"Don't join the film industry for glamour," says accidental filmmaker Sudhir Mishra

Director Sudhir Mishra comes from a family of politicians and academicians, but he is passionate about his craft.He has two sane advices for those from small towns who aspire to make it big in Bollywood -- if you have the talent, and if someone comes to you with an indecent proposal, you should slap the person very hard, and if you are good, people will take notice of you, sooner or later, so be patient

Neelesh MisraNeelesh Misra   20 July 2019 8:55 AM GMT

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Whenever my friend Sudhir and I meet, among other things, we definitely discuss "Mishrapan"! He always insiststhese are those liberal, agnostic, little stubborn, bit arrogant, bit tied up, bit angry kind of people, who are becoming extinct! We have a Lucknow connect, which helps us bond. So, when we caught up in his office in Mumbai, it wasn't really an interview. We casually talked about politics, filmmaking, his love life and those hundreds of aspiring writers, actors, directors, who meet in coffee shops in Versova every day, hoping to make it big some day

Me: It's a coincidence that you are into films, else I would have been interviewing you as a politician.

Sudhir: My maternal grandfather was a politician. We would visit him during summer holidays. He would take us to see the chief minister's bungalow. I have seen powerful people walking around, I have seen people supplicate. I have seen it all. Had I entered politics then, I would have turned into an alcoholic and died by now! I think politics is about freedom and how well do those in the corridors of power manage to control us and to what extent are we able to free ourselves from their shackles. We need more groups; more people should debate and discuss issues and we should try to arrive at some concrete solutions. We know our country, and irrespective of your inclinations or ideologies, there are issues to deal with. We all know tribals are suffering. Irrespective of the prism you would choose to look at these issues, the fact is that no one is addressing them. They just know issues exist. No one is dealing with tribals, no one is talking about climate change. What is politics? It is for the people. Politicians should at least try to be on a common platform, which is the fabric of our Constitution.

Me: You are right. There were issues that were relevant to me as a journalist, but only after I became a father, I realised how big these issues actually are. For instance, climate change. What is this world in which my child is growing up? How will the world be? The air which my daughter breathes, the roads on which she walks, the temperature, the conflict…all of that. Anyway, I want to take you back to Lucknow. That's where you were born, right?

Sudhir: I was born in Nagpur, but came to Lucknow soon after.

Me: So, how was life back then?

Sudhir: My grandfather was a doctor. He is no more now, but his house is still at 1, ShahanajafRoad. I grew up at my great grand father's house; he was my father's maternal grandfather. He was the founder of KKC College, which now is Jai Narayan Mishra College. He gave away 24 acres of land, I wish I had it! So, I have seen power from close quarters, but it all slipped away. Then I moved to Delhi and dabbledinto theatres. My brother Sudhanshu Mishra was into theatres. He was my guru. He died very young, at 36. He was more talented than me. He was younger to me and was more interested in films. That's how I got into films. I met someone called Badal Sarkar. He made me understand the business of film making. That's when I felt confident that I would be able to take it up professionally. I met many people like MK Raina, Pankaj Kapoor, Manohar Singh -- they were all big stars in Delhi back then when I was just a kid lurking around.

Me: So, what was the first step? You were a writer?

Sudhir: Yes, I was assisting Vidhu Chopra. Then I met Kundan Shah and started writing. I learnt a lot from Renu Saluja, who was a renowned editor then and later became my partner. I learnt a lot from my brother Sudhanshu, who had passed out of film institute. Saeed Jaffrey, Ketan Mehta, Mahesh Bhatt, Javed Akhtar, Shekhar Kapoor…I learnt something from all of them. I started writingscreenplay of Jaane bhi do yaaro. It was Kundan's vision, but together we tried to achieve something. Maybe he liked what I did and gave me credit. Actually,Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was a school for me. Not just writing, I didn't give a damn about what I was doing. I wanted to do everything. It was very exciting.

Me: How old were you then?

Sudhir: I was just 22.5-23. I family was into academics. Had I followed their path, I would have been a researcher somewhere. But this was fascinating. They were paying me, I was getting food to eat and on top of that I was getting to learn so much. So, I was very excited about all this.

Me: You managed to survive?

Sudhir: Yes, things were very casual back then. (Mahesh) Bhatt would randomly say, "Let's go to Kulbhushan's(Kharbanda) house, he has earned a lot money. Let's go and party." At times I found myself at Javed Akhtar's house, at times at Sayed Jafferi's house. Randomly he would give me Rs 100. I never had to bother where my next meal came from, I would get to eat every day. We would sleep on our terrace. It wasn't a big house; 3-4 of us shared a one-bedroom flat. They all were associated with the film industry. I made Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, which did well. It was received well. I like Khoya Khoya Chaand, I like Dharavi. Working with Om Puri was the greatest pleasure of my life. I think it was lot of fun. I hope I get to make some good films for the next 10-15 years.

Me: When I met you last time, you told me you had started practicing power yoga…

Sudhir: Yes, I practice yoga for an hour and a half every day. I don't do hot yoga anymore, which is meant to be done in 42 degrees. Someone who practices traditional yoga told me it's injurious to health. So, I stopped. I started very late, at 45, so I stopped hot yoga because your body isn't as flexible and if it's humid, you may end up hurting yourself.

Me: When did you first fall in love? Did it happen many times?

Sudhir: It first happened when I was in school. I was in a serious relationship when I was doing theatre. I would not want to name anyone as we have split, and she remarried, but I was married when I was doing theatre. Then I was with Renu. We were in love. Then she passed away.But I was in 3-4 serious relationships.

Me: How was Renu?

Sudhir: I have written a lot about her. She was very friendly and happy-go-lucky. She wasn't yours, she wasn't anybody's. She was with all those who worked with her -- she was like a habit, good or bad. I have never come across a woman so confident, so complete. She never held herself back. She would not hesitate to say whatever came to her mind. She worked on her own terms. She was fearless. Most of her colleagues were men, but she was never subdued or shy.

Me: I want to talk about April 1, 2012. You were in a train, you were shooting something and that day you came to know…

Sudhir: Yes, I was in a train. We were on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. I slipped and fell and they took me to a hospital. They were trying to give me anaesthesia…

Me: What were you filming?

Sudhir: A film called Calcutta Mail…so I was at the hospital. They were trying to fix my broken leg. Just then my phone rang. It was Vinod (Chopra) on the line. He informed me, Renu had cancer. Then she came on the line, laughed and told me there is little lump or something. So, I came back and thus began our four-month long journey. We discovered on April 1, it was like a crude April fool's joke which continued till August 16, the day she died, it was a long journey. By the time cancer was detected, it was quite late.

Me: And how did she deal with it?

Sudhir: She didn't take it well. She thought it was very unfair. I have written a lot about her. She didn't like the fact that all of us who lived must worse life survived and she had to endure the pain. She would often curse her rotten luck. She did not appreciate it at all. She became aloof. She became a recluse. She cut herself off. She was in her own world. Probably that's how she dealt with it.

Me: When you joined the film industry in 1982, things were very different then. Now the medium has changed. It's all digital now. How did you reinvent yourself?

Sudhir: I do what comes to menaturally. But those who are watching this interview, I want to tell them that everything is not idealistic. There are certain things you do professionally, there are certain things you do for money and there are certain things you do because you want to do those things. But you should not do anything condescendingly. You are not doing anyone a favour. If you get used doing a sloppy job, it will come in the way of things you are good at.

Me: We are sitting here in Versova (Mumbai). There are so many coffee shops around us. Practically, a film is in the making in each of these coffee shop. Those who want to be actors visit these coffee shops, hoping some director or producer would spot them and cast them. Those in-the-making writers, actors or directors live in a bubble. There is no one to tell them that you are not good at it or you can't do it.

Sudhir: If you have the talent, and if someone comes to you with an indecent proposal, you should slap the person very hard. If you are good, people will take notice of you, sooner or later. I am not saying all get a fair chance. Tragedies also happen. But it's important to be talented. Then people also take you seriously. And if you have the talent, then you will also have a little pride, which is necessary. I don't know why people confuse it with arrogance. But if you don't have that kind of arrogance, then people will take you for a ride. You need a good teacher, you need a good guy, you need a good mentor. You should consider yourself lucky if somebody gives you the right advice at the right time. But ultimately, its your decision. You have to decide whether you are good at something or not. One chooses to be in a particular profession, so one has to know if one is good at it or not.

Me: Aspirations have gone up. Those who come from small towns like Darbhanga or Sitapur, who are very talented, when they come to Mumbai and when they look at people like you, what advice would you like to give them? Today, are the chances of being successful more or less considering the fact that there are many talented people out there now?

Sudhir: If you are interested in this profession, if you have the talent and skills then you should definitely come here and explore. If you are good at what you do, you will get opportunities. It may take a little longer and you will have to be patient. One advice I would like to give is that don't come for the glamour. There is no glamour. You will have to put in lot of effort. You are not passionate enough, you will not be able to deal with hardships and setbacks. I think it's great time of possibilities, I think that's the interesting thing and that is also very dangerous because you can get lost. So, I don't know if its good time or bad. Some people say the web is a dark place, there are lot of fake news reports ...it's very difficult to filter what is good, what is bad.

Me: Whenever we met, you and I, we discuss 'Mishrapan'. It's this casual attitude we have…

Sudhir: 'Mishrapan' is like this joke in UP. These are those liberal, agnostic, little stubborn, bit arrogant, bit tied up, bit angry with the authorities…those kinds of people. This breed is becoming extinct.


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