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Interview Hindi

Have started enjoying acting and its process, says Prakash Jha on Matto Ki Saikil

Directed by M Gani, the film about a construction labourer is due be released in theatres on 16 September. 

Prakash Jha

Keyur Seta

Prakash Jha will be seen playing the character of a poor construction labourer Matto who is dependent on his cycle to visit his workplace in Matto Ki Saikil (2022). Tragedy strikes when his cycle is destroyed in an accident.

In an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com, Jha said that although it was challenging to play Matto, he had more than an idea about how to play the character. 

“I knew this character since I have stayed with these people,” he said. “I am still attached to villages and small towns. So I keep seeing them. The story takes place in Braj [in Uttar Pradesh] and the language [of the film] is also Braj. I also had to work with people from there and learn their body language.” 

Matto Ki Saikil is the first feature film for M Gani. He had sent the script to Jha as he was keen to get him on board to play Matto.

“He had sent me the story through my editor,” Jha said. “I read it after a few days. I found the story and screenplay to be very good. It is a pure and honest story of those people who we don’t generally see, although they form 50% of India. I then spoke to him and he proposed the idea of me acting in it. I was a bit surprised and then I felt good.” 

Jha said that the best part about the preparation was that Gani had a lot of clarity. “He had laid out the whole path of the preparation,” he said. “I visited Mathura two-three times to observe the people and their ways. When we were there 10-12 days before the shoot, I started being and sitting with them on the roads. My method was to find the character gradually.” 

Prakash Jha in Matto Ki Saikil

Jha took up acting with his directorial venture Jai Gangaajal (2016), which also starred Priyanka Chopra. He followed it up with more acting stints in Saand Ki Aankh (2019) and the short film Highway Nights (2021)

Speaking about him dabbling into the acting sphere, Jha said, “It is another means for me to express my art, just like writing, painting, sound recording and camerawork. Similarly, acting is another medium through which I can put forth my point. My acting journey has been long, but people aren’t aware of it. I have been doing workshops and been interested in theatre.”

He elaborated, “I have done acting workshops in a lot of countries. I was also doing it to find a language to communicate with my artistes. I was trying to understand its layers. I found its finer points very interesting. Now I have started enjoying acting and its process.” 

As Jha himself in a veteran filmmaker, it is an obvious question whether he gives any filmmaking tips during the shoot of films where he is only acting. “There was nothing of that sort in this film,” he explained. “The character itself was very difficult, so to keep holding and hanging onto it was my responsibility. When you realize that the director and his team are aware about their work and understand it well, then it is not needed.” 

Jha also believes that the director’s vision should be respected. “For example, if I am the director, no matter how big an actor is, he will have to work in terms of my vision,” he said. “Only I am able to see the film as a whole; nobody else is. I understand this. So I felt it shouldn’t be disturbed. Even in Saand Ki Aankh, it was the first film of Tushar [Hiranandani], but I didn’t need to do that.” 

The filmmaker-actor revealed that he would avoid playing both the roles in films in the future. “In Jai Gangaajal, I was the actor and director, so it was different. But I understood after that that henceforth if I am acting in a film, I won’t be the director and vice versa,” he said. 

Matto Ki Saikil also stars Anita Chaudhary, Dimpy Mishra, Aarohi Sharma and Manoj Sharma, who have mostly been into theatre. Jha said that it was challenging for him to match up to their level. “They are such fine and natural actors,” he said. “So I was always concerned to be and talk as natural and ensure that Matto doesn’t appear like an actor.” 

Over the last few years, Jha, as a director, has ventured into the web space. The Bobby Deol-starrer Aashram already has three seasons on MX Player, while the fourth is in the making. He said that this medium came with its own challenges. 

“It is challenging as it is very long,” Jha said. “But for me, it is just like making a film. It is not that since you are making something for OTT [over-the-top platform], it needs to be shot fast. The story, set, location, actors, crowd and all that happens in the same way. The challenge is that it has to be long and should have its sub-plots and each character having its own story.” 

Produced by Sudhirbhai Mishra, Matto Ki Saikil is due to be released in theatres on 16 September. The film had its world premiere at the 25th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in South Korea in 2020.