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Vandana Pathak: My role in Swagatam is my most challenging one yet

Gujarati actress Vandana Pathak discussed her role in Swagatam in a conversation with OTTPlay

Harshita Alok Sharma
May 11, 2021
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The extensive career of Vandana Pathak, that has spanned across decades, has allowed her to gain special insights into the world of acting. Audiences have loved her as Jayshree Parekh in Khichdi and as Jyotsna Sutariya in Golkeri. She is now back to enchant audiences in Neeraj Joshi’s Swagatam, which is set to be a direct-to-OTT release on ShemarooMe.

This Gujarati thriller rom-com is the tale of a dysfunctional family that is harbouring a dark secret. Laden with humour and plot twists, Swagatam is scheduled to release on May 20. Pathak enlightened OTTplay on her characterisation in the film, her future plans and more.

Swagatam - Official poster

How is your role in Swagatam different from what you have done so far?

I play a grandmother who is wheelchair bound. I have never played a character as old as this before. She is a little psycho too. She has secrets that she has never disclosed to anyone. I had only done a bit of acting in a wheelchair before for my character in Saath Nibhaana Saathiya.

It was definitely a challenging role to play. My roots in theatre have taught me that a set is like your home. You should be so natural in your surroundings that you just know exactly where the light switch to your room is even in the dark, just like you would at home. That’s how much ease this character needed me to have in a wheelchair, which proved to be a little difficult.

To combine the act of delivering your dialogues, moving on set the way the script demands and handling all these challenges together is definitely tricky. But I never shy away from challenges since I’ve always tried to do different kinds of characters. All in all, I loved playing this role.

What do you think is going to attract audiences to Swagatam?

The film is a thriller-rom com in essence. It promises thrills, comedy, romance and a little bit of everything. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative, so many thrilling moments and comical interludes, that people are going to love watching Swagatam.

How do you feel about Swagatam’s release on ShemarooMe?

To be frank, I was the first one to start dubbing the movie and this gave me the opportunity to be the first to watch the movie as well. The first thing that came out of my mouth was that this movie should definitely be released in a theatre. So, I would love for Swagatam to have a theatrical release, but looking at the current scenario, it is better for people to stay safe and watch from the comfort of their homes. I don’t really mind an OTT release, because it will give me joy when people will watch my movie and love it either way. Additionally, Shemaroo is going all the way to ensure a big release. I am enjoying the process and liking it.

Of course, if the movie does well, we will release it later in theatres in July or August. People who love it will come and watch it again. Picture dekhne ka maza toh theatre mein hi aata hai (the fun in watching a movie is in a theatre). The dark environment in a theatre helps you become a part of the characters on screen. But keeping in mind the situation, I am just glad that my film is even getting a release. That, in itself, is such a big thing.

Do you watch shows or movies on OTT platforms?

My house was finally full again last year, when my daughter stayed with me. I have no idea how an entire year has passed since then. But my children would always say, “Come, let’s spend some time together and watch films”, to which my reply would be that I’m enjoying the time I get to spend with you even without watching movies. I have been working for a long time, so this was a wonderful time to reconnect with my family. I watch a lot of old movies and though they’re not much, I’ve started watching the movies I hadn’t watched before. My daughter has started watching Korean movies also and she says she loves them. Now that everyone is home, people are turning to OTT quite a lot.

Vandana Pathak and Malhar Thakkar in a still from Golkeri

How was your experience of working with the cast of Swagatam?

I knew Malhar since we had worked in Golkeri before. I also knew Ojas, and since others are from the theatre, there was an element of familiarity. Katha, for a debutant, is such a hardworking girl. To tell you frankly, I had joined the cast at the last moment. Somebody else was supposed to play this role but that fell through just days before the shoot. I knew Malhar was going to start shooting some film in September in Baroda because he had mentioned it. We even spoke about it, and then all of a sudden the night before I got a call from Malhar and he said he needed help. He said he’s stuck. I thought something had happened to him. But then he told me about the role and how the actor who is supposed to play the role is not going to be able to. Then he asked me if I can step in and I was like, ‘What!’

Malhar told me that I can peruse the script and look at the character and then make a decision accordingly. The director, Neeraj Joshi, and I were supposed to do a different film too. He explained the character and her nuances to me and I really loved it. Then he said that I should get started for Baroda in the morning and I was stunned; I told him I have to arrange everything in the house and for my kids. So then, we managed to work things out and I left for Baroda the next day.

When I reached the location, the entire unit was there to welcome me. I was so blessed to have a beautiful unit throughout the movie. I discussed the movie at night with the cast. Since my role required me to be in a wheelchair, I said that I wanted to practise for about half an hour and recite my dialogues. Everyone was surprised, and so was I, because I was able to do a good job. If you noticed in the trailer, my entry involves me turning into the set on a wheelchair. Navigating it was extremely difficult, but my conviction of wanting to do it, the grace of God and the entire unit helped me finish the film.

What roles are you looking forward to playing now?

I have already shot a few movies, one has been dubbed already and I already have a webseries lined up for Shemaroo. What I really want to do is to star in an action project next. I really want this to push me to make myself fitter. Mujhe CID mein kaam karne ka bohot mann tha (I really wanted to work in CID) but I could never tell them. Even I wanted to break doors like Daya and I wanted to be in the midst of that action. I would love to get a role like that in the future.

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