Bollywood’s favourite character actor these days seems to be a popular face from small screen, Narendra Jha, who drew wide appreciation from both critics and audience for his role as Dr Hilal Meer in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider (2014), which was based on Shakespeare’s King Hamlet.
Last Wednesday, on January 25, Jha added another feather to his cap when he became the common factor, or actor, in both the big budget releases. While he played an underworld don Musa Bhai in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Raees, Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil presented him as a suave cop Chaubey.
If he is restrained, thoughtful in Kaabil who wouldn’t let you know what’s going inside his head, his Raees role is more about dominating the screen as a mastermind criminal. And it is a tedious task when your co-actor is someone like Shah Rukh Khan, but he passes with flying colours.
However, Jha hasn’t seen Raees yet. “As of now, I have seen Kaabil because I was in Nashik where the nearest theatre was playing Kaabil. Raees is on my to-watch list today.”
He shares how he became a part of Haider. “I did so many films like Fun2shh and Bose The Forgotten Hero before Haider and so many other films in Telugu. Actually, I had met Vishal Bhardwaj during the International Film Festival of India, and there he told me about the concept. Later, I got a call from casting director Mukesh Chhabra and then I came on board. But it wasn’t like I was new to cinema. It wasn’t a big role, but it was very impactful.”
“Afterwards, I worked in Humari Adhuri Kahani, Force 2, Ghayal Once Again and Mohenjo Daro,” Jha said.
“You may consider me a latecomer to films, but I have always given the foremost importance to acting, be it the television or films. I never differentiate between different media,” he adds.
His journey from a small town Koilakh in Bihar’s Madhubani to Mumbai shows how dreams take you places. “I belong to a place where the tradition of theatre is very old. You won’t believe the place had a well functioning dramatic society in 1923. My father and brother were active participants in village theatre.”
He adds, “Like most of the others in Bihar, my father also wanted me to go for IAS. I was doing my post-graduation in History from JNU in Delhi when I thought of getting trained in acting. On my father’s encouragement, I enrolled into a diploma course at Shri Ram Centre.
Then I came to Mumbai and started doing ad films. From Prahlad Kakkar to Mukul Anand, I worked with the who’s who of the ad world in more than 150 projects. Shanti was the first TV show that was offered to me. That turned out to be a good beginning.”