Intermission. Anil Mange, who was on a cinema hall visit, eager to gauge the audience reaction to Hasee Toh Phasee, entered the loo when a young boy next to him came close to have a good look at him. “Aren’t you that Anu Malik fan?” the boy asked him with a grin. That was the first sign of recognition that Mange experienced at Cinemax, Andheri, Mumbai. “That was my first brush with fame. After that boy, there were many who recognised me after the screening. Just in a few days, many people have this glee on their face when they recognise me asking ‘Aren’t you that Indian Idol-obsessed guy? They tell me that I made them laugh. Words won’t be enough to describe the joy of these moments,” he says.
It was not all comedy when he bagged the role of the Kanpur-based Abhinandan. Director Vinil Mathew wanted him to be more than just a singing character so he had to prep for the part. That’s where his a cappella classes during his film school training came handy. Mixing beatboxing from YouTube videos, and with some help from a junior on the sets of Subhash Ghai’s forthcoming Kaanchi (his next project), Mange developed this quirky character. But this left him high and dry, quite literally. “Since I was not used to beatboxing, spit used to come out of my mouth vehemently, and to save myself from embarrassment, I would practise it privately. But doing it continuously used to leave me dry-mouthed and tired. Even while shooting, I had multiple takes, and people didn’t always find it funny. I was really worried whether I was getting it right or not. But when the film was done, the cast and crew loved my character. And as it turned out, the audience loved it too,” he adds cheerfully.
Hailing from Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, the 30-year-old Mange always wanted to pursue performing arts. His businessman father wanted him to join their family business, but he always found himself wandering on the railway track that led to Mumbai. After graduating in commerce, he shifted to Pune while researching on all the possible film schools around the world. The group that he hung out with believed in being spotted by a director by a stroke of luck. Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII) didn’t accept him and he didn’t want to be a reject. Ultimately he got admission in Whistling Woods Institute in Mumbai though a hefty fee was to become a matter of concern. And that’s when Naseeruddin Shah came to his rescue. “During one of my semesters, I wasn’t in a position to deposit the fee. This news reached Naseer sir’s ears, who taught us in the institute, and he paid my fees. I am grateful to him for life. Even the institute helped me to a great extent,” he says.
Hasee Toh Phasee has brought a new lease of life in his career. He is now working on Rajkumar Hirani’s P.K.; the remake of Hero; and Kaanchi. Incidentally, he is not playing his age in Kaanchi. “I am playing a 45-plus character in the film. I don’t want to limit myself as an actor. If the role is good, I don’t mind playing an old man or a homosexual character. I want to do good work. The rest is superficial,” says Mange.