Piyush Mishra on why small town artists are here to stay

Shruti Kedia

Within a span of three decades, Piyush Mishra has left his imprint and established himself as a theatre director, actor, lyricist, and singer. While he rose to fame with Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool and Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, he became a sensation among the youth with his unique Hindi and Urdu speaking style.

 

"Ik bagal mein chaand hoga, ik bagal mein rotiyaan,

ik bagal mein neend hogi, ik bagal mein loriyaan.

hum chaand pe roti ki chaadar daal kar so jayenge,

aur neend se keh denge lori kal sunane aayenge"

 

In this poem, Piyush Mishra speaks about the daily conflict the people go through in chasing their dreams. However, his life story exemplifies how he always kept his dreams above the mundane realities of life.

These lines also personify the magnitude, the struggle and the lingering impact that is embodied in the self-made ‘star,’ who rose from the throes of theatre in Gwalior to the big screen of Bollywood. Heck! Even Hollywood couldn’t resist his charm. Within a span of three decades, the 55-year-old has left his imprint and established himself as a theatre director, actor, lyricist, and singer. While he rose to fame with Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool and Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, he became a sensation among the youth with his unique Hindi and Urdu speaking style.

On the eve of Bengaluru’s Language Festival, curated by YourQuote, YourStory caught up with the artist who will be performing with his band ‘Ballimaran’ at the two-day multi-lingual festival comprising of poetry, music, story-telling and comedy.

YourStory: From Gwalior, Delhi to Mumbai – Tell us about your journey till date. What has been the driving factor?

 

Piyush Mishra: I am a very self-driven person, and so that was the driving factor for me. The journey till date has been fine. There were many ups and downs, highs and lows. I was into a lot of depression, but meditation and yoga has really helped me overcome it. My life has been full of struggles and I am a firm believer in the past life. I believe all good and bad we experience is because of that. Bhagwat Geeta and Vipassana has helped me a lot, and since then the journey till date has been fine.

 

YS: What was the passion you feel you brought to theatre and films?

 

PM

More than the passion, it was the burning desire to find myself that brought me to theatre. Knowing that I am a nobody… still, when I am on stage, people feel what I say. The audience believe in me. They cry when I cry, they laugh when I laugh. They believe I am great even though I am a nobody, and as ordinary as them. So when I am on stage, I am the king, and that is what brought me here. Normally, people don't do what I ask them to do, but when I am on stage, I can control everything.

YS: What is the scope of growth for individuals who come from tier-II and tier-III cities?

PM: There is a lot of scope for people like me. Earlier, there was no scope. We do not attend kitty parties. We will never have scope and opportunities like the kids of Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan. We create opportunities for ourselves, and that’s why we should be proud. We are and will be self-made. This is the reason we value our stardom more than them. 

 

YS: You have created a niche with your unique Hindi and speaking style. Can you tell us the importance of language, and how it has shaped you? 

PM: Hindi and Urdu I feel are the two most-beautiful languages, and I write how I think. Hindi is my language, and even though I studied in a convent, I gradually lost touch with it (English), perhaps due to lack of interest.

Also, language shapes us and if you go abroad, people love their regional language. You never see a French talking in English. Then why should we shy from speaking our language? We Indians are mad about English, not realising how powerful and beautiful Hindi and Urdu are.

 

YS: Can you comment about the growing focus on small-town stories in Bollywood? Is there a shift in the narrative that we see today?

 PM: I feel this is because we are falling short of ideas, and you cannot continue making Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Kal Ho Na Ho. Hence there is a shift in stories and ideas. Also, people who are coming to act have character faces — before Amitabh Bachchan, it was an era of chocolate faces. It was after him that we saw actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, myself, Irrfan Khan, and Deepak Dobariyal. The narratives also changed after this.

 

YS: From being a poet, lyricist, theatre artist, to being a director and a scriptwriter. What are you most passionate about?

PM: I’m not passionate about anything in particular. If asked what I enjoy doing the most, I would say Vipassana. But I like doing everything and I can't choose one among them. Reading continuously helps you gain mastery over language, and I read as much as I can.

 

YS: Please share your favourite couplet/poem which remains with you and motivates you?

PM: I wrote my 1st poem when I was in Class 8 or Class 10. This is what I wrote ...

"Zinda ho haan tum koi shaq nahi, sans lete huye dekha meine bei hai, haath aur pairo aur jism ko harkatein khoob dete huye, dekha meine bei hai, bhale hi yeh karte huye tum honth dard se sakhth see lete ho,Ab hai kya itna bhi gham tumhare liye, khoob apni chaman mein to jee lete ho

 

YS. What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

 PM: There were so many challenges, and I haven't really overcome any. We have so many troubles, that they overpower the achievements, even though they are plenty. Now I feel it’s gradually going, and I am overcoming it every day with yoga and Vipassana. I am satisfied that my wife and children are happy, and I try to make them more happy every day.

 

YS: What is the connection between arts and one's native place? How does it shape us?

 PM: There is art everywhere, and there will always be a connect with the value system that we have grown up with. When I was in Gwalior doing theatre, the kind of questions we had about acting were so radical, and even in NSD (National School of Drama) it was same. But then, I was introduced to Bertolt Brecht. So the language changed, but the questions remained. Then I opened my play, "Act 1”— so the values and art stay the same. Just the language keeps changing according to region and culture.

 

YS: What is your most-cherished moment and why?

PM: There are many, not one. But the most cherished one was when Hamlet opened in India in 1985. The second one was when I fell in love with my wife, while we were working together in a play, in October 1992. Acting in Revolver Rani, playing Galileo, and acting in The Playback Singer, a Hollywood movie, are also my most cherished memories.

 

YS: Your message to your followers, especially those from small towns and cities who want to make it big in this industry, but are apprehensive due to communication or language barriers? 

PM: There will always be barriers and challenges, but never stop. Just believe that you are already successful and keep working towards it. There is no shortcut to hard work and success. Just work and leave all your vices like laziness, and don’t procrastinate.

 

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