A lot has been happening recently in the life of Darshan Jariwala, who played Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi My Father. This has been one of the most enriching experiences in his life, the actor tells HT City over phone from Bangkok.
Your work has been appreciated a lot…
It is amazing. I feel that I have been able to strike a chord with people of Indian origin, for whom the Mahatma holds some value, as some have gone out of their way to congratulate me.
Playing the Mahatma seems to have given you a new identity as an actor… I find myself utterly small in front of the image that I have after playing Gandhi. My shadow as the Mahatma has grown beyond my stature as a human being.
You were earlier refused to play Mahatma in the play Mahatama vs Gandhi…
It was because of director Feroz A Khan. I have been acting on stage for the last 30 years and Feroz approached me to portray the Mahatma in his play Mahatma vs Gandhi. I had to refuse as I was preoccupied with other roles. Later, Naseeruddin Shah and Boman Irani played the roles. Feroz knew how much I wanted to play the Mahatma. So in the last 20-25 shows I played Mahatma again.
<b1>So, being approached for the film must have been a dream come true.
I am proud to be playing the Mahatma. One senior actor opted out because of an emergency in the family. The film was even temporarily put on hold after which Feroz came back to me and said, "Darshan Jariwala is my first choice and last resort". I couldn't refuse because that was the best compliment I have got as an actor.
Playing Gandhi must have been tough…
I was happy to have bagged the role. However, I was terrified as Mahatma Gandhi is in the sub-conscious of Indians. He is a a mystical figure and after playing the role I have become more aware that he was probably one person no one understood in totality.
Did you watch Richard Attenborough's Gandhi?
I didn't because I didn't want to look like a carbon copy of the original. I chose to fashion my own Gandhi and while doing so I realised that it wasn't my own Gandhi but collected bit-by-bit from my director, my writer, my producer and my co-actors. That's why the character of Gandhi in this film was liked by all. I went into a meditation camp to get into the skin of the character.
Has playing Gandhi brought about changes in you?
I would ask the audience not to watch me in the film but watch Gandhi because it will be my defeat as an actor. I was lucky to a great extent. Being a Gujarati, I could understand the emotions of Gandhi and Harilal. The letters were easy to read but the language speaks a lot about Bapu's hidden emotions.
Where do we see you next?
I don't feel that any of the roles that I am playing right now compares with that of Gandhi… though I am working with quite a few big banners. I am doing Raj Kumar Santoshi's Halla Bol, Ketan Mehta's Rang Rasiya and an independent film. There is also Yash Raj films' Aaja Nachle, where I play Madhuri Dixit's guru.