INDIA. Mumbai, Maharashtra. 42-year-old Swapnil Joshi is into his third decade of acting and is no stranger to comedy, romance, drama, and action-adventure projects for both screen and television. The widely successful actor is now trying his hand at horror with the upcoming release of Bali (The Victim), the story of a father (played by Joshi) whose son is diagnosed with a rare and supernatural disease.
The boy-next-door always ready for a challenge. In an interview with Transcontinental Times, Joshi shared that his “favorite place to be” is in the character of someone who is generally happy, the “boy-next-door” type, as it’s what “comes most naturally.” However, he is excited and eager to be challenged by a role that will stretch his skills. “The feeling of being an actor is the best,” Joshi said. “I get to impersonate many people in many different professions, but I don’t have to carry the baggage of that person. I can be that person and be myself.”
Playing both the gentle protagonist and the cold-blooded anti-hero in Ranangan, Joshi described both the challenge and exhilaration of shifting between these characters and even how it had an impact on his family and friends. “I become the personality of the character I am playing; it rubs onto me in real life.” When he is playing a romantic lead, his wife comments on his increased affection, but in this anti-hero role, she said, jokingly, she was “scared” of him. “It took a lot out of me…the director would ask me to have ‘dead eyes’. That does not come naturally to me.”
Passion and destiny. Beginning his career at the age of 9, Joshi couldn’t grasp what it meant to be given the part of Kush, in Ramanand Sagar’s Uttar Ramayan. Only through Sagar’s persistence did the opportunity emerge at all. Seen at a local street performance during the festival of Ganesh Utsav, Joshi had his picture snapped by a local actor. This photo was sent to Ramanand Sagar whose production company tried for 2 weeks to contact the boy’s family. Thinking it must be a joke, Joshi’s father ignored the calls that came in to the one phone in the entire building (circa 1986). Finally, Sagar himself called and chastised the family for not returning his calls.
Joshi was invited to an audition. More than 1,000 children from all over India attended. His casting for the role of Kush secured his future as one of India’s most popular actors.
Child stars often struggle with fame at such a young age, but Joshi didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time. All he knew was that his parents were “bending over backwards” so he could be on set. But he had a realization one day that he shared with his father. “Baba, I’m loving this. I loved what happened to me today. I want to do this every day.” He believes that this path was destined. What brought him joy at 9 continues to bring as much joy nearly 30 years later. Not able to imagine himself doing anything else, Joshi said, “I come back [after every film], and I want to do it all again, to make mistakes, and to learn. That next film—is my calling.”
Extraordinary range stretched again. Tackling a completely new genre in an admittedly challenging new role, Joshi maintains, “Every actor puts a little of himself into every character, and every character takes away a part of my soul which is gone forever.” Joshi’s entrée into the horror genre will stretch his “boy-next-door” persona, and will, no doubt, leave his fans with continued appreciation for the extraordinary range of one of India’s finest actors.