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Shreya Dhanwanthary Interview: I was Taken Aback by the Response to Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story

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Actor Shreya Dhanwanthary has been a happy person, ever since her latest web series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, directed by Hansal Mehta, premiered on streaming platform SonyLiv to rave reviews from both critics as well as audiences.

It’s not often that a show about stockbrokers and the share market finds an appeal with almost every viewer that watches it and becomes the highest-rated Indian web-series on IMDB. Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story is a revelation – not just because it showed facets about the infamous stock broker Harshad Mehta, but also because it showcased the brilliant acting prowess of its two leads. One of them is Dhanwanthary, who plays the role of award-winning journalist Sucheta Dalal, who broke the story of the Harshad Mehta scam.

With the web series having struck a chord with audiences, Dhanwanthary has been garnering overwhelming acclaim and her social media is abuzz with compliments. In a candid tete-e-tete with Silverscreen India, the talented actor opens up about the show, her half-Telugu lineage and more.

Photo source: Abhishek Verma

Asked if she expected Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story to become the highest-rated of all time, she says, “I’d seen the show and knew it would be special, but was completely taken aback by the response. It’s the biggest show of the year and is among the top 15 highest-rated shows in the world with a 9.6 on IMDB – we didn’t see that coming. Since it’s finance-oriented and technical, I assumed people wouldn’t really binge on it as 10 hours is really heavy. But viewers have done just that and even told their friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc! I guess when people love something, they just go all out and do it.”

Her family is thrilled, especially her father, who works in the finance sector. “He said that he’s finally going to see something I did, because it’s related to finance and he thoroughly enjoyed it.”

She had to prepare for the role to learn what the technical finance terms meant. “I had to know what I was talking about. The whole credit goes to the entire team, art design, production, hair and makeup team and wonderful writers. They took care of everything, I did the least amount of work,” she says.

While the scam happened in 1992 and shocked the nation with its enormity, how aware was the actor about the incident when growing up?

“I knew very briefly about it because my Dad made sure we had healthy general knowledge when growing up in the Middle-East, but I took a full-detailed course from him before shooting for this,” she says.

While the cast members didn’t meet anyone from Harshad Mehta’s family, Dhanwanthary had met Dalal. “I was completely useless! I didn’t say anything to her and kept staring at her blankly and just said ‘It’s nice to meet you’. She’s such an accomplished woman and after the way I behaved, I was pretty sure she thought I was a cartoon! Pratik (Gandhi) still makes fun of the incident. However, Sucheta did send us a message saying she liked our portrayal. And what can be a bigger compliment than the person you played gives it to you?” she smiles.

Working with critically-acclaimed director Hansal Mehta, the man behind Aligarh and Omerta, was a phenomenal experience for her. And so was working with the rest of the cast. “Hansal gave us respect and had faith in what I brought to the table. To get so much praise from someone like him was very inspiring. And as for the cast, we genuinely like each other. We had pages and pages of lines and we spoke only in monologues. Even though it was an intense show, we’d laugh a lot and have fun on the set. Pratik is someone who’s a calm and collected person and wonderful to work it,” says Dhanwanthary.

Prior to Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, the actor was seen in the film Why Cheat India, opposite Emraan Hashmi in 2019, and two Telugu films, which she worked on after finishing as a runner up in Miss India South in 2008. As someone who doesn’t have any cinematic connection or godfather in the industry, she bagged the role of Sucheta Dalal after giving an audition for it, the same way how she got her other projects. She credits her perseverance for her new-found fame.

Photo source: Abhishek Verma

“If you stick to something long enough, at some point, it will work. You need a healthy amount of being in the right place at the right time. For Scam, I acted out the opening scene in the audition and they liked it,” she says.

Dhanwanthary started acting when she was only four-years-old and grew up acquainted with the arts, owing to her schooling in a Middle Eastern school that followed the British system of education. She’s been actively involved in dance, drama and theatre since then. The actor now has Nikhil Advani’s show in her kitty, which she promises will be “banging”. She intends to portray roles that she hasn’t played before or which have nothing to do with her personality.

The spunky actor is a huge fan of reading, writing and music. Interestingly, the versatile actor wrote, directed and acted in the show The Viral Wedding and has also penned a book. The music-lover is a huge fan of metal. “I’m currently listening to Katatonia, a doom metal band. I also enjoy other genres like Carnatic, Hindustani, jazz and rap,” she says.

As the conversation veers towards her ancestry, we ask the actor, whose mother tongue is Telugu, about her impeccable Hindi and she reveals: “My dad hails from Uttar Pradesh. That’s the benefit of being half-half, I’m a full biryani!

Considering she’s a Telugu pilla, she has a few favourite filmmakers in the Telugu film industry, including Shekhar Kammula and SS Rajamouli. “I absolutely love Kammula’s Anand and Happy Days. A lot of new guys in the industry are doing amazing things. I still haven’t received any offers from Telugu though – if something happens, then why not? My mom keeps asking why I haven’t received anything from the Telugu industry and my Dad breaks into jokes about how his side of the family is better than hers!” she laughs.

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