In times when COVID-19 has introduced a new normal to the world, digital platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar have taken over the entertainment business.
Platforms which started off as a medium for web shows and short films have now become a home ground for several major blockbuster releases in Bollywood. While these platforms have helped bring fresh content to the table, it has also become a boon for a lot of new actors in the Indian film and TV industry.
Prakhar Toshniwal, one of the new age actors in Mumbai, hails from Jodhpur and has recently received several accolades and awards for his role in the horror-comedy short film ‘A Tale Of An Onion Watch’ which was showcased on several platforms, latest being Disney+Hotstar.
Prakhar comes from an academic background having graduated from BITS Pilani Goa Campus and has been part of the Bollywood industry for the past 3 years.
“Ever since I was a kid, I used to love mimicry and dancing and never let any opportunity pass whenever it arrived. Although acting and mimicry are two very different things but that’s how it started,” he said.
While growing up, Prakhar won several awards for school and college dance and drama competitions. Apart from acting and dancing, Prakhar also loves football, swimming and has a knack for entrepreneurship. As a matter of fact, he was also elected as the Vice-President of his college.
On being asked why he wanted to become an actor, Prakhar said, “When I grew up to be teen, I was in the period when Aamir Khan used to do 1 film every year and experiment with very different formats for Bollywood like Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par, Ghajini, 3 Idiots, etc. All his experiments worked and I was in awe of him and his work. That’s probably when I was so influenced by his work that I wanted to be a part of this industry. Cinema does influence lives in a major way. It has a role in showing a mirror to the society. When we watch movies, we see ourselves in it. Sure, we watch content to get entertained but also because we find it so relatable. You think of a movie when you define romance, you think of a movie when you go through depression, you think of a movie to get inspired.”
Has it been a difficult journey in the industry until now?
Well, I don’t like to think that way. Before I came to Mumbai, I already had an idea of how difficult it’s gonna get. So I was prepared. Of course, the reality is harsher but who cares? It was my decision to be a part of it and it’s my job to find a way up in this glamour world.
Hats off to OTT platforms and short films, outsiders like myself have a wider scope of work now. A lot of fresh talent would have turned their backs on this industry if not for these mediums. Short films and OTT platforms have saved the new actors!
Speaking of short films, how did ‘A Tale of An Onion Witch’ turn out?
I think the reviews were fantastic. We received several mentions, accolades, awards and got featured by Barrel Select Large Short Films, Pocket Films and Disney+ Hotstar. I went through almost every comment on YouTube channels and the reactions are just overwhelming.
Being a low budget film in a very niche genre, we never thought about how it would go with the people. But they loved it and I am so glad and relieved. I just hope more and more people watch it and give us their valuable reviews.
Where can we watch the short film?
A Tale Of An Onion Witch is streaming on Pocket Films’ YouTube channel and on Disney+ Hotstar. You can watch it on either of the platforms.
So what’s next in your bucket list? Any plans?
(laughs) I don’t think a lot of future planning helps in the industry but yes, I am just moving onwards and upwards from here. I am part of a couple of web series right now and hopefully, you would see me on screen again in some of the very exciting projects.
What is closer to your personality? Being impulsive or having everything planned out?
(thinks) It depends on the context, to be honest. You can neither plan too much because the life would keep surprising you nor you should be too impulsive because as much as being impulsive helps you with acting, it does not always work outside those dimensions.
But Bollywood can become quite ruthless to a newcomer, especially after the lockdown when the opportunities have narrowed down. What helps you to keep going?
I have just been here for 3 years, out of which 2020 was the year of the century anyway (laughs). So I have only seen the facade, if I may say so. But from my experience, I only know 3 things that have worked for me: my love for cinema, my craft and being genuine and kind.
Coming from an altogether different world, did you never have to face unnecessary judgements and opinions?
Of course, I had to. It’s our nature’s law that if you go against the natural flow, there will be deterrents. But I am in no way unique to have faced that. Every person who makes such choices has to fight that battle, whether they like it or not. So instead of cribbing about it, I would choose to enjoy this journey.
I don’t know whether it’s because of my childhood or experiences, but judgements never deter me from my path. Opinions and judgements are always welcome, but I always choose which to keep close to my heart, which ones to smile at and which ones to just throw off.
How deeply has the lockdown affected you and your work?
Personally, I have learned a lot from this year. Living in this town is itself a big struggle, especially when you have just started off in this industry. I had to shift myself to different apartments thrice because of some or the other reason due to COVID.
But for me, this period was more like a slowdown, not a lockdown. Things were on a halt for a couple of months which helped me spend some time with myself and getting my personal agendas in order. Auditions started coming in soon and eventually shoots also resumed. I am glad that even during such a difficult season, projects never stopped coming my way. The pace is slower but the marathon is still going on.
Any word of advice for those who are on the same path as you?
I believe in what the billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban once said, “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.” That keeps me on toes all the time.