For every dream of stardom that is realized, there are many that perish on the wayside, believes actor Sanjay Mishra, who like any artiste, grapples with questions of recognition and oblivion. The highs and lows are part of an actor's life but what worries Mishra are things beyond the screen -- his installments, striking a work-family balance and dealing with the death of close ones. The constant restlessness is why the script of his upcoming film "Kaamyaab", an ode to character artises in Hindi cinema, resonated with the actor so much.
"I face professional struggle and tackle it every time. But the struggle of living life, of thinking about paying installments, dealing with deaths, going through ups and downs, is constant. There is a life beyond movie posters and that's where the struggle is," Mishra told PTI in an interview.
The actor, who has been in the film industry for 25 years, became introspective about life after the untimely death of his father over a decade ago.
It came as a shock to Mishra and changed his outlook towards things, including his film work, which he gave up briefly. He was pulled back into acting by filmmaker Rohit Shetty, who offered him the comedy "All The Best".
"'Dhondu just chill' from the film became a popular dialogue but I'd say that line on set and cry in the corner. I used to miss my father so much, I'd keep crying between takes. I'd feel 'Let me call him up and ask something' and remember he's no more. I still have his number saved on my phone. You can never delete it," the actor recalled.
Directed by debutante Hardik Mehta, "Kaamyaab" had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, and also features Deepak Dobriyal, Sarika Singh and Isha Talwar.
The "Ankhon Dekhi" actor said doing the film was emotional for him as it honestly captures the life and times of artistes who give their all, often without any great return.
"Some people come here running away from their homes to become a hero. But slowly, some gain some popularity while others become character actors. Then there are those who aren't able to make it at all, who go back to their villages, only to be ridiculed for chasing their Mumbai dreams," Mishra said.
"Imagine giving ten years of your life trying something which doesn't work? The film is about this struggle, the struggle of living life. The story was so close to me because I had done work for money," he added.
The actor said there are still artistes who came to Mumbai when Amitabh Bachchan was reigning and they are fairly known but still can't afford to travel in an auto rickshaw.
"They quietly stand behind bus stops so that they board the bus immediately when it comes, before anyone sees them. The love for cinema, the passion to dedicate all your life only for it to fade away in oblivion... There are so many such artistes. It's an incredibly emotional subject," he added.
In the film, his character is chasing his perfect 500th film.
Mishra can't remember the number of films he's done but someone recently reminded him that the count is 173.
The numbers don't matter to Mishra, who wants to leave behind a legacy of memorable work, a thought that comes from his father.
A week before he passed away, his father had seen "Aloo Chaat", which, for the first time, featured Mishra in a full-fledged role. Reading his father's diary, Mishra realised he had left a parting compliment for him.
"He wrote in the diary, 'I saw the film and it was excellent. Manoj Pahwa is a gifted actor, but Sanjay also has got something in him.' That moved me. The belief that you have something in you comes to you with time. I'm an actor who has climbed every step. When I look back, I know how I've made this far.
"If I had directly gone on 20th step, with fanfare and applause, it would've been troubling. If I was an overrated actor, I would've become an outdated actor," he said.
Produced by Drishyam Films, "Kaamyaab" will be presented by Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment. It's scheduled to release on March 6.
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