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Master class at NSD, Delhi ft Piyush Mishra and Mukesh Chhabra

ByKriti Kambiri
Feb 22, 2024 06:31 PM IST

Bollywood singer Piyush Mishra and casting director Mukesh Chhabra recently visisted their alma mater, National School of Drama to take a trip down memory lane.

On the penultimate evening of National School of Drama’s (NSD) Bharat Rang Mahotsav, alumni Piyush Mishra (actor-playwright) and Mukesh Chhabra (casting director) took to stage to share their insights into the world of acting, NSD, as well as their mutual love for theatre. Excerpts from their masterclass:

Piyush Mishra: I used to be the prince of Mandi House in the ’80s

Piyush Mishra and Mukesh Chhabra took to stage at NSD, during the recently concluded Bharat Rang Mahotsav, to give a master class on acting, theatre, films and more.(Photos: Manoj Verma/HT)
Actor-singer Piyush Mishra couldn't help but get emotional as he spoke about his 40-year long association with NSD. (Photo: Manoj Verma/HT)

Actor, singer, lyricist, playwright, musician and screenwriter, are the many hats that Piyush Mishra wears. For all these talents he credits his alma mater National School of Drama, which is in Mandi House, Delhi. “Back then, every corner of Mandi House had rehearsals going on. There was no railing, no santri (guards), bas uchhal kar bahar jao, andar aao... Aur samajh lo uss samay ye haal tha mera, ek tarah se prince tha main yahan,” he said.

An actor & fan of cricket

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Recounting the days when he joined NSD, Mishra told the audience how a month-and-a-half into the course, theatre practitioner Fritz (Bennewitz), told him of his limitations with acting. “Unhone pehle hi declare kar diya, ‘Piyush, you are not an actor, leave the stage and join something else’. Main bahut roya, bahut pareshaan hua. And then, I remember, it was December 25, 1984, jab unhe mera ek play (Hamlet) pasand aa gaya. I don’t know what happened but he said it was like a Christmas gift for him.”

Known by his mentors at the NSD repertory to have been moody, Mishra shared how he set the record for the shortest stint with only a week under his belt! “Uss waqt Vivian Richards (West Indies great) khatarnak batsman hote thay. I went to Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) and he was going to play a match the following day. Maine socha, ‘Main play karun, jo main pehle kar chuka hun, ya Viv Richards ki batting dekhun?’ And I decided in favour of the latter!” he laughed.

Mumbai nahin jana...

“I always only wanted to act. Vishal aur Rekha (Bhardwaj), Imtiaz (Ali), Anurag (Kashyap), Manoj (Bajpayee)... Sab phone karke bulate thay ki aa ja Mumbai, kya kar raha hai?” Mishra told the audience.

How did he finally change his mind? “I had responsibilities. Sirf isliye jaana pada. Par main nahi socha tha ki itna kuch milega. Tumhare liye bhi yahi bolunga ki tay karlo mann mein ki kya karna hai. Dil ki suno ustaad, dil ki suno — ki kaam karna hai mujhe, aur bhid jao. Phir araam? F**k araam! Actor banna hai, toh banna hai... Iss profession mein bahut risk hai but risk mein hi toh maza hai!” he closed on a rousing note.

A trophy for ‘Piyush dada’

The actor, while professing his love for both acting and NSD, revealed that he throws a party every year for the first-year students of NSD. “Daaru main first-years ko pilata hun, pi seniors jaate hain! The only condition was for them to never quit acting,” the Husna singer said.

Fittingly enough, at the close of the night, the students took over the stage to felicitate an emotional Mishra with a trophy, with the message: “Piyush dada has always said that he doesn’t want an Oscar, but he will want a trophy that says ‘Most Beloved Senior of All Time’! He throws this party every year just to never let go of us!” Overwhelmed with the love, Mishra sang a few lines of his iconic song Ik Bagal from the film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), ending the night with, “I love you, b********d!”

Casting director Mukesh Chhabra shared several pearls of wisdom for aspiring actors, and reassured them saying, "Sab ke liye kaam hai Mumbai mein!" (Photo: Manoj Verma/HT)

Mukesh Chhabra: Main NSD walon ke liye Bollywood mein nepotism karta hun, aajao!

"NSD ke platform ko samajh jaao aur aagey badhte jaao,” was casting director-filmmaker Mukesh Chhabra’s one big advice for youngsters hoping to make it in the Mumbai film industry. “Log filmon mein nepotism-nepotism kehte bhi hain aur karte bhi hain. Main Mumbai mein NSD walon ke saath yahi karaata hun. Come to Mumbai, mera office tum sabke liye open hai,” he said in his opening announcement and then went on to answer queries about his career, favourite projects and other subjects.

‘Mera career achhe actors ne banaya hai’

Declaring his love for casting, a field where he made a name for himself in the decade-and-a-half gone by, Chhabra said, “Mera career kisi bade naam ne nahin banaya. Sab achhe actors ne banaya… aap jaise, jo yahan se nikle hain.” On being asked why he chose casting direction over acting, he said, “Agar mujhe maloom hota ki main achha actor hoon toh main casting [direction] nahin karta.”

Anurag Kashyap Wasseypur 3 nahin banayenge!

Holding Gangs of Wasseypur I & II (2012), Kai Po Che (2013), Dangal (2016), Laal Singh Chaddha (2022) and Dunki (2022) as his biggest successes, Chhabra added, “Anurag Kashyap (the film’s director) GoW 3 nahin banayenge, hum sab wahan se nikal chuke hain. Wasseypur ki kahani poore ek saal ka process tha, lagbhag 400 actors ko dekha tha. Wo process itna achha tha, main aaj tak nahi bhoola.”

‘Actor kabhi fail nahin hota’

Addressing the differences between theatre and cinema, the Dil Bechara (2020) director said, “Theatre acting is not at all different from film acting. An actor is an actor, be it a film, a (stage) play or a radio play! These are all different mediums and one has to adjust... (filmmakers) Rohit Shetty, Raju (Hirani) sir, Vishal (Bhardwaj) sir... sab alag-alag kara rahe hain. Wahan bhi toh aap apne aap ko mould karte hain na?”

Later, answering an audience member’s question about dealing with failure, Chhabra explained: “Actors don’t fail — sabki bas alag alag majbooriyan hoti hain, be it financial, emotional or familial. Acting aisa kaam hai ki aap kabhi bhi kar sakte ho. For instance, Rajesh Tailang went to Mumbai in 1993, wahan unhone kaam kiya. He came back to [Delhi] in 2014 and worked here. Now he’s back (in Mumbai) aur unse zyada kaam koi nahin kar raha.”

Chittaranjan Tripathy, director of NSD, introduced both the alumni to the audience. (Photo: Manoj Verma/HT)

Chittaranjan Tripathy, director, NSD, introduced Mishra and Chhabra with their personal anecdotes.

Speaking about Mishra, he shared how he felt when he enrolled at NSD, where Mishra was his senior, saying, “Hum sab darey-darey se rehte thay campus mein aur Piyush bhai style se chalte thay! He always had a script in his hand. Unka raub aaj bhi wahi hai.”

For Chhabra, Tripathy said, “Natakwalon ko, Mayanagri (epithet for Mumbai) mein, where people often get lost, Mukesh Chhabra humesha kaam dete hain aur apne darwaze khule rakhte hain… Bollywood ke cinema mein mujhe Mukesh Chhabra ki wajah se kaafi samman mila hai. He gave me the role of Ayushmann (Khurrana)’s father in Shubh Mangal Savdhan. Toh zahir hai, humare NSD ke chhatron ko bhi apnapan dete hi hain."

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