Of all the stories in the world about not giving up and working diligently towards your goal, the one about the ants climbing up the wall, falling down and picking themselves up and repeating the task again and again till they reach their goal fascinates me the most. Prashantt Guptha’s story is the same. For, amidst rejection, family responsibility, and setbacks to reaching his goal, and even in the face of depression, he had refused to budge or give up on his dream.
Recently seen in the movie Neerja, playing an Indian-American character based on a real person from that fateful 1986 hijack of Pan Am airlines, Prashantt has worked in movies like Issaq and Identity Card, as well.
But it is not just acting. As The Indian Ambassador of The Festival of Globe - Silicon Valley, an advisor to The Rajasthan International Film Festival, and as an entrepreneur he is also is a partner in a Hollywood film production company called Mulberry Films, which is based out of Los Angeles. But his journey, much like that of an entrepreneur has many lessons for all of us, the most important being that it’s important to never give up on your dreams.
Originally from Jaipur, Prashantt’s family was settled in New York, where he was born in 1982, as the youngest of the three children. From the age of three he was performing in school plays and cultural programmes organised by the Marwari community of New York. These early performances before an audience made him cognizant of his love for acting, movies and theatre. His family backed him and after completing school he went on to study acting.
However, upon his father’s suggestion to always have a plan B he took up finance at Baruch College while he also enrolled for a variety of acting courses for three years.
While he studied finance in the morning, evenings were exclusively spent at acting classes in Manhattan.
At the age of 21 while in college he wrote a script. In 2003, when Kevin Spacey’s company showed an interest in reading it he was on cloud nine, but nothing came off it. Prashantt still holds on to it with the hope that some day he will make the movie. This was also the year that he collected all the poems he had written over the years and compiled it into a book called AKS. Even though he didn’t find a publisher to back it, there was a small Indian bookstore in Manhattan that did buy a dozen self-published manuscripts to support him. The rest were sold by his mother to all her friends for $10 a piece back in 2003.
This manuscript ultimately proved a harbinger of change for Prashantt. “A copy of it was sent to Amitabh Bachchan and six months later I received a heartfelt letter from the icon. That letter was perhaps what inspired me to shift base to Mumbai to pursue my dreams in the film industry in 2007.”
Prashantt worked as a production intern, did a handful of commercials, plays, short films and even a feature film in which he played the India characters. The struggle for a big break continued.
On the long and trying ordeal to get a break in Bollywood, Prashantt says, “I landed in Mumbai the night of June 30, 2007. It’s like that phase when an entreprenuer feels ready, and that there are billions of dollars lining up for you to be funded. My return ticket was for two months later, which I thought was sufficient time to meet the industry and sign a film or two. Clearly, that was naivety and wishful thinking,” says Prashantt.
It was then that Prashantt, just like a true entrepreneur, got down to brass tacks and started to hustle. Getting phone numbers of filmmakers and casting directors, messaging them, meeting a writer with a good script that could potentially have a solid role for him, and then pursuing producers and investors from Jaipur, some in Mumbai and some even in USA kept him on his toes.
But in 2011, it all began to takes its toll on Prashantt. A heightened state of anxiety, stress and fear of failure took him to the pits of depression, which then resulted in a prolonged state of insomnia.
But, he eventually pulled himself out of the deep abyss he seemed to be fast slipping into. In exactly six months, things changed, and Prashantt bagged Issaq. The film proved instrumental in his progress, though not so much a commercial success but expanded his outlook as an actor. A year later he bagged the role of yet another cop in the movie Identity Card, which ended up becoming a critically-acclaimed film and also fetched Prashantt the award for best supporting actor at The Festival of Globe – Silicon Valley.
In 2014 he started to rise at a smoother pace, getting cast as the lead in a Kannada horror remake 6-5=2. While he had been knocking on doors, a window had opened for Prashantt.
“Be it an actor or an entrepreneur, fate does have a role to play in your success, however it is you job as an individual to get yourself into that situation” he says.
It took him eight years, but in 2015, he finally felt that he had crawled out of the ground. He won the first Pride of Rajasthan award at the Rajasthan International Film Festival, modeled for ace designer Rohit Verma, finished shooting a film called 19th January with Deepti Naval and bagged a role with Fox Star Studio's Neerja, starring Sonam Kapoor. For the latter, he has relentlessly pursued director Ram Madhwani.
“The entire struggle was up to the audition room in a small studio on a narrow Mumbai lane. When asked if I can pull off an American accent, I grinned. It was pretty smooth from that point,” says Prashantt.
He is currently shooting for his next film Irada, with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah.
Life has been like the movie. Prashantt has come a long way from that acting student in college. “I’ve learnt to take things a day at a time. My advice is to put your 100 percent into everything you do. I can’t do anything half-hearted or half-baked, and neither should you.”