She could not follow her dream of becoming an actress as a young girl. Now, as a successful businesswoman nearing her 50s, Ms. Preeti Mallapurkar could not help but feel a sense of incompleteness. The erstwhile dream of entering the entertainment industry was still alive in her heart, lying dormant. At the age of 47, she put a full stop to all the ifs and buts and decided to follow her passion of becoming an actress. Tune in to read about her journey.
How were you as a child? When did you realize that you had a passion for acting?
I started following my passion at the age of 47 but identified my love for acting at a very early age. I would say I was born an entrepreneur. When I was eight, I realized that my house was filled with lots of storybooks to the likes of Jungle Book, Amar Chitra Katha, and many more. These magazines would be available for 2 Rupee 50 Paisa.
At the time, libraries were scarce in Mumbai. So, I decided to start a library of my own. I would lend books to other children in the society for 5 Paisa. That went on for many months until my mother started wondering where I was sourcing the money to buy toffees from.
An actor needs to be a hustler first, a quality I had equipped early on.
Later in school, I was exposed to a theater camp. For the first time, I discovered my talent for acting and even won a few awards. I had made up my mind; I wanted to become an actor. I started participating in school plays and went on to doing theater in college.
Why was it that you could not pursue acting at an early age?
In those days, being part of the entertainment industry was a taboo. My parents were vehemently against any kind of commercial acting. I studied B.Com and got married at 22 to an army man. The dream of becoming an actor sort of fizzled out gradually.
I started getting involved actively in the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA). I would train women from all over India in English, conversational skills, family planning, and educate them on their rights. It was meaningful work.
When was the first time you did commercial acting?
For a few years, my husband was posted along the border, where I was not allowed to accompany him. While I was in Mumbai, I got to know about a film being made by Lakshmikant Berde, a very popular Marathi actor. I gave an audition for it and got selected.
My in-laws were very supportive and encouraged me to take it up. That was my first attempt at commercial acting. My son was three years old at the time. After this project, they offered me a lead role in another film.
Unfortunately, we had to shift from Mumbai again, so the opportunity did not pan out.
Why did you decide to pursue your dream now, so many years later?
When my husband retired from the army, we started our own company by the name of Earnest HR. My entrepreneurial streak finally had an opportunity to thrive. As the business grew, we started getting invited from all over the country to give skill development workshops.
One day, I was invited to give a talk at MIT Pune. I was trying to inspire the students to follow their passion. As I was coming back from the lecture, I thought, ‘I am giving them Gyaan, but am I following it myself?’
I came home and told my husband that I finally wanted to follow my dream of acting. He encouraged me to pursue it. Our business was settled by now, so I started the process of handing over my responsibilities. Two months down the line, I was finally ready for the journey of my life!
Where did you get the idea for your first film?
An incident took place in my house that affected me deeply. One of our maids did not invite our house help to her Haldi-Kumkum ceremony, because she was a widow. Feeling left out, this brave woman remarked that she was accustomed to this treatment. Her face was ingrained in my mind.
I decided that I had to do something about this social stigma. I wrote a script surrounding it and registered it with the screen writer’s association. I thought, why should I wait for somebody else to direct and produce my story? I took on both the roles myself. I got the same maid who had not invited her friend to act in my movie. We made a short film with minimal resources and a minuscule budget.
You have achieved a lot in a mere year. What was the proudest moment for you in this journey?
I was attending a film festival and was not happy with the way they had organized it. Instead of merely complaining about it, I went up to the organizers and gave some suggestions. They were impressed by my candor and invited me to be a part of their committee. Over there, I came across three times national award-winning director Shivaji Lotan Patil.
When I told him the plot, he suggested that I should approach the committee in charge of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Awards to see if they would be interested in showcasing my film. I sent a mail to the committee along with a trailer. They liked it, and I was nominated for the Phalke Award in 2019.
Having my first film nominated for the prestigious Phalke Award was the biggest pat-on-the-back for me.
What are some other projects you have done as an actor?
I did a commercial for Facebook Confetti India and another one for Abyth Pharmaceutical. I have recently been signed for a Marathi film, revolving around a woman in her 50s who looks young. Life has just started for me, I believe.
What keeps you motivated to start anew at this stage in your life?
I think the way you look at life makes all the difference. When I would be at the pageant of my life, in my late 80s, I do not want to have any regrets. The least I could do for myself was to give my dreams a chance. At worst, I would have failed and gone back to my life; at best, I would have started living to the fullest.
I am extremely happy that I took this step, and at the age of 47, I dare to say, this is just the beginning!
IAD wishes Preeti Mallapurkar best wishes on her acting career! You can follow Preeti on Instagram @preetimallapurkar.