Throughout the years, Kumud Mishra has enriched the big screen with his contemporary acting and enchanting delivery. He is an alumnus of The National School of Drama, Delhi. With his love for Theatre, he has covered every literary area from Shakespeare’s empowering plays to the enraging Greek Tragedies. His notable hits include Filmistaan, Revolver Rani, Rockstar, Jolly LLB 2, Article 15, Badlapur, and his recent starrer, Thappad.
Team Storiyaan had the opportunity to speak to the veteran actor on the occasion of this quarantine season and would urge our readers to keep following us for more interviews.
Kumud Mishra’s actor extraordinaire includes many plays. His love for theatre is no secret as he attributes his acting to the solemnity of life itself. Take a look at his viewpoint as he talks about subsuming acting in films and theatres.
Questions and answers
You've been in the industry for a while now. Do you prefer method acting over studying the character traits?
There isn’t a massive difference between them. Method acting is a lengthy process where you get to study the character traits. You need to have years of practice for that as you have to work on your body language and expressions to get into the process.
I studied method acting and used it in every performance. Every process and role is different, and I work accordingly.
What gravitated you towards being an actor?
I grew up in an acting background. My father was a part of Ram Leela, and my grandfather recited Ramcharitmanas and Ramayana. While he quoted them, it would move him, and he would start crying. He would love singing Choupai (quatrain). Growing up, my father had a significant influence on me with his performance.
Although I never got to see him perform in Ram Leela, I accompanied him in plays. I used to study in a military school, which had a great environment. We would have theatres and inter-house competitions regularly. My batch had brilliant teachers who assisted us in inter-house plays.
During this time, I read Shakespeare’s plays and Greek Tragedies, along with Marathi plays. My class actively translated and performed them on stage. We had a unique way of approaching the craft.
You've previously stated that personal experiences and relationships play a vital part in an actor's journey. Have you played a role that is closely associated with your own life?
So far, I haven’t played any role closely associated with my life, but with every character you play, you take something out from your personal life. There might be a few incidents from which you’d like to take inspiration from. Literature comes from your surroundings. Similarly, when you read something, you become a part of that story. I have never really played a character where I’ve completely put myself in the role. I’d never say that any character was never a part of me. However, I would mean that every role has a part of me. Up until now, whatever happened with me plays a crucial role in my acting. It also has a lot to do with one’s imagination.
What do you do when you're not shooting?
When I’m not shooting, I am on my phone, deleting unwanted messages and pictures, which sometimes consume my entire day. *laughs* Otherwise, I spend time reading or talking to my friends. Since I have extra time now, I carry out household chores. If you ask me about my typical routine, I spend my time reading scripts and doing theatre.
People have their lows and highs, especially in the media light. What is your mantra?
I believe that we create a world around ourselves with our loved ones in it. If you feel low, I would ask you to engage in activities like exercising or going for a walk. Maintaining a positive environment around you is very important. You can also talk to trees and pour your heart out in their presence. But, if you feel like something is really bothering you, you’ll have to get it out of your system. You don’t need to run away from it. If you don’t understand suffering, you won’t enjoy happiness.
Everyone has their own ways of coping. If you feel that a person needs you, listen to them without being judgmental. Support them as much as possible. They may take their own time to open up to you and at one point tell you what is actually bothering them.
Theatre has been your first love, so you quoted. You even have a spectacular resume in theatre acting. Do you think theatre is an excellent place to start as a young actor?
I don’t have any views on that. I believe that everyone has their journey, so it isn’t necessary to start from the theatre to be an actor. You can begin by acting in a cinema or a series. At the same time, one must always remember to pursue acting academically. You can enroll in an acting institute or theatre or simply be a part of a film unit and indulge in its intricacies. If you want to partake in this journey for a longer duration, you’ll have to enrich yourself as an actor. You should take training, but it is not necessary where you receive it from.
Theatre is where you impart a valuable measure of knowledge. For me, theatre and cinema are separate yet independent parts of the same industry. I like doing both theatre and films. I do theatre because it has been my first love. Some brilliant actors have never done theatre but are still regarded for their work and contribution to the industry.
Do you believe that opportunities for realistic and content-driven movies have increased in comparison to before? You've worked for a while now. Is there a significant shift you have observed in Indian Cinema?
Every movie is based on reality. Even the commercial films you watch have a base of truth, which is the exact reason you go and watch it. It connects to you at a distinctive level. The kind of acting we do might seem over-acting to some or might not be good enough for some audience.
Every role, character, or story has a lot to do with the geography of the place. The land that you work on is significant because it gives you a language. In our country, the dialects change every 40 km. I get to speak Bundeli at one point and Bhojpuri the next moment. The acting we used to do 20 years ago would seem more exaggerated now. Things keep changing with time.
Similarly, no two people will have the same taste in acting or films. In the same way, realistic and masala movies carry different flavors each. Both have their uniqueness and importance. I feel if you can connect with the audience emotionally, they will react to every expression and might even have a good time watching it. How you communicate is really important and is the key to learning while acting.
Quarantine has been hard on everyone. Some migrant laborers walk miles and miles towards home. Some of them are even framed and fooled. People feel confined in their own homes. The disease grows stronger every day. What lessons have you learned about life and human behavior in general?
It is a tragic phase in each one of our lives. People are rioting and being violent as usual, but I see such indifference among people for the first time in my life. Many migrants live in the streets, some of whom are suffering to make ends meet. What is even sadder is knowing that our society and the system can help them yet remain undisturbed.
We are holding back as we are worried about our joblessness and savings. We are neglecting the ones who have dedicated their lives to serve the society. Now that they are heading back to their villages, people panic and imagine the horrors that await them. The suffering of a person is painful to witness. I feel bad for the kids who are merely six-year-olds walking on roads and holding their parents’ hands. I can’t imagine what might be going on in their hearts and how this pandemic will form a permanent scar.
In Article 15, you portrayed a significant role. Apart from it being a critical move towards the development of the Indian society, what drove you to this role?
There are times when you give your consent because you either love the direction or the script. Here, both the factors were involved in my decision to work for the film. I have worked with Anubhav in Mulk before. When he wanted to cast me for the role, I did not feel I needed to read the script. Nevertheless, I read it and found it to be a brilliant one and which had relevance in the times we live. Hence, it was evident that I had no reason to reject the script and not be a part of it.
Sardari Begum, a National Award-winning Film, stared brilliant actors and was also based on the true story of a courtesan. How do you feel when you look back at the work you have done for the movie?
Looking back at my first film, I couldn’t watch Sardari Begum myself since I felt like an amateur, but the experience was terrific. It had always been my dream to work with Shyam Babu( Shyam Benegal), a legendary director. I never once made bucket lists, but working with him would definitely be a part of it.
I had seen his movies, and I always thought if I would work with him. Sometimes, when you watch a lot of films of a particular director, you develop a familial feeling. Even before he was about to explain the shot, I knew what he would have to say. I still take pride in it because he proved me right every time. Then comes the part of an actor where I would be required to execute it.
Your most recent release is Thappad. Could you speak a little about that movie?
Talking about a movie feels like a disease. Ek Bimaari Si Lagti Hai. All I can say is that one should watch it as it will be worth their time. You can have discussions at length on the issue or the movie with others who have seen it. But if you ask me, I’d say that alike Article 15, Thappad is a relevant movie. It is about relationships and domestic violence, which is a crucial issue to address in today’s time and society. It raises a lot of questions on familial relationships that involve any two people with interpersonal bonding.
Thappad raises questions and debates about the current happenings, along with providing entertainment. At times, it leaves one uncomfortable. I’m happy when movies like Thappad, Article 15, or Mulk facilitate dialogues in society. The audience always discusses the pros and cons of a film, and it is essential that people talk to each other and put forward their views and opinions. It is like sifting through a sieve and separating the edible and non-edible parts.
What is the most important lesson you've learned from the industry?
If you ask me if the city has taught me anything, I’d say yes, indeed, but not from the industry. Mumbai has taught me to respect my work and that one’s existence is only vital until their best to their work. One important lesson I have learned is to never treat anyone as inferior. It’s always your hard work that will garner you respect. The city’s pace is enthralling and will only encourage you to keep working. In the same way, the industry has taught me to keep working and learning from the people around me.
Could you highlight the inevitable sacrifices that come to an actor? What stands as the biggest sacrifice in your career?
I didn’t sacrifice anything to become an actor because it was an indulgent behavior of mine. I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, and my family prioritized my interests. To me, they are the ones who made the most meaningful sacrifices. At present, I’m doing what I always wanted to do.
There was not a single moment in life where I have sacrificed something. I am grateful for the life I’m living today, as many people do not get to live the life they envisioned. I believe I am lucky to be able to do so. During my acting journey, I never came across any difficulties or financial. When you do what you love, it is always fun, even if it seems hard.
Can you give some words of inspiration to young artists on our platform? What do you think can help them achieve their goals?
Everyone has their own journey, and each one of us is competing for it. A piece of advice I’d like to give would be– Find out the reason and the purpose of doing whatever you have been doing.
There is no particular formula or mantra for it. If we had a mantra for everything we did, we would have evolved way earlier. Never forget to remember your hardships when you achieve your goals. This isn’t a movie where you have a double that’d play a specific role for you. You are the sole traveler on your journey. Be prepared to face both joy and sorrows.
Lastly, who inspires you, both in life and in the industry?
I can’t think of a particular person that inspires me. I learn something from everyone. If I were to make a list, I would leave no one out of it. My friends, family, parents, grandparents, teachers are the ones that have inspired me the most. I can mention many names, but a significant number of people will be left out.
The industry has many prominent like Nawaz, Irrfan, and Naseer. To answer your question, I would say – Naseer Sahab, since I have been watching him on-screen since my childhood and have loved him as an actor. Om Puri is also one of my favorites.