Piyush Mishra is so much more than just an actor…he is a performer in every sense of the term. His journey as he effortlessly traversed between theatre, music and films has been as grey and at the same time as colourful as the characters that he has been portraying in Bollywood movies for the last two decades. Off late, he has been keeping busy touring with his musical project ‘Ballimaaraan.’
For those acquainted with Mirza Ghalib, the very name of the musical project might just ring a bell. Ballimaaraan is an area in Delhi close to Chandni Chowk that was once home to Ghalib Saab. Piyush Mishra’s project is a tribute to the great poet, as he seeks inspiration from the lanes where once Ghalib lived and rested.
In an exclusive conversation with , Piyush Mishra talks about how theatre happened to him, his understanding of Ghalib and much more.
Excerpts from the interview-
Can we start from the very beginning, how did Theatre happen to you?
I did my first play when I was in the eighth standard, it was the year 1975 as far as I remember. After I performed on stage for the first time, I somewhat got a kick from within since I was a kid who had a severe inferiority complex and I was a troubled child.
Theatre drove my complexities away. I was getting a lot of appreciation and response in the form of claps, which made me feel great. For the first time I was being appreciated in front of so many people, that felt good, it was a big deal for somebody like me. That is when I thought that Theatre could be a profession for me and should not just remain a hobby. Later, I went to the National School of Drama and the rest is history. I joined Cinema in 2003 and came to Bombay and the circle was finally complete.
Over the years, have your feelings for Theatre evolved with time or do they still remain the very same?
Definitely. My emotions for theatre still remain the same, however, the only difference is that now I have a little bit of money in hand and can do theatre for pleasure. Back in the day, I had to worry a lot about money and my parents would often try to talk me out of doing theatre or even ask me to take up another side job because they had no idea what I would go on to do in life. My passion is what drove me to stick with theatre and do what I do. Theatre is not recorded, it lives in your memory, I did not get name, fame or money when I started out it was theatre for theatre’s sake.
Do you have some memories from your early days as a Theatrician that you hold very close to your heart?
Oh my god, so many! But my 20 years of being part of the Delhi Theatre circle made me understand that each day that I spend doing theatre is extremely crucial and made me realise that quality counts over everything else.
You mentioned that you were a part of the Delhi Theatre circle for 20 years, how much of an effect did Delhi have on you a performer?
Most of my theatre work happened in Delhi so it is special in so many ways and the city did have an effect on me as an actor. But again, I did not have money when I was in Delhi and could not support my family, I was a victim of a theatre. The fact that I stuck to theatre despite not having money or being able to support my family might seem very selfish but despite being emotionally and financially exhausted, I kept going on in Delhi. Delhi saw my good-looking and dashing phase.
Your musical project is named ‘Ballimaaraan’, quite a direct reference to Mirza Ghalib. What is your understanding of the Poet and his works and how did it grow?
I have tried to read his works and understand him as much as I can, honestly, whenever there was a heavy Urdu line I stopped reading mid-way as well. I have had fun reading him though and have loved his work. Gulzar Sahab’s serial on Ghalib had a deep impact on me.
Without giving much away, what is ‘Ballimaaraan’ all about?
It is a collage of songs that have nothing to do with cinema, they are independent songs that are written and composed by me and a few by Vishal Bharadwaj. There is a lot of sarcasm and pun hidden in the lyrics, and the tunes are composed in a way so that everybody can hum lines along with us. Most of the songs talk about contemporary times which is important to note.