“Zinda ho haan tum koi shak nahin, saans lete hue dekha maine bhi hai,
Haath aur pairon aur jism ko harqatey, khoob dete huey dekha maine bhi hai,
Ab bhale hi yeh kartey huye honth tum, dard sehte hue sakht see lete ho,
Ab hai itna bhi kam kya tumharey liye, khoob apni samajh mein toh jee lete ho…”
These enchanting lines come from the pen of a Class 8 student who went on win our hearts when he grew up and also gave his audience a new perspective of love, life, and desire.
Piyush Mishra has been in the industry for over thirty years now. But, when you turn the pages of his life, there is a lot more to appreciate about this versatile Bollywood actor and director.
Sitting in the comfort of his home, Piyush talked about the many untold episodes of his life, in an exclusive interview with YSWeekender…
A man of dreams
We have seen Piyush playing the harmonium in any musical event he is part of. He has also been spotted playing the instrument in many movies, including 2009 film Gulaal where he played the role of Prithvi Bana. It is fascinating to know that he hasn’t received any formal training in playing this instrument. He was a young boy when one his relatives gifted him a harmonium and ever since he has been playing effortlessly.
Besides writing scripts, Piyush has had a strong passion for acting since his young age. And, to brush up his skills, in the 1980s he joined the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi with late Irrfan Khan as his classmate.
“Not many know this, but after graduating from NSD in 1986, I moved to Mumbai but couldn’t find work. Those days were very different and the exposure was limited too. I came back to Delhi and started a theatre group, called ‘Act One’ with NK Sharma, Manoj Bajpai,” says Piyush.
For nearly 10 years, Piyush worked in theatre in New Delhi during which time he would act, write, and direct plays. He moved to Bollywood in 1998 when he bagged the role of a CBI officer in Mani Ratnam’s movie ‘Dil Se’.
After Dil Se, Piyush appeared on the silver screen in 2003 in Vishal Bharadwaj’s film Maqbool. He portrayed the role of Kaka which won him many awards.
“After Dil Se, I didn’t work in any movie as an actor for many years. Meanwhile, I wrote dialogues for Rajkumar Santoshi’s, ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ in 2001 and wrote the script for the movie ‘Dil pe Mat le Yaar’ in 2002.”
Later Piyush played the role of Prithvi Banna in Gulaal (2009), directed by Anurag Kashyap and since then there has been no looking back.
“Industry mein vyavastit hona mushkil hai aur ek samay mein peeche lautna bhi mushkil hai, jo ata gaya, main karta gaya (It is difficult to remain employed in this industry, and after some point in time, it is even difficult to go back, so whatever I got, I kept doing.”
On March 28, 2003, Piyush boarded the train to Mumbai from Delhi for the second and the final time and never looked back.
Piyush has entertained his audience by portraying characters that we loved. His roles in Tere Bin Laden, Rockstar, Gangs of Wasseypur, Pink, Sanju, among many others have garnered praise and appreciation. His recent role in the web series Illegal is being broadcast on the OTT platform Voot, which is his first-ever web series.
Piyush has also written many books including Mere Manch ki Sargam, Tum Meri Jaan Ho Raziya Bi, Woh Ab Bhi Pukarta Hai, Kucch Ishq Kiya Kuch Kaam Kiya among others which were inspired by his personal experiences in the industry.
“Jo bhi andar se aya maine likh diya, (whatever hit my heart, I jotted down.) I used to read Russian literature a lot earlier and this has influenced my work,” he adds.
The dazzle of Bollywood
A career in Bollywood is a roller-coaster for anyone in the industry and for those from a non-filmy background, it is merciless.
Many artists fail to make it in Bollywood, which eventually leads to depression or alcoholism.
“I became an alcoholic and wasn’t contributing anything to the house,” he recollects. There was no work available. The influence of alcohol and my anger plunged me into the depths of sorrow,” says Piyush.
In 2010, Piyush joined Vipassana in Igatpuri which transformed his life. It takes lot of years and practice to cleanse yourself,” he adds.
Turning the pages of history
“Ek actor ko maza ana chahiye (an actor must enjoy his work)” Piyush says adding that theatre is a medium where an actor works freely without any obligations and fear.
Last year Piyush established a theatre group called Tamboo teaming up with accomplished artists and beginners. Their first play was Gagan Damama Bajyo, based on the life of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh which he wrote during his days in Act One.
Gagan Damama Bajyo was played in the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai and the shows were to be performed across cities in India. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dates have been halted.
Piyush also started a musical band Ballimaaraan, named after Mirza Ghalib’s street in Delhi. He formed a band to pay homage to Mirza Ghalib whose work influenced him since the beginning of his journey. However, the shows have been postponed due to the lockdown.
As for the future…
As for the way ahead in cinema, Piyush says he will take what comes to him, provided it excites him.
He is spending the lockdown trying to read and write and taking notes from the goings-on of day-to-day life. He is also following a routine of 40 minutes brisk walk and helping his wife with the daily chores.
Signing off from the conversation, he says that people must try not to get depressed during this awful time if they are away from their families and if possible, they should stay with their families and support each other till the end of the pandemic.
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