ever experience any bias for being a television actor?
I never faced it and I know why people say such things. There is a difference between acting on TV and acting in films. Being on a small screen, you have to give loud expressions whereas, on the big screen, you need to keep it subtle. There is no such thing like a TV actor, OTT actor or film actor. I believe an actor is an actor and that's how an individual should be treated.
When you started working, did you take projects forcefully because of lack of choice?
Yes, there were some projects I took up because I wanted to be financially stable. But whatever I took up, I gave my best.
What's your take on star kids vs outsider debate?
I personally have no problem with star kids. Those who feel they didn't get work because of star kids, I feel they should work on improving themselves, have faith in themselves and not feel insecure. The producer has invested money and it is his/her decision to sign an actor. Nobody is born with the tag of a star kid. If we are destined, we'll get the best. If an actor gets special advantages because of his/her surname, they also have the responsibility to take the legacy forward. There are actors in the industry who got perfect launches in Bollywood but didn't taste success. Names like Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan made it big with their own efforts. We have to look up to them. If we want to be successful, we have to work hard. Excuses will not work.
What do you prefer: Being an actor or being a superstar?
Hahaha, that's tricky. It will be great for me if I strike the right balance between them. I don't know where my journey will take me.