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Interview Hindi

Had tears while shooting for Kaamyaab, I found it so relatable, says Sanjay Mishra

The veteran shares his experience of working on the film and reveals why he is fine with the hierarchy among cine artistes.

Keyur Seta

Sanjay Mishra will be seen playing a character actor who is struggling to get his 500th role in Hardik Mehta’s Kaamyaab. “People will praise such actors, but then they will also ask, ‘What is your name, by the way',” said Mishra while describing such character artistes in a group interview ahead of the film's release this weekend.

The conversation with Mishra was more like an informal chat at a roadside tea stall while sipping 'cutting chai'. The actor recalled a comment he saw on the trailer on YouTube. “Somebody had commented under the trailer that a lot of actors like me will cry after watching this film. This is the story of an actor, so it’s very close to them,” he said.

Mishra plays character artiste Sudheer in the film. After working for decades as a character actor in Hindi cinema, Sudheer reaches a stage where he no longer finds excitement in life. But when he learns that he is just one film short of reaching the milestone of 500 films under his belt, he develops a new vigour and goes out to look for his 500th role.

Speaking about the film's title, Mishra said Kaamyaab (successful) is not about what is usually seen as success by society. “Kaamyaab doesn’t necessarily mean a thousand people wanting your autograph,” he said. “Kaamyaab means feeling content. It means someone who is expected to die suddenly standing up and saying, I am not done yet.”

For Mishra personally, success means the change in the way in which people start addressing you in the industry. “From being called ‘Ae Sanjay’ to ‘Sanjay sir,’ you get satisfaction at least,” he remarked.

During the course of the conversation, Mishra said he was highly impressed with Amitabh Bachchan for his seemingly never-ending zeal to work even at this age (Bachchan is 77). “Other actors his age have stopped working. They are happy with their money, farmhouse, etc,” he said. “But this man still works with all the passion on a daily basis. That’s why he is young. What is the meaning of youth? It’s Amitabh Bachchan. There are some youngsters who are lying somewhere intoxicated. Such people are worse than the aged.”

Despite a large number of supporting artistes toiling for decades, it is always the hero who gains maximum fame. But Mishra sees nothing wrong in this. “Why won't there be bhed-bhaav [differentiation]? Although both are actors, the film is being sold only because of one of them,” he said.

The film industry has seen people amass immense wealth and, at the same time, others who die unlamented and penniless. “That depends on fate,” said Mishra. “There are some people who don’t do much and yet manage to earn a lot. There are others who work hard throughout their lives but are still stuck paying their EMIs. I have never worked for money. I have also done quite a few films free.”

Elaborating, Mishra said, “I don’t charge money for short films. But the kind of characters I get to play in short films, I never get to play in feature films. The satisfaction of playing a character you love is worth more than money.”

Mishra has a long list of films that are high on content. Yet he confessed that he never goes through the script before signing a movie. “I look at the director. I never read the script. I hadn’t read the script of even Kaamyaab. I don’t believe in sitting with the hard copy [of the script]. The writer takes two or three years to write it and then I can’t just suggest changes after going through it for just two hours,” he said.

When prodded a little more about his process, Mishra said, “The director should narrate the script and make me visualize the film. When I was being narrated Kaamyaab, I started seeing the film in front of me. Once that happens, you know what you need to do.” 

As Kaamyaab tells the story of a supporting artiste, Mishra found it very relatable. “There were a few scenes in Kaamyaab where I actually had tears in my eyes as I too have passed through that phase. It happened during the moments where my character is giving auditions or when he is asked to get out. In a way I am lucky that I am playing my own character,” he said. 

Mishra has also acted in unconventional films like Ankhon Dekhi (2014) and Kadvi Hawa (2017). At the same time, he has appeared in out-and-out commercial capers like the Golmaal series and Total Dhamaal (2019). He calls the former Test cricket and the latter T20s. “Now after Kaamyaab I will be playing Test cricket in Anees Bazmee’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,” he said.

Mishra is happy that the industry has entered a stage where content is king instead of big stars. “The change is seen in the audience," he said. "They now want content. Stories of heroes and heroines have been aplenty. Aur bhi gham hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke siva [There is a lot more to life than mere love stories].”

Kaamyaab also stars Deepak Dobriyal and a long list of veteran character artistes like Avtar Gill, the late Viju Khote, Ramesh Goyal, Lilliput, Manmauji and Birbal. The film will be released on 6 March.