In the last decade, there has been a rise of faith in supporting actors in Hindi films. One of them is Sanjay Mishra. Now, Mishra’s fame as a supporting actor has made him the subject of Kaamyaab, which closely relives what he has experienced in the film industry. With Shah Rukh Khan presenting the film, it seems Kaamyaab has a successful promotion strategy.
He nods, “Involvement of a name like Shah Rukh Khan has brought a different kind of attention to this small film. Otherwise, it is still difficult to find space for such films. You cannot imagine me to be a hero who could attract the audience, but I am feeling like a hero right now. That is because of the compelling story which made me the centre of attraction,” he says.
Kaamyaab is Hardik Mehta’s debut film which centres around a character actor Sudhir’s yearning to complete 500 films. Mishra relates his own experiences of the famous Juhu Tara road where he used to roam around to find a role in films. “That was the reason I picked up this film as I had to play the struggle of an actor and that is the world I know inside out. I was Hardik’s choice because I have lived that life. Like Sudhir, I did a lot of films where I had a very small screen time. However, I am different from Sudhir in terms of his approach towards his career as unlike him I never came here to become a typical hero.”
Mishra reminds there was a time when actors were earmarked for a particular role. “For drunkard, you had Keshto Mukherjee. For father, there was Kader Khan, for judge, D.K.Sapru and for corrupt bureaucrat there was Om Shiv Puri. It is a homage to these wonderful actors as well,” he underlines.
One should admire Mishra for rising above the sidekick tag to play meaty roles in films such as Aankhon Dekhi , Masaan, and Kadvi Hava . “The process of filmmaking should be an exploration. Director explores the actor and actor get a chance to explore himself while understanding the director’s choices. I love to be directed by new directors and films like Masaan , Newton and Angrezi Mein Kahte Hain were a result of that exploration only,” he reveals. “I am glad that these films are giving me a chance to act as a protagonist and that is different from my other films where I play supporting roles and the responsibility to carry the film is not on my shoulders.”
Hindi films are increasingly telling ordinary people’s stories and, in a way, has created a demand for actors who could essay such characters. Mishra is aware of this trend. “A film like Masaan talks about the sensibilities of youth but that was not a college romance. There was a time when there existed a parallel cinema, but those stories are now becoming mainstream.
Had they been made in the ‘80s, they would have been treated as a parallel cinema but right now it is not a case. There is a space for older actors, heroines are not just hero's love interest and I am very thankful for this change.” Is there an increased affinity of the audience for older characters as well? “Of course, you can see how Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan has re-invented himself. There was a time when old age was considered as something negative on screen. I feel, if you show gripping old characters to the audience, they will be inspired.”
Initially, he was chosen for roles close to his real self, but gradually filmmakers realised his range. He likes picking up mannerisms from different spaces and cultural humour which helps him become a new person in every film. “I learnt music in my childhood and I relate that with the acting I do. You need to understand the note of the character and that should be tuned to the director’s vision.”
Mishra says he is content. “If you get success very early, it becomes essential that you maintain it. It becomes difficult and there comes a lot of pressure. As I got the attention very late, I don’t have any ego.”