Update: Bhavya Gandhi has quit the show after eight years as he feels there was a stagnancy in his character
Bhavya Gandhi aka Tappu doesn’t require an introduction. The numerous enthralling shades of his character have made him a household name in the last eight years. From playing an energetic and notorious school boy, known for smartly blowing the frontal portion of his hair and playing hilarious pranks on his neighbours, viewers of the show have seen Tappu’s character mature over the years, though the slight innocuous mischief refuses to obliterate.
After eight years into the televised serial, Bhavya has become the face of it. Although he did a couple of advertisements and a movie previously, it is Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma that earned him massive exposure. As Bhavya walks down memory lane, he takes me to the day he first received a call from the production house.
Bhavya shares that he wasn’t hopeful about getting this role as there were close to 500 children who had auditioned for it. Luckily for him, he happened to be one of the three boys who made it to the final audition for Tappu’s character. However, since it was one of the lead roles, to get through the final audition was really tough. “My producer was impressed by my style of throwing the ball. He then asked me to arrogantly reply to my Dad. I did it and he liked that too,” he distinctively recalls.
Bagging a crucial role made him realize later that things were not as simple as he had presumed. On the day of the pilot shoot, he recalls, the entire unit, except for his producer, was against him for not being able to do the act. The presence of several people on the set, cameras and lights were giving him the jitters. Had it not been for his producer’s unflinching support, he doesn’t know what would have happened. “My producer declared, ‘Agar karega toh yahi bachcha, ya fir yeh role hi nahi hoga,” says Bhavya.
Just 10 minutes into the conversation and I begin to sense the contrast in Bhavya and Tappu. Intrigued, I choose to ask him about it. Bhavya tells me how he enjoys silence and peace. “You won’t find Tappu’s character in real life. I am a kind of person who is very silent,” he affirms. “I am slightly moody too,” he laughs and expresses his desire to be recognized as Bhavya Gandhi over Tappu. “I am only playing the character. Once the makeup is removed and the shoot wraps up, I am the same Bhavya,” he explains.
Born into a Gujarati family, Bhavya was raised in Mumbai and cultivated a fascination for acting in his early childhood. He happens to be the first actor from his family in several generations. Seema Gandhi, his mother, chortles as she calls him a “dramebaaz since childhood”. “When I would take my elder son for auditions and Bhavya would be with us, he would sit at the back and do his own acting. That is when I realized he could do well as an actor,” she says. Though today Bhavya’s success makes her feel incredibly proud, initially she didn’t want him to act in a serial. She shares that she was convinced by her elder son, who accompanied Bhavya for the audition. “He was doing quite well in ads, but a serial was something I didn’t wish for,” she says.
Nischit, his elder brother, reminisces about their childhood days: “Bhavya used be very naughty outdoors and silent indoors. Whenever he came home and started crying, I would understand that he has had a fight and I needed to cover it up. Growing up with Bhavya, he says, was fun, especially because Bhavya didn’t let stardom get to his head. Nischit is not the only one to say so. Bhavya’s childhood friends, Palak Shah (19) and Aditya Shah (19), resonate the same feelings. Although the three are now following separate academic paths, they still meet and hangout whenever time permits. “He is a very lively person and just lives in the moment,” describes Palak. “He talks and behaves just like he would back then,” adds Aditya.
Growing up as a child artist is anything but easy. And this is something Bhavya has experienced during the initial days, when he was a school student and had to manage shooting along with studies. However, shooing away pessimism, he calls it ‘a different, yet lovely experience’. ” For 8 years they would shoot the whole night, go to school in the morning, sleep at noon, go for tuition classes and then resume shoot in the evening. Sometimes I would have tears looking at all the effort these little children were putting in,” says his mother, who accompanied him for all his shoots until last year.
Bhavya says if anything refreshes him, then that is the atmosphere and bonding on the sets of the show. “It is like a family. During our breaks we sit together, talk and share our food. Whenever we go home after the shoot, we are never tired, but full of energy and experience,” he says. Bhavya has a different way of describing Tappu Sena. “Just as there are five letters in UNITY, Tappu Sena has 5 members who unite and are ready to fight for each other. We are five fingers who make a powerful fist, and when we come together we can do anything.”
Nidhi Bhanushali (Sonu from the serial) considers herself lucky to have a co-actor and friend like Bhavya. On the sets, Nidhi shares, Bhavya is very serious about work. “He will always ask the director about his lines and rehearse well before the shoot. He is very dedicated, whereas Kush and I are the complete opposite,” she says. Kush Shah, (Goli from the serial) to whom Bhavya is more like a brother, describes him as a gentle and curious person. “He loves to explore. If he sees a bulb glowing, then he wants to know why it is glowing,” Kush says.
Currently Bhavya is dedicated to Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma and tries to find time for himself. “In a month, 10-15 days go into the shoot and then I also have studies to deal with,” he says and adds that he feels okay about the routine getting chaotic sometimes, as long as he finds time to spend with himself. “I believe in expanding my horizons without getting diverted,” he opines.