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Prakash Jha: Smoked bidis, found work with them

Updated on: 04 September,2022 07:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Upala KBR |

Set to play a daily wager in his first film as protagonist, Prakash Jha on stepping into the role for M Ganis upcoming offering, Mato Ki Saikil

Prakash Jha: Smoked bidis, found work with them

A still from the film

Marking his full-fledged acting debut with M Gani’s Matto Ki Saikil, Prakash Jha plays the leading role of a daily-wage labourer who loves his rusty bicycle. In a bid to slip into the skin of the character, Jha spent several days in Mathura and also interacted with daily wagers to actually get a job. Jha tells mid-day, “M Gani has lived in Mathura and understands these characters. Coming from a small town, I have also known these characters. I was surprised and happy to get the chance to play this part.”
Having attended acting workshops across the globe, Jha says he is aware of the importance of learning the nuances of the craft. “Matto was not an easy character to nab. It’s not difficult for an actor to physically look the part, but I had to change my persona too. I am known to play characters that are tough, and strict, but to become a subservient, meek man like Matto, needed work.” 

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Jha spent several days with daily wagers, observing how they wore clothes, and smoking bidis with them. “Just before we would roll, I would go to their spots, watch them for hours, and wait for somebody to pick me up [for employment]. I got picked up twice, and did the job for a couple of hours. I didn’t use soap for two months as I wanted the dust to settle on my body. I stopped using the air conditioner too.”

Juggling both worlds of acting and film-making, Jha establishes that few can understand the pulse of a film as well as a director. After putting in the effort to conduct workshops, and understand the nitty-gritties of the role, he says he ought to follow his director’s vision. “If I am directing, and some great actor comes in and tells me how to take a shot, I will put him in his place. So, I must give the same liberty to my director, because it is his vision.”

Matto Ki Saikil features both, professional actors from local theatres of Agra and Mathura, as well as non-professional artistes. “Before M Gani made this into a film, he used to stage it as a play in Mathura with these actors,” he says, elated that this crucial project on his resume will enjoy a theatrical release. “It’s a pure story about that part of India where people toil throughout their lives. They build our homes, roads, flyovers, and atomic plants, but we don’t know how they live. It takes a pandemic for us to realise that there are crores of people who are working like that.”

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