Pragati Mishra, who became popular after her recent series, JioCinema's UP 65, opens up about her dreams, hopes, aspirations, work, process, and much more!
The journey from making a decision to become an actor to finally becoming one is quite intense. Pragati Mishra, a theatre artist who wanted to become an actor since she was four years old, finally made her start with JioCinema's UP 65 after deciding to quit her 9 to 5 job in advertising to become an actor. She plays Shubhra and has received love and appreciation from all across for her role. While talking to her, I found out that this sweet-natured and passionate woman is a Bollywood like the rest of us! She will be seen in a small scene in Vishal Bhardwaj's Charlie Chopra and a web show by Viktor Mukherkjee next. Until then, here she is, spilling the beans about UP 65, her role, manifestations, why and how she became an actor, the difference between theatre and camera acting, who she is as a person, and a whole lot more!
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Here's what she had to say!
UP 65 is already out and performing well on Jio Cinema. How do you feel about it? Do you have any favorite response, review, or reaction from what you received?
Since the beginning, the overall response to the show has been quite overwhelming for me. I literally haven't received a single DM saying anything nearly negative about the show. People have picked up scenes, and analyzed and talked about them in detail. They are sharing how they find it so relatable and how they've experienced something similar, which is very heartwarming. Now, I don't know if I can just pick a favorite response, but I actually received a really long email from a fan in which he expressed how watching Nishant and Shubhra on screen and their love story made him believe in the power of unconditional love, which is what it was as well. It was really sweet of him to take the time and really go into the depths of what unconditional love means and how it's made him believe in it all over again. Because it's so important to believe in love.
What was it that you find similar/different to Shubhra and how did you prepare for her?
The preparation was taken care of by the extremely wonderful team- my director, my writer, my producers and we all did workshops for 10 to 15 days as an ensemble. We worked with an acting coach extensively - Piyush Kumar, on our characters, our background, and the specific scenes in the show. This really helped me in a way that made me think in a lot of different directions and widened my options that I hadn't explored after just reading the script.
Shubhra is a fun-loving character and likes to prank people a lot. Even though I don’t prank people, I do have a jolly good image of having and doing fun things- entertaining people, really, so that is something that I find similar to her- her unique nature of being a fun-loving person! She hails from Banaras and is also very culturally rooted, and in spite of the fact that I am from UP I have been brought up all over Maharashtra hence I am not really as ingrained as her which was really different from me and interesting to explore.
You have had a chance to work in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Charlie Chopra can you tell us a bit about that and hint towards your role?
It was absolutely surreal to work on the show! I actually just shot for a day since my character is a part of the protagonist Charlie's (Wamiqa Gabbi) introduction scene. For me, the most special thing about shooting that one scene was getting to see the best of both worlds of Vishal Bhardwaj sir- music and cinema! Usually it happens on set that the scene is written in a certain way; you have a few lines, so you come, block, and then go for it. But what was extremely heartwarming and surprising here was that just before the shot, Vishal sir came to all the actors and spoke to us separately as to how we should do the scene, which was unexpected because it’s not even my scene it’s Charlie’s introduction. While we were doing the scene which is about a jhoota curai and saaliyaan all teasing the dulah, we had a few lines that we were supposed to do so we started rehearsing. But he came to us and said, what if we add a melody to this, and why don't we all come and sing a song and do it?! And instantly he made the song at that moment and said let's sing this melody, and suddenly the entire atmosphere of the set changed because everybody from like all the actors to all the supporting artists, all of us came singing that song. So, I feel blessed to have got a taste of his magic in that one scene!
In brief, can you describe how your journey has been from being an aspiring actor to finally doing shows on OTT?
If I have to put in one line I would say- It's been a journey full of new discoveries and I've been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work. I started my journey in 2018 but I've constantly worked because I have always been doing stage and while theatre was ongoing there was one or the other thing that I had been working on. And working in two mediums has definitely taught me a lot. I get very excited with all the workshops, and the training that I get to do as an actor and find it very fulfilling to see how I can implement that on stage and on screen differently. It's been extremely gratifying and sure it's taken me this time to reach here but it's only made me learn so much more and now I feel I have a little bit to offer when I get more projects.
You do both theatre and camera acting, could you describe to me how different and yet similar both these forms are and how they helped you grow as an actor?
Anyone who's watched a play live and then watched something on the screen will see how there's a huge difference between the mediums. So of course, technically both these mediums are very different. You just get one take on stage but that one take is in your control because as an actor on stage, you can take the scene wherever you want. It’s like exploring while performing! Whereas on screen, you might end up doing the same scene maybe 20 times and you don't know which one will work. It is still an exploration but the ball is in someone else's court as you're unaware which one is going to be in. Also a lot more is in your control on stage because you've rehearsed so much and there is no action cut or any technical stops, you can just go with the flow. And with each performance, you can sit back and analyze to make it better in the next one. But on film sets there is a time crunch so even if you're analyzing, you don't know if you have the time to implement it. In my experience, this certainly makes you very spontaneous as an actor because no matter how much you prep, you have to be spontaneous.
In the way of performing, yes, you have to kind of mold yourself as an actor but your process doesn't change a lot, the way you prep or the way you feel like that character doesn't change a lot. But to be honest, your process is the same, but the way you perform changes. When you are shooting, you are doing it for like 4 to 5 months, so the character gets embedded in you because you are playing that person for a very long period. Whereas on stage you rehearse for a month and a half to perform so you are there with them for two months and then keep coming back to it. Definitely, both are very different experiences! But I want to keep on doing both theatre as well as films/series as I want to learn, continue training, do workshops, and love to take roles that challenge me as an actor.
What was that one moment or inspiration that made you realize that I wanted to become an actor?
There were two moments- one was when I was a kid. I knew in my heart that this was the only thing that would make me happy, and I really wanted to do it, which was when I was four years old, and I would watch Bollywood songs on TV and dance to them. That was like the original honest moment wherein I knew this was what my life should be! But then you grow up and become more practical and realistic. The second was when I was doing advertising as a 9 to 5 job and realized that if I didn't follow my dream right now, if I don't give a chance now, maybe I never will. So I quit my job in 2017- 2018 and started to pursue this full-time!
Tell me five things about you that probably the world doesn't know but you would like the audience actually to know about?!
I really enjoy fashion and clothes mean a lot to me, they're a huge part of my personality! Even the suit that you see that I wear in my introduction scene in the show UP 65 in episode two, I actually got that made by myself because I wanted to have something that Shubra wears. I want to keep it with me all my life so I got that made after getting permission from my costume head I got that designed, and that's the first time you see Shubra in something I got made. I've enjoy reading which is a recent exploration for me as during the lockdown, I started reading a lot as opposed to not reading at all earlier. Books that I read are- Palace of Illusions and Dialogues with the Wind.
I believe in vision boards and manifestation. I've made like two vision boards till now and they're in my room in front of my bed so whenever I wake up I look at them. I love traveling and my favorite place is Pondicherry, where I also did an acting workshop called- Adishakti and it was the most beautiful 10 days of my life! I also love nature and spending time in it. It is weird to say this but if given a chance to be any animal, I would love to be a bird and just fly!
What does your vision board look like, what are you manifesting? And what's in store for your upcoming future?
I would like to work on a full-fledged film with Vishal Bhardwaj sir as I am also a huge admirer of William Shakespeare and I love what Vishal sir has done with his plays, and basically everything that he has made. But if you really want to know what’s on my vision board then I’d really like to be a part of a musical. As I've grown up on Bollywood so I’d like to be a part of a feature film and dance and do all of that like a beautiful Bollywood musical with a heartwarming human drama story, something that is refreshing and not like old school in that way. As for what’s in store for my future the show’s title is still in work but it’s a web show that I worked on before UP 65. It's directed by Victor Mukherjee (Lakadbaggha). It stars Anshuman Jha, Sussana Mukherjee, Priya Yadav, and myself as one of the leads. We shot that in Arunachal Pradesh and it is coming out soon.
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