Sanjay Mishra: I don’t want to be a martyr to my career

In this interview with indianexpress.com, Sanjay Mishra, who is is currently seen in the latest MX Player show Runaway Lugai, speaks about his career, the choices he has made over the years, the joy of acting and the importance of being present in the moment.

In over two decades of his career, actor Sanjay Mishra has been seen in a variety of roles. Mishra, mostly known for his comedic timing, has been lately pushing the envelope by trying his hand at serious projects too. The Shah Rukh Khan-produced character-driven movie Kaamyaab, which came last year on Netflix, brought him more recognition. Kaamyaab, the actor feels, was based on his life. “Kaamyaab is my story,” Mishra claims. The talented artiste will next be seen in the MX Player dramedy Runaway Lugai.

In this interview with indianexpress.com, Sanjay Mishra speaks about his career, the choices he has made over the years, the joy of acting and the importance of being present in the moment.

Excerpts from the conversation.

I saw the trailer of Runaway Lugai. It looks like a lot of fun. You are playing Naveen Kasturia‘s father in the show. But you have done similar parts previously too. What sets Runaway Lugai apart from the crowd?

Runaway Lugai is a Bihar-based story. It was shot there. And I had faith in director Avinash Das (of Anarkali of Aarah fame). I have a good tuning with him. Plus, people don’t often shoot in Bihar. Have you heard of Sonpur? Earlier, in fairs there, people used to perform plays and stray animals used to join in on the fun. It was a great time, and the lingo they use there is so different, which is why I said yes. And obviously, money. God bless my producer (laughs).

But you are right that I have done this before. Still it was fun. And shooting in Patna during Durga Puja time, with Chhat just around the corner, was quite the ride.

You have done a lot of work in the comedy genre. Is it your favourite of all the genres?

Runaway Lugai is actually a comedy-drama. Basically, acting is my love, and whatever I get to do within that scope is interesting to me. It is true that comedy might not be realistic all the time, but I enjoy doing it. For instance, I recently completed the shoot of Rohit Shetty’s upcoming movie Cirkus. Now that is a different type of comedy altogether. And people want a ‘Sanjay Mishra’ in such films to add that extra flavour. I really cannot complain about work right now. I am doing those serious, character-driven Kaamyaab kind of projects, and also these (Runaway Lugai and Cirkus) fun type of parts too.

Is working in the digital space exciting?

Actually, I am working a lot less in the OTT space because remember television had that Bold and Beautiful period, post which they had started churning out similar content. That is what I feel is happening in the digital space right now. So, I am wary of the streaming platforms. Because what if, like TV, OTT gets repetitive too? Telecasting that same old saas-bahu saga in an endless loop.

During an earlier interview, you had said that you are happy where you are right now. You are in no hurry to get ahead, and others can run that race if they want to. So what does fame mean to you at this stage?

I don’t believe in competition. I don’t believe in giving it my all to a career in that sense. I am comfortable in my space. I do my job sincerely, and if I make my audience feel something and they respect me as an actor, that is my reward. That is where I get my fulfilment from. I don’t want to be a martyr to my career. I want to live my life fully and spend some moments in peace too. I don’t care about the rat race. I am satisfied with my legacy.

Are you happy with the roles that are being offered to you at this stage?

When anyone tells you, ‘I want to be like you,’ this means that you have done something worthwhile, struck a chord with the viewers, and that is all I care about. Now more than ever, we should realise that everything is so transient. No one is going to outlive humanity. Every day people are dying. Someone you know is breathing his/her last breath somewhere, and you have to deal with it. You delete their number from your contact list with a heavy heart, and you move on. So this moment is all we have now, and all we know about. It is better to live this time to the best of our abilities. So, to answer your question, I am satisfied with my professional life.

How do you explain the longevity of your career in an industry where every Friday and with every new project, a career gets made or takes its last few breaths?

Whatever you are doing, you should enjoy it. You should be passionate about it. The second thing is your behaviour. That matters a lot. And I think that is true of any profession.

Is it true that you had to take 28-29 takes for your first shot for a TV show? Because no one would believe Sanjay Mishra had to face that kind of obstacle.

It is all true. I had no experience at the time, and the medium was new. I had all these thoughts about how I am going to do a scene. So I was always scared during those early days, and today people say that ‘I have written these dialogues for you Sanjay ji.’ There has been a massive arc in my career, from taking umpteen number of takes to now doing my job spontaneously. It has been a long time now since I have read a script.

Does this mean you no longer have nerves before facing the camera for a new movie or show?

No. I was petrified before Cirkus went on the floor. I used to wonder, ‘Oh, how many days are left before we begin filming?’ My heart was constantly in my mouth. But then when I finally arrived on the set, Rohit Shetty, addressing his assistant, said, ‘Go and inform Ranveer Singh that my Kapil Dev has arrived (laughs).’ But I have to admit that I still get this fever-like feeling every time I take up a new project. I believe that some nerves keep you on the edge, and they don’t let you get too overconfident. It is a good thing.

After Kaamyaab, are you being offered more leading parts?

Yes, I am being offered good roles, but I cannot announce them now. I consider myself to be a very lucky actor because the life that I am living is what had been presented on screen through Kaamyaab. This rarely happens with an artiste. Kaamyaab is basically my story. The movie received praise and reached a great number of people only because of Shah Rukh Khan. His name brought a lot of ‘kaamyaabi’ to Kaamyaab.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B86ZgZCnT8I/

 

A post shared by Sanjay Mishra (@imsanjaimishra)

You had once said that you like working with new directors. What do they bring to the table that seasoned filmmakers cannot?

If I am working with Rohit Shetty or Mani Ratnam, I am already familiar with their work. But whether be it Hardik Mehta, or someone else, I want to know what their vision is. You get to explore something fresh. Not only directors, but working with new actors is also great. I had a great time working with Ruhi Singh too (his co-star in Runaway Lugai).

During an earlier interview with The Indian Express, you had opened up about becoming disillusioned with acting. Have you ever felt that way since?

That time was different. I had no complaints about the industry. I had complaints about my life. My father had passed away at the time, and even I was battling an illness. So instances like these make you really question what you are doing with the time you have. And these days, I am getting that feeling again with all the gloomy news doing the rounds. People are dying, and you are wondering, ‘When will your new movie begin?’ Something is not right about that stream of thought. But one also has to take care of loved ones. So this is life now.

There is a song from my upcoming film whose line goes something like this — ‘Ka karba mukhiya banke raja, jab poora gaon bam bhole baa.’ Which basically means, ‘What will you do after achieving what you had set out to accomplish, when the whole world around you is going mad?’

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

I have a film called Gwalior, and another movie called Holy Cow in the pipeline. There is one more movie called Death on a Sunday, which has been shot in Patna, and a few other big-budget movies that I cannot talk about right now. I have a lot of expectations from these films.

Runaway Lugai starts streaming on MX Player from May 18.

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