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Gunjan Saxena actor Ayesha Raza Mishra: Janhvi Kapoor is an old soul

Actor Ayesha Raza Mishra on working with Pankaj Tripathi and Janhvi Kapoor in Sharan Sharma directorial Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.

Written by A. Kameshwari | New Delhi | August 17, 2020 6:19:19 am
Ayesha Raza Mishra with Pankaj TripathiAyesha Raza Mishra's Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is streaming on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

Ayesha Raza Mishra’s latest film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl has the actor in the role of a mother once again. She has earlier played a mother in films like Bharat, Veere Di Wedding, Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety among others. In a conversation with indianexpress.com, Ayesha opened up about being typecast, working with Janhvi Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi, and much more.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

You’ve become Bollywood’s favourite mommy. What do you feel about that?

I think if the audience is giving you love and acceptance, what else would you want as an actor? Every actor struggles to be accepted. If you are doing an incredible role, but the audience does not connect to it, what’s the point? Yes, slotting is a double-edged sword because as an actor you want to do a variety of work. So, there is a pro and con in getting typecast.

Most actors express concern about being typecast. How do you keep a check on bringing some variation to your roles?

In the industry, there are typically two kinds of mothers, either Punjabi or UP/middle class. Luckily, I blend in both, but at the same time, you have to try and find something new for the character. A lot of times, the director doesn’t even know more than ‘you are the mother.’ So, for me, it is important to know who am I sharing screen space with. It helps to develop your role better.

But we see men of your age or above getting meaty roles. What would you say about that?

Writing is changing. Now we see women leading films. As far as the female character actor is concerned, the last I saw a brilliant script for a mother was Dil Dhadakne Do where Shefali Shah played the role. Such a meaty character with an amazing graph. It is still less (the writing for women character actors). In the industry, there is a big difference in writing for women character actors. It is slightly bothering, but I think it will change soon.

There used to be days when mothers would only be cutting apples or applying jam to a bread. So, in comparison to those times, there is a lot of change. Nowadays, the audience recognises character artistes.

How much of your real self did you put in the character?

It was not me at all. I am not the kind of mother the film suggests. However, it was important for the film. I was getting upset after a while because I (as the character) kept yelling at Janhvi Kapoor (in most of the scenes.) Even Pankaj Tripathi pointed out the same thing to me. I would feel so bad because Janhvi’s face is so innocent. So, it was difficult honestly.

pankaj tripathi in gunjan saxena the kargil girl Pankaj Tripathi and Ayesha Raza Mishra in a scene from Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl. (Photo: Netflix)

What were Gunjan Saxena’s tips for you?

I did not meet Gunjan, but I met her father. He saw me and said, “Lagti toh ho tum unki mummy ki jaisi. Jab woh young thi, wo aisi hi dikhti thi.” I was happy. Also, a lot of credit has to go to the director. He was so clear and knew exactly what he wanted.

You have most scenes with Pankaj Tripathi. People are heaping praise on him. In fact, we love that bedroom conversation between you two. Tell us how you both bonded.

What an actor he is. Kumud and Pankaj have known each other for a long time, but I had not met him. We met each other for the first time on the sets. He is a very giving actor, very easy to work with. The bedroom scene was the first scene we did together. We didn’t know how it would turn out. It happened automatically and organically.

Also, I think I have been lucky with husbands, be it in reel or real life. Apart from Pankaj, I have enjoyed working with Gajraj Rao in Band Baaja Baraat. We are looking for another opportunity to work together. Manoj Pahwa is one of the best actors I have worked with.

Ayesha Raza Mishra in Gunjan Saxena The Kargil War Ayesha Raza Mishra said she had a lovely experience working with Janhvi Kapoor. (Photo: Netflix)

How was your bond with Janhvi?

Amazing. From the day I met her, I loved her. She is sweet, kind, intelligent and wonderful girl. One of the nicest people I worked with. She is very keen to learn, to grow. I think she proved it in the film. She has come a long way. You cannot like the film if she has not done a good job. If she doesn’t work, the film doesn’t work.

What do you think of Janhvi as an actor?

I like her. I think nobody is perfect. All of us have the space to grow. If you remember this as an actor, you will always be better. Janhvi has a lot of space to grow, but the seeds of a very good performer are already in her.

What did you talk about off the shoot?

I shot for two weeks. Off-screen, we would play dumb charades and what not. She is an old soul. She has so much knowledge of black-and-white films, you will be shocked.

If you met the 20-year-old you, what advice would you give to her?

I would tell her to be more confident, happier with who she is, and not to be worried about what other people say. I wish I had understood this back then.

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