From Mirchi Seth in Sarfarosh (1999) to Ravana in TV show Ramayan (2008), Akhilendra Mishra has played varied characters over the years. He made his film debut with Salman Khan-starrer Veergati. But despite being in the industry for three decades, he is best remembered for playing the popular character of Kroor Singh in the iconic show Chandrakanta, which aired on Doordarshan between 1994 and 1996. From Kroor Singh’s signature laughter to his costume, Mishra remains one of the high points of this hit TV show.
So how did Mishra land his debut role in Chandrakanta? Here’s what the actor shared:
1. What was your first project? How did it come to you?
Because we were from theatre, camera was nothing for us. The audience is the biggest camera for us. I did very small parts in some projects, but that’s not where I understood the craft. My first break came in Chandrakanta. I was very active in theatre with 5-6 plays running at a time. I remember, my show called Moteram Ka Satyagrah was going on at Prithvi Theatre. My friend Sudesh Bedi gave me the news that Nirja Guleri had come from Delhi to Mumbai to do the casting of a big TV show Chandrakanta, and she was looking for me. She was in the process of meeting several theatre actors. There was no audition system at that time. An actor’s theatre background was enough. So, he gave me a number to contact her. Next day, I called her and her assistant asked me to come over. I said I would be late as it was a Sunday and I had a technical rehearsal for a play. I finally reached the place and saw a huge number of actors waiting in a hall. Someone showed me where Nirja ji was sitting. I told him to introduce me to her. She asked me if I had read Chandrakanta. I said no. She became happy that I was the first actor who told her honestly that I haven’t read the book, unlike others who said they have read it just to impress her. She asked if I would like to play the villain Kroor Singh, the son of Vijaygarh’s Diwan who was in love with Chandrakanta. His role was for 10-12 episodes, and then he dies. I agreed.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
When the shooting began, I had a different get-up – a beautiful prince with a thin moustache. I told the team that my name is ‘Kroor’ (cunning) and I am not even looking like that. Nirja ji started laughing, but I think she kept this in her mind. She then scrapped the entire first schedule and changed my look in the second schedule. Seeing my new look, I told her now my face is just not visible and nobody will recognise me now. She told me, “Do go on this get-up. The entire world will recognise you after this!” That was the look which everyone got to see finally. But I was still worried and kept thinking what should I do to ensure the audience recognises me behind this look. So I thought I should do something so that even if people can’t see my face, they know me by my voice. When I used to read my scenes, I used to utter “yuk”. When I noticed that it was coming out of me repeatedly, I decided to make this sound my catchphrase. I thought this would be a good experiment. I told this to Nirja ji who was surprised as catchphrases meant a word or a sentence, never a sound. Later, because it was easy, the kids caught on that and turned it into “yukko”. That’s how it became popular. During Chandrakanta, I also got my first film, Veergati.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
The only difference is the technical part as the frame is fixed, unlike the free movement we do on stage. To perform in a tight frame became an issue in the beginning. Technical words like chin-up and chin-down were also new to me. But, by God’s grace, I did not require retakes because I went on the set fully prepared. Kroor Singh was not a realistic character, but a stylised character. He had a style in everything – in the way he laughed, walked, turned, spoke and moved the sword. Once, I did a laughter which was one minute and fifteen seconds long. I also did a four and a half minute long scene in a single shot. All these were my experiments as an actor.
4. Who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
Great rapport! All of them were my seniors back then. I was the only one who was new in this project. My name came as “introducing” in the credit roll. My co-stars were Shikha Swaroop, Shahbaz Khan, Mukesh Khanna, Krutika Desai, Pankaj Dheer and Irrfan Khan.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
That isn’t possible. That time was different. My energy level, thought process and experience was different. I cannot repeat Kroor Singh. If I do, I would be spoiling my own work. What has been created, has been created.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
While I was growing up, Amitabh Bachchan was the superstar. He had a significant influence on our generation. Then, Prithviraj Kapoor and Balraj Sahni also influenced me. But that time, we did not have much knowledge about acting.
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