Piyush Mishra, the man known to don many hats – acclaimed actor, singer, music composer, lyricist – talks about why he thinks it’s important for him to support students of Film and Television Institute (FTII) and why he’s ‘deeply disturbed by things that have changed in last one year’.
You are here at FTII to support the protesting students. Why?
Piyush Mishra: I identify with their cause and I think it’s important to protest to feel that you are alive. And show to the world that you are alive. Why live like a dead body. Also, it’s imporant here to understand that we aren’t opposing any perosn or any ideology here. The man (to be appointed as FTII President) has to be qualified. What we have to see is if he has necessary vision. It’s not only about experience. My father had a great clerical experience. He worked as a clerk for 20 years. But can he claim a right to NSD chairmanship arguing I have administrative experience? So it’s like they say: Jiska kaam usiko saajhe.
Ques: What would you say about the similar appointments that have been made in cinema related bodies such as NFDC, CBFC, Childrens’ Film Society…
Piyush Mishra: This disturbed me a lot. Peechhle ek saal se kuchh ho raha hai… bans aaj kal kuchh zyada hi ho rahe hain. I too am a Hindu and I practice my religion. I read vedas and Geeta. But if you ban things then it creates fear in the minds of people.
Ques: Some people – especially those belonging to so called right – are saying that some leftist groups are behind this protest. Students are merely pawns.
Piyush Mishra: It’s not about left or right. It is true that I was associated with leftists movement in the beignining. But I am Ishwarvadi (theist). We are not rightist or leftists. We are artists. We want to create. If something hampers that process – our creativity – then we will protest against that assault. It’s important to defend our art. It’s as simple as that.
Ques: You say you are ‘Ishwarvadi’. Did you watch Mahabharat when it was aired on DD. How would you rate Mr Chauhan’s portrayal of Yudhishthir?
Piyush Mishra: Although I used to watch Mahabharat I could not recall his role. My wife told me that he played Yudhishthir. Also, there’s no reason to remember him because he did not do any remarkable job with that character. I remember the actor who played Bhishma. He portrayed him well.
Ques: Did you ever participate in a strike during your student days?
Piyush Mishra: When I was in NSD. I think it was my first year, then there was a huge protest there in 1983. Hamari chairman bahot nithalli thi. She wouldn’t come to the institute. All of us were angry about this. If you are a chairman, you should come to the institute and attend to our concerns. She should at least listen to us. Same logic applies here too. I am not opposing Gajendra Chauhan personally. I told students to go and speak to him (Gajendra Chauhan) and see for themselves what his credentials are. How much he knows about cinema.
FTII kab se chal raha hai. Hundreds of artists have come out from here. It’s largely peaceful. In 1975, when there was a problem the students staged a strike because they had some issues. 13 years ago, there was in another strike and there were again some genuin issues. Why will the students protest if they don’t have any problems. Their studies are suffering. There projects are sufferings. They are not mad.
Ques: What are your views on newly appointed CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihlani issuing a list of 28 words which couldn’t be used in films?
Piyush Mishra: I personally feel that cuss words shouldn’t be used freely and unnecessarily. I personally have a habit – a very bad habit – of using gaalis. In cinema if they are used to create a miliue then it’s a different thing. A lot depends on how you portray it. For example, there’s two infamous rape scenes in our movies. The one in Bandit Queen is shot in a way that the viewer will be repelled and disgusted by the sexual attack. However, one in ‘Insaf Ka Taraaju’ will arouse you. So it’s a vague area. However, I personally am opposed to using abuses and sexual images in cinema although the man who introduced it to Indian cinema – Anurag Kashyap – is a dear friend of fine. I am strongly opposed to his point of view. What’s the meaning of moral less, value less cinema. Broken childhood, violence, sex. For example, his film Ugly, doesnt’ contain a single moral face. I like Raju Hirani’s films. He makes films which an entire family can sit and enjoy. He givs out a message and he makes money.
Ques: Did the students invite you or you came here on your own?
Piyush Mishra: A student called me and asked me if I will be able to come here and perform here to support the protest. I agreed immidiately. It’s no big deal. Also it’s important for an artist to support a fellow artist. If tomorrow some injustice happens to me, won’t these people come and support me?