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I want to be serene like ‘Jyoti Harshad Mehta’, says Anjali Barot

Making her presence felt across different platforms with quirky and relatable roles, actor and influencer Anjali Barot who is now seen portraying the character of Jyoti Harshad Mehta in Hansal Mehta’s directorial ‘Scam 1992’, says she wants to be serene like ‘Jyoti’, who remained balanced and calm through all the thick and thins.

In a conversation with Cineoshin, Anjali says that she wants to take away the quality of serenity from her character Jyoti Harshad Mehta.

“I love how balanced and calm she was through the thick and thins. She brought a sense of compassion throughout the whole show. It’s wonderful how she kept not only the family but also Harshad together in the toughest of times and stood like a solid rock,” she said.

On how ‘Scam 1992’ happened to her, Anjali said,”I had auditioned for a big-ticket Bollywood film at Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company (MCCC). I was informed that the higher-ups were truly pleased with my audition. However, I didn’t hear from them for a while. A few months later, I received a call from them to test me for another project titled ‘Scam 1992’. I didn’t enquire much about my previous audition and simply moved on to the project at hand. As soon as I entered the office, one of the Senior Casting Directors at MCCC, Balwinder Singh, who had auditioned me for the earlier film, came up to me and said, ‘Anjali I wanted to personally come and tell you this – we had loved your audition for the film and I remember even your subtle gestures that you put in to effortlessly pull off that part but for some reason it didn’t work out. However, I just wanted to come and tell you that there must be a strong reason behind it and that you deserve a lot more’.”

“It’s very rare when Casting Directors come and give you a closure this way, something that every actor deserves. With tears in my eyes, I thanked him and walked straight inside the studio for Scam 1992’s test. Indu auditioned me for the part in 2018 and then I received a call back for round two auditions taken by Hansal Sir, himself. After that, it was an endless wait. I didn’t hear about the project for almost a year and it never went off my mind. Cut to 2019, I got a call saying that the project was in motion and that they wanted to check my dates. I was elated and I shouted a big ‘yes!’ And that’s how it all began,” she said.

Talking about the preparation of her character Jyoti, and if there were any inhibitions, Anjali said,”When you are portraying a fictional character, you have the liberty to be fluid and imaginative. However, essaying the role of Jyoti
Harshad Mehta came with a lot of responsibility. The most challenging part was my character arc and how you see Jyoti growing from a young newlywed to a strong woman in her late 30s who held the family and Harshad together even during the toughest times.”

“I distinctly remember, we had received the final draft of the scripts much before we began our readings. So, I read all the episodes as my homework to get a sense of it. Post that, we had our reading sessions for over a month where we would read the script, episode by episode. This helped us get an insight into all the characters
involved,” she said.

“For Jyoti’s character, I had to make certain changes in my diction as the way I talk in Gujarati is tremendously different from how Jyoti would interact. Also, since there’s not a lot of information available on Jyoti Mehta on the internet, I completely fed off my writer’s and director’s vision in trying to bring the character to life. One of the most challenging scenes was Jyoti’s reaction to Harshad’s demise. My sole intention was for the emotion to be as real and relatable for the viewers. I remember mentally switching off for two days prior to the shoot and trying to internalize the trauma through Jyoti’s perspective. It was an extremely challenging scene and I am overwhelmed with the response and reaction it has received from viewers,” says Anjali.

Talking about Hansal Mehta’s technique of portraying his characters on screen, Anjali said,”He is one of the finest directors any actor would come across. It’s not easy to shoot a 500-page script and to have such a clear vision in your head about the smallest details. What I thoroughly love about his direction style is that he gives his actors absolute freedom to perform their parts and he is someone who encourages spontaneity. This gives you the opportunity to explore and innovate and it’s really where all the magic happens.”

“There are only two outcomes to this – he will either instantly approve the shot or will walk up to you and subtly nudge you in the direction that would bring out the best in you. He’s not the kind to enact a scene or spoon feed his actors and that’s what really helped me in my craft as an actor. So, all credit goes to the real Big Bull here,” she said.

On how did acting happened to her, Anjali says,”I get it from my mother. She always harboured this dream of pursuing acting but she couldn’t really do much about it. Back in those days, it was a lot of factors such as resources, knowing the right people or simply even taking the plunge that was a challenging affair. But she
always had this one dream of watching herself onscreen and among the many other things that I have her to thank for, this is one of them that I have imbibed from her. I was certain that I wanted to be an actor since a very young age and I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”

“I remember as a child, I would watch television with a sparkle in my eye as I would think to myself that there would be a day when I’d be a part of a similar set-up. At the young age of seven, I thought I had it all figured, but as I grew
up, I realized that it would take a lot more than just passion. When you come from a simple middle-class family with no filmy connections, you really don’t know how to go about it,” she said.

“So, I pursued my Mass Media studies and went on to work as an Associate Producer in an ad production house with the hope that I would get an acting gig someday. But eventually I realized that that’s not how it works and you need to simply audition. So, I quit my job and thus began the vicious cycle of calls, auditions, some hits
and some misses. Today, as I complete five years in the industry, I feel blessed to have had exposure across digital sketches, commercials, web series, short films and now, Sony Liv’s ‘Scam 1992’. I fee fortunate that I’m not only living my dream but my mother’s too,” she said.

On whether it was easy or difficult to enter the industry without a godfather, Anjali says,”It’s never easy. If someone tells you that they’ve got it easy, their either lying or are truly blessed. Especially when you don’t have any godfather in this field, you really have to work your way to the starting point. You fundamentally have nothing to bet on but there’s only one thing that works – perseverance. If you have faith in your craft and if you keep striving and working
on yourself, one day it just happens. Now that one day can be in two years or 20. That’s your journey.”

“For instance, even for my journey up till Scam 1992, it took me five years of hard work, self-motivation and unwavering belief. From ads and short films to sketches and now this – nothing has come easy, at least for me. But that’s what makes success taste sweeter, doesn’t it?” she said.

On which directors she wishes to work with in future, Anjali added,”The list is endless. There’s Nitesh Tiwari, Amit Sharma, Vishal Bharadwaj, Aditya Dhar, Imtiaz Ali and I can still go on and list fifty more. The journey has just begun and I can’t wait to work with all the brilliant filmmakers.”

Directed by Hansal Mehta, ‘Scam 1992’ is about the major scandals that shook India and are remembered as some of the most notorious crimes of the country. Set in 1980’s and 90’s Bombay, ‘Scam 1992’ follows the life of Harshad Mehta – the infamous “Bachchan of BSE”. It was a rags-to-riches story till financial journalist Sucheta Dalal exposed Harshad as the man behind India’s biggest financial scam. After his arrest, the stock market crashed and countless Indians lost all savings.

The show which is currently streaming on Sony Liv, has received 9.6 ratings on IMDb. Starring Pratik Gandhi (lead character- Harshad Mehta), Anjali Barot, Sharib Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Hemant Kher and Nikhil Dwivedi, the series premiered on SonyLIV on October 9.

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