From making his acting debut with TV show Chanakya in 1991 to his latest appearance as a protagonist in Kadvi Hawa, Sanjay Mishra has come a long way as an actor. He loves to be called an actor but dislikes calling the industry as Bollywood. “This is not the proper term. We should call it Hindi Cinema because this is what it is. I thought of becoming an actor thinking of Hindi Cinema, not Bollywood. The term was not in use back then. Agar pehle se Bollywood naam hotaa to mai kabhi actor banna bhi nahi chaahta (I would not have aspired to become an actor if the name Bollywood was there),” says the 55-year old versatile actor.
Having acted in Hindi sitcom Office Office and comedy films including Golmaal series and All the Best, the seasoned actor proved his mettle in Rajat Kapoor directorial Aankhon Dekhi, in which he played the role of Babuji. On being asked if the film proved to be a game changer for him, Mishra says, “Yes, I feel lucky that it came my way. I worked with a number of directors only to gain experience. It is only the new directors who explored me, be it Aankhon Dekhi’s Rajat Kapoor, Masaan’s Neeraj Ghaywan or Kadvi Hawa’s Nila Madhab Panda.”
Talking about his upcoming projects, Sanjay Mishra said, “Up next is Angrezi mein kehte hain which is a family drama. It explores changing relationships between a middle-aged couple. It’s about the realisation that sometimes just loving someone is not enough and expressing that love is equally important. 2018 will also have Kaamyaab (by Hardik Mehta) and Mangal Ho (by Pritish Chakraborty). Shooting is also underway for Dhamaal.”
At a time when success of an actor is judged on how much money his films make, Sanjay Mishra sees it in a different way. “Today people call films with Rs 100 or 200 crore box office collection as successful but they forget that it is an age of Netflix and Amazon as well. Earlier, success of a film was counted on the basis of the number of weeks it runs in the cinema halls. Nevertheless, things are still not that much grim for the films which touch the human heart. People watch such films in cinema halls and other available platforms as well.”
Talking about his work and career, the Patna-born actor said that satisfaction matters the most in one’s life. “I am fully satisfied with my life and work. Life should be wonderful. Career only counts for 20-30 per cent in life and if I am happy, it means my career is supporting me. But one thing is certain that I have managed to break the stereotype that people think I am mere a comedian. After serious roles, I think I have broken that image.”
Speaking of his long stint in the film industry, Mishra thinks eating vada pavs on and outside film sets is not what we call struggle. When asked if he ever struggled, Mishra laughs and says, “Kaise nhi kia! I came to the industry in 1991-92, and The Indian Express is calling me today. Isn’t it my struggle?”
“Going to directors for work, eating vada pavs should not be called as struggle, that is part of one’s life. My struggle was that I never became the victim of paid media. My struggle includes my decision of not playing any type of role and to work on my own terms and conditions. And I did it,” he adds.
But at the same time, the actor also talks about a period when he had decided to leave everything. He had even left what he calls ‘Hindi Cinema’ after Golmaal because for him, life was not funny at all during that time. “I was suffering from severe illness. Doctors had removed 15 litres of pus from my stomach and just after it got cured, I lost my father. I had started losing my life. So, I went to Rishikesh and started making omelet at a dhaba near the bank of the Ganga. The dhaba owner told me I will have to wash 50 cups a day and I will get Rs 150. But then I thought I need money for my survival,” he said.
He further added, “After working there for a day, people visiting the dhaba started recognising me. They used to say Arre aap to Golmaal mein the na and wanted photographs with me. Then my mother used to call me and cry asking me to come home. In between all these, Rohit Shetty called me and offered a role in All the Best. That’s when I decided to get back to work.”
When asked who did he like working with the most, the actor said, “I like working with myself the most. I always cooperate with myself and my role.”