2 November,2014:Â Piyush Mishra, 50, is brutally honest, apart from being extremely talented. Despite a troubled childhood and a morally weak past, he has been able to overcome not just his bad habits, but also evolve spiritually into being a giver and a caring family man. Over a cup of coffee, ahead of his upcoming comedy The Shaukeens, he talks to Bombay Times about his regrets in life, his emotional anchor and wife Priya and why he considers Anurag Kashyap a bad habit. Excerpts:
How did you come into films?
I am from Gwalior. I passed out from NSD in 1986 and did theatre in Delhi before shifting to Mumbai in 2003 to earn money. In Delhi for 20 years, I had only done wine, work and women. I hated the idea of club theatre for a few hours and would do theatre 24 hours, but I was very famous for being unruly and alcoholic. Due to my friend NK Sharma, whose Act One I was associated with from the beginning, I would follow CPM and pretend to be an atheist just like NK himself was, even though in reality, I used to believe in God. I had a terrible tendency to sacrifice myself to please others. I would write, act, compose and sing and he would direct and our friendship was very thick for five years. I fell in love with my Tamilian architect wife Priya and four days after getting married to her in 1995, NK and I broke our friendship. Of course, I made up with him after 7 years and we were back to being friends. At that time, Priya would run the home and look after our two kids. I got my first role in Dil Se while I was in Delhi only. Tigmanshu was the casting director and it was on his recommendation that Mani Ratnam gave me the role. But I continued doing theatre in Delhi till I finally felt deprived financially, felt exhausted emotionally, physically and morally and decided to move to Mumbai in 2003.
What do you mean by morally exhausted?
I was severely alcoholic and that killed my morale. I was badly behaved and realised that girls would call me to say, ‘What happened to you last night sir? You said such bad things to me.’ But I would not even remember what I had said. That’s when I realised that there was a problem. I had too much anger, jealousy and the need for sex inside me. They say that alcoholics have the knack of having good wives. Priya observed everything with a lot of patience and took me to an organisation in 2006 for treatment and I realised how weak I was spiritually. Alcohol was just a symptom. The real problem was that I was a ganda, neech person who was morally corrupt. I was totally self-centred, not caring about either my wife or my older son. I started taking my moral inventory by writing it down. When I wrote what I had done, I realised that in 99% cases, I had only done wrong for the last 20 years. The fault in each case was mine and I came to it by consulting some recovered alcoholics, whom I can’t name. I cried thinking how I had mistreated my mother and my wife. I then attended a course of Vipassana in Igatpuri in 2010 and that helped me a lot. I finally went back to that organisation that had helped me in 2006, again in 2014. First I suffered pain, then went through a self-guilt trip and then I was told that I not only had to realise that it was my fault, but I also had to say sorry to all those people I had hurt. I thought I would die. But I did finally go and say a sorry to each one of them. And as I did that, I kept getting healed.
How did you face your wife?
I told her how many girls I had brought into the house in her absence. It was very difficult for her and it took time, but today, I feel so light. Today, I love Priya and the kids. I don’t know how to balance my emotions now and feel a lot of love for my younger son Jai. I also regret that I could not do much for my older son Josh. Priya has been not just my emotional anchor, she was doing everything for me while I was torturing her. I had kidnapped her from her home in Chennai to get married and she had left everything behind just to marry me. All through Delhi, I was doing nothing. It’s only after coming to Mumbai that I understood what it means to earn. She was very tolerant and she knows everything in and out. Over the last four years, I have become an introvert. While shooting The Shaukeens, Anupam Kher and Annu Kapoor would make fun of me, as I would give my shot and then go to my room. But I saw no reason to socialise. I am very caring and completely transparent and today, my wife and kids are everything for me and I really try that I should not hurt them. Today, I am very generous and feel that I should distribute everything I have. When I had nothing, people helped me. I want to give back now. I know that there has to be a higher power, who helps you get rid of alcoholism and I can feel that power when I meditate.
What was the lowest period of your life?
My childhood was very disturbing, so I got my first taste of family only with Act One. But in 1995, four days after marriage, I left Act One, two months post which my father died. He died after 36 years of opium addiction. He had been a retired upper division clerk and a major failure in life, who was majorly upset with me all throughout my growing up years. It’s only when I left for NSD that he felt, for the first time, that I had something in me. When he saw me play Hamlet in my first play and my picture in the Times of India is when he felt proud of me. But, by that time, it was too late as I had cut off from him totally emotionally and would address him as Sir. And I regret that today, as I know that later, he would come and see my plays and he knew that I had talent and he was proud of me. But I grudged him for the fact that all through my childhood, he did not understand me. My aunt (my father’s sister) had been married to a man who was 32 years older to her. So when she got married, she first got my father married and then adopted me, so my parents and I lived in her house. Her husband had died before I was born and she was very dominating. My father, by that time, was obliged to her and had become spineless and could not buy a house outside on his own, so continued to take her domination till he died. Her husband had been khandani, but with a zero bank balance. My aunt or my parents did not understand me as an artiste, so I would torture myself by cutting my body with blades with the objective of torturing all of them. That was my way of rebelling. I had always been suppressed and was a moohphat, right from my childhood. I am happy that I was able to look after my mother once I came to Mumbai and she lived with me and blessed me till when she died.
Tell us about The Shaukeens?
Anupam and Annu are both senior to me, but we are all from NSD, so we are all on the same wavelength. They were supportive and tolerant of me. You can only act because of your co-actors. Acting is never done against your co-actors. It is always done with your co-actors. In the film, my character is this man whose wife has died early. I am the richest, least classy and morally, the poorest of the three of us. They are all sexually deprived due to their backgrounds. So they are justifiably needy, but due to social norms, cannot go for it. Every person in real life wants to go and have sex. I too want to, but nowadays, as soon as this snake is standing inside me, my conscience tells me not to and 80%, I listen to it. In the film, they go to Mauritius, where they meet this young girl after which it is a story of leching, then attempt, then failure, then regret, repent and then lastly, they are rewarded poetic justice. After facing failure, they realise that it is morally wrong. It is not a Grand Masti or a Kyaa Kool Hai Hum, but it is a well-written script in which the central idea has been taken from the old Shaukeen.
Have you made friends in the industry?
Tigmanshu Dhulia, Sai Kabir and Anurag Kashyap are my friends. Tigmanshu is very naive and I have not seen a person so non-corrupt as him. He has not changed at all and even though he never gave me films, for some reason, I never felt bad. Anurag was an admirer of mine from my theatre days. Anurag is a bad habit in my life. I don’t want to act with him, but I want to do everything else with him, be it writing or singing or composing, as only he accepts everything that I do. Every person enjoys working with him, but in our case, our egos come in between when I am acting with him. Both, in the case of NK and Anurag, I was willing to do anything for them and was willing to sacrifice myself for them and that was the problem. They would take me for granted and my ego would not accept it. I was in the habit of losing friends and in both cases, it was my fault and I compensated later.
Are you less ambitious in life now?
I am not egoistic now, but was very earlier. But I always was less ambitious. When I started being humble in the last few years is when I started making enemies, as my friends felt jealous. I had always been the dark horse. But it started to disturb me lesser and lesser, as my journey had become stronger and today, it is not that easy to hurt me. I will tell you a Gautam Buddha story. When he was teaching, a lot of sages came and started abusing him. And he would say nothing. So his students asked him why he didn’t respond. He asked them, ‘Do you have a birthday? If you don’t accept the gift someone gives you, it will remain with the person who has given it to you, right? They have given me gaalis, but I didn’t take it, so it remained with them.’ Till the time you don’t want to get insulted, you can’t get insulted.