People in the Hindi film industry romanticize their struggle a lot, which actor Pankaj Jha considers unnecessary. In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Jha, who played the famous MLA in the Amazon web series Panchayattalks about his acting days, his life in Mumbai, how he never begged for a role and why he never regretted missing out on big movies.
The 45-year-old actor from Saharasa in Bihar has worked in the film industry for over 20 years. He says acting has remained his passion since childhood as he was never good at studying. “Bachpan se hi acting ka keeda tha (I wanted to play since childhood). I was not good at studies. Books were my enemy. Jada padha likha nahi hoon by connection ko padha sakta hoon (Laughs). Somehow I finished my studies and joined the fine arts course because I loved to paint. Thereupon I was introduced to the theater world and then moved to Delhi. I joined the NSD directory and had the chance to work with Mira Nair in Mumbai,” said Jha whose first appearance on camera was in Ram Gopal Varma’s company.
The actor greatly admires Varma as he believes he is the one who changed the face of Indian cinema and gave new life to many. “All these – Manoj Bajpayee, Anurag Kashyap and others are from Ram Gopal Varma film school. He should be credited for introducing real actors to Indian films,” Jha said.
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After Company, Jha played powerful roles in films like Gulaal, Black Friday, Haasil, Laga Chunri me Daag and Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi. The actor believes that if you are talented, “the producers will give you work”. “I’ve seen actors begging for a role. That I can’t do. I believe in myself and I can play any role. When it comes to the struggle of actors, the problem is that people come to Mumbai only to act in movies. Aap written karo, aur koi kaam kartey raho to meet your basics. I was writing for commercials.
The actor, who was also praised for his performance in the webseries Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi, argues that “you even have to enjoy wrestling”. “Wrestle ka bhi apna maza hai, ussey humey seekhna chhaiye (There is also joy in the struggle, we should learn from it). And not just dramatize it into a bloody story. I’ve seen actors shed tears talking about their difficult days. Koi kehta hai mai chaprasi tha, koi kehta hai mai station pe soya tha (Someone says he was a peon, someone says he slept in a train station). What’s wrong with doing a peon’s job,” Jha asks.
“I also had no financial support from my family. So I used to do other jobs when I wasn’t an actor. I just can’t sit around waiting for the roles to come in and only then will I work and then talk about it in interviews. Ye sab bakwas hai. Yaha gareebi ko struggle ko itna glamorize kiya jata hai bewajah (This is rubbish. Here poverty and struggle are unnecessarily glorified),” said Jha, who is also a follower of spiritual guru Osho.
Jha, however, thinks sycophancy is an integral part of the industry. “You have to bow down to producers and directors a lot, which I can’t do. I was doing a series once and one day the director said, ‘Aaj tumney namastey nahi kiya. I said kiya tha aapney dekha nahi..aur aapko dikhaney ke liye baar baar namastey karunga to kaam kab karunga (You didn’t greet me with a Namaste today. I said yes but I won’t many times just for you to notice)”
When asked if he missed any roles due to his outspoken nature, Jha replied, “I don’t mind. I can’t please anyone. I don’t like hypocrisy. For me acting is one of the most spiritual professions and I can’t compromise.
The actor, who was originally offered the role of Sultan in Anurag Kashyap’s crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur (he was later played by Pankaj Tripathi), said: ‘Yes, I was supposed to do this movie . This time I was busy shooting for Deswa (a Bhojpuri film). I told Kashyap that I will answer him. But Mukesh Chabra somehow got Pankaj Tripathi to fill that role. I then had a word with Kashyap and expressed my displeasure as he was a friend. When it was Black Friday and Gulaal, humeny bhai samjh ke bin paise ke kaam kar liya. Hum log ko deney ke liye paisa nahi hai aur Bombay Velvet me itna paisa kharcha kar diye. Theek hai ye sab chalta rehta hai (I worked with no money. (He) had no money to give us but spent so much to make Bombay Velvet. That’s good, it’s all going on).