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Piyush Mishra on films, theatre, Ballimaaraan, Husna and more

Ahead of his headlining performance at HT Imagine Fest 2019, we spoke with Piyush Mishra on theatre, Delhi, his band Ballimaaraan, Mirza Ghalib, his favourite medium of expression, and Husna.

ht imagine fest 2019 Updated: Mar 14, 2019 19:09 IST
Saumya Sharma
Saumya Sharma
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Piyush Mishra,Piyush Mishra interview,Husna
Piyush Mishra talks to Hindustan Times ahead of his performance with his band, Ballimaaran, at the HT Imagine Fest 2019.

He is one of the most talented men in Bollywood in the present day and is known for his writing, his ‘poetic’ acting, writing and performing poetry as well as taking the true meaning of good content forward in what is called mainstream Bollywood. He also started his band and named it Ballimaaraan - after a place full of memories of Old Delhi, Mirza Ghalib and the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk. Mr Mishra is using the power of music and the magic of words to make a difference - one of the most notable being the conservation of the Aarey forest land which is a proposed project for the Mumbai Metro. He says he was just a “helping hand” in this conservation effort but it is his wife and the others who have done all the groundwork. His involvement has helped popularise this effort because his name is Piyush Mishra, he humbly adds.

Ahead of his headlining performance at HT Imagine Fest 2019, we spoke with Piyush Mishra about his theatre days, his love for Delhi, his band Ballimaaraan, Mirza Ghalib, his favourite medium of expression - films or a live performance (and theatre) and one of his most loved compositions, Husna. Read on.

On National School of Drama, Delhi:

Piyush Mishra, a noted theatre personality has spent nearly two decades of his professional life in New Delhi, studying theatre at NSD, acting, writing, and eventually directing plays. It was not until 1998 that he decided to move to Mumbai and make a base there. He said that it was a choice he made for his wife and his children because his experiences of following art and theatre which probably filled his soul, but hardly ever filled his pockets. So while he expresses poignantly through his roles in Bollywood and definitely through his words, films are a way for him to earn money before fulfilling any other requirement.

He says that wherever I go, I always remember Delhi, especially Mandi House where I’ve spent some crucial years. Bombay (Mumbai) too has given me a lot but I can’t let go of Delhi, I get refreshed whenever I’m in Delhi and my creativity spikes whenever I visit, there’s a lot more I want to do here and I’m sure I’ll write 5-6 songs as soon as I leave here.

On writing:

He says that I had lesser control over my creativity when life was in turmoil (damadol), he could keep writing and composing upto 3-4 songs in a day. As of today, he is more relaxed and enjoying the space he is in and there’s no rush to churn out something creative. His work speaks for himself as of today and he is more at peace now. He says the phase he went through earlier was great in terms of working, writing, composing more but what good is that space or that form of creativity when you can’t sleep at night?

On Bhagat Singh, his friend:

He is credited with writing the powerful dialogues of The Legend of Bhagat Singh followed by more noteworthy projects. It was the play titled Gagan Damama Bajyo, he co-wrote with N.K. Sharma for their theatre group, Act One, that started his ‘friendship’ with the extremist freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Speaking about the play and the film which was inspired by it, Mr Mishra said that he has lived with Bhagat Singh while understanding the character and writing for him along with the others who were fighting the freedom struggle with Bhagat Singh. He says that most people don’t even know his full name wasn’t just Bhagat Singh that’s why it was important for him to share the story of Bhagat Singh Sandhu and how he was deeply affected by all that was going on in the country before he decided to join in the struggle and applied his methods to the revolution.

“Behron ko sunane ke liye ek dhamake ki zaroorat hoti hai,” a dialogue in the play and subsequently the film, explains the sentiment of these new-age freedom fighters aptly. Mr Mishra goes on to add that he cannot fully explain the relationship he shares with Bhagat Singh but he has spent time with him and seen him upfront while living the character through the process of writing the play and the dialogues of the film, nearly a decade later. In a TED talk titled My Friend Bhagat Singh a few years ago, he spoke about the man that Bhagat Singh Sandhu was and what inspired him, drove him to tell the story.

On Husna, his much-loved composition:

Being a big fan of Piyush Mishra isn’t always enough, sometimes there are no words to describe what you feel about the impact that an influential person makes on you, especially when your aspirations are linked with his body of work. I asked him to sing a few lines from this song, a love letter from one lover on this side of the border to his beloved on the other side. Mr Mishra, however, refused to do so. For a brief moment, it made me feel I had probably offended him by asking him to sing a song just a few minutes before his LIVE performance at HT Imagine Fest. But the thought was far deeper than I felt.

Mr Mishra said he will not sing Husna till Pakistan acknowledges “this problem called terrorism”. Explaining his stand he says that the song is closest to his heart but he will not sing it till the issue of terrorism is addressed by our neighbouring country. “It is a torture for me that my fans want to listen to this song but I’ve sworn not to sing it. I have said it at a public forum that I will not be singing Husna until the problem is addressed. We have reached a point where the water has gone above our heads and it’s not fair that jawans are being martyred left right and centre. I understand that Pakistan might say that we are also victims of terrorism given that there are attacks in your country too, children were gunned down in Peshawar, and the situation in Karachi after the attack on Benazir Bhutto Sahiba.”

“If you’re also victims of terrorism, then you must take a stand, Imran Khan Sahab. This is where we must draw the line. It is a political issue so I don’t want to comment any more than this, however, I want to see how much Husna is demanded of me and how far am I able to control not singing it.”

Mr Mishra closed our discussion that evening by singing his heart-wrenching song, Ik Bagal Mein Chaand Hoga, from Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1.

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First Published: Feb 27, 2019 18:05 IST

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