Supriya Pathak does not bring Ganpati home during Ganesh Chaturthi but the actress shares a deep connection with Bappa. As a little girl, she was a part of a children’s club run by her maternal uncle, which used to celebrate the festival with a lot of fanfare in their Matunga neighbourhood. When her mother, the legendary actress Dina Pathak passed away, she and her elder sister, actor Ratna Pathak Shah, inherited the former’s vast collection of Ganpati idols — something that Supriya cherishes till date. “I am a great believer in Indian mythology and I have always found Ganesha fascinating. So, even though I don’t bring Bappa home, my association with him is really strong,” she says.
Supriya’s tryst with acting began under her mother’s direction with the revival of the hit Gujarati play Maina Gurjari, in which the latter had acted previously. “Everyone thought my mother will revive the play with Ratna didi but for some reason, my mother decided to cast me. Until that time, many people were not even aware that she has a younger daughter!” she laughs.
Until then, Supriya had not had as much exposure to Gujarati theatre as compared to her older sibling. “Ratna didi has seen commercial Gujarati theatre more than I have. I became a part of it much later. I did plays with the likes of Shailesh Dave, while Ratna didi had done plays with Pravin Joshi,” she recalls. The actress believes that there was some interesting work being done there by directors like Aatish Kapadia and JD Majethia. “The plays they were doing were superb but there was also the commercial part of Gujarati theatre which one cannot negate,” she says.
The veteran actress made her debut in Hindi films with Shyam Benegal’s 1981 movie, Kalyug, also starring Shashi Kapoor and Rekha. Ask her about surviving in the acting industry for four decades and she exclaims with a laugh, “That’s true, I didn’t even realise I am completing 40 years here. I was feeling young till you reminded me!” Growing up, Supriya recalls not being career-oriented at all. “In fact, my father who loved me a lot would always say ‘iska kuch ho jaye’ in the sense that I get married to a good guy,” she chuckles.
Looking back, Supriya believes that her life was much simpler than people who have ambitions and goals. “It didn’t make much difference whether I achieved something or not. That was the kind of attitude I had. It was much later when I started working properly that I thought that I should do some good work. That was more of an after-thought and not the reason I started working,” she adds. Her approach towards acting, she believes, helped her in these 40 years. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the ups and downs. I had my fair share of them, but that never really pushed me against the wall. Maybe that’s why I didn’t achieve that much either because of my attitude. Maybe I achieved a little less than what others did in my time,” she adds.
One of her most popular roles is that of the goofy but lovable Hansa in Khichdi. Up until then, it was just a lot of ‘sweet roles’ for her. “From sweet roles, I went to stupid-sweet Hansa,” she laughs. It took a visionary like Sanjay Leela Bhansali to cast her in the role of the lady don Dhankhor Baa, the Chieftan of one of the fictional clans in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. “The role really challenged me, and the audience saw that I am capable of playing different characters,” she says. As an actor, that is what she thrives on — telling good stories and playing different characters.
This is also the reason she is enjoying working with the younger generation of filmmakers. “When I worked with directors like Shyam babu [Benegal], they were already established and set in their mould, so it is a different experience working with the younger filmmakers today,” she elaborates. The current crop of directors, she says, are innovative and out there. “They let you experiment and they are so open to discussions about how we can together make the role even more interesting. I am having a ball of a time working with them,” says Supriya, who was last seen in Mimi and Toofaan and the web show, Cartel, in which she played a grey character.
All in the family
With many of her family members being a part of the Hindi film industry, Supriya has acted with almost all of them, including her sister Ratna, husband Pankaj Kapur, step-son Shahid Kapoor and brother-in-law Naseeruddin Shah. Her daughter, Sanah, played her younger self in Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. She now hopes to act alongside her son, Ruhaan, who is waiting in the wings. “He is a different kind of an actor, so I am looking forward to seeing what he does,” she says fondly.
And, of course, she would love to work with her husband again. “The last film we did together was Dharam, which was a beautiful subject. I acted in Mausam, which he directed. But I haven’t worked with him as an actor for a long time. I don’t know why nobody offers us something together. It would be lovely to work with Pankaj again,” she concludes with a smile.
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