On his first day at the shoot of the renowned TV series Chanakya way back in 1991, actor Sanjay Mishra took 28 takes till the exasperated director left him with an assistant director! Looking back, Sanjay says that he just couldn't understand the character from the point of view of the director. Then on, he has made it a point to not delve too deep into the script and blindly be a director's actor. "That's why I never read a script but always let the director narrate it to me. I believe that a script is meant to come into my life, and that good directors can actually visualise a film beforehand."
As diverse as it gets
Over the years, Sanjay has dabbled with films (both commercial and offbeat), television and advertisements (remember the remarkable Apple Singh from Cricket World Cup 99?). "Whatever comes to me is like a dream role for me and every day is a new start. I am really fortunate to have portrayed such diverse characters," says the actor who has given power-packed performances in films like Masaan, Ankhon Dekhi and Phas Gaye Re Obama.
In his latest project Kadvi Hawa, a film on the battles of farmers made by Nila Madhab Panda (of I Am Kalam fame), Sanjay plays a 70-year-old blind man. "I played the part but I don't know whether I looked 70!" he jokes in his classic simple tone. Calling it a stark contrast from his award-winning role in Ankhon Dekhi, he exclaims, "While my character in Ankhon Dekhi believes only what he sees, the blind man from Kadvi Hawa can only believe what he hears."
Shooting for a range of good films has left him with little time to explore television, a medium that he started his career with. Remembered for his roles in shows like Sorry Meri Lorry, Hip Hip Hurray and Office Office, Sanjay is extremely saddened by the state of the small screen now. "We haven't exploited television at all. We only offer saas-bahu serials and the poor viewers are helpless. They don't have a choice but to watch whatever is presented to them. Why can't we make intelligent programmes?" he asks.
Apart from working in acclaimed and award-winning films, Sanjay has also been seen in hardcore commercial films in which he has shared the screen with some of the biggest stars. Ask him to pick his favourite star and he is quick to say Ajay Devgn (with whom he has worked in the Golmaal series among other films). "He is a very nice human being and loves to eat, just like me!"
But jokes apart, Sanjay calls himself a thorough professional and is not really friends with any actor. "For me, the most important thing is good chemistry. For instance, while playing Ayushmann Khurrana's father in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, I was more worried about whether I actually looked like his father."
In his free time, Sanjay loves to whip up culinary delights for his daughters, travel, and catch up with his friends from National School of Drama. He enjoys going to Uttarakhand in particular to visit his in-laws, where many people call him 'Uttarakhand ke damaad' (Uttarakhand's son-in-law)!
With a career spanning over 25 years, he is grateful to directors like Rajat Kapoor (Ankhon Dekhi), Neeraj Ghaywan (Masaan), Subhash Kapoor (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) and Adi Pocha (Sorry Meri Lorry).
"There was a time when I didn't have work for nine years and had to prove myself as the eldest son of the family. But I took it one step at a time and proved myself at each step thanks to these film-makers. That's what people like me who don't have a godfather have to do," he signs off.