Ayesha Raza Mishra, who had plays, television shows and web series to her credit, broke into mainstream Bollywood with Dil Dhadake Do (2015). She followed it up with memorable roles in movies like Befikre, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Veere Di Wedding and Student of the Year 2.
Last year, the actor was seen playing significant roles in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Ginny Weds Sunny and Laxmii.
But how did it all start for Ayesha Raza Mishra? Here’s what the actor shared.
1. What was your first project? How did the project come to you?
During my theatre days in Delhi, I used to do small roles here and there, including a part in a show for ETV Urdu. Its sound engineer Anil Saxena asked me to call him whenever I came to Mumbai. Finally, when I came here, I stayed with a friend for a week and then in a PG. I wanted to make it on my own. I called up Anil Saxena and told him to let me know incase there’s any work. He told me that he was shooting for a Doordarshan show and I should come over at Madh Island. This was within a week or ten days of arriving here. I was so new. I had to ask my friend how to reach this bungalow in Madh Island. I somehow managed. It was an episodic horror series called Andhakar and this particular episode was being directed by Irrfan Khan and Tigmanshu Dhulia. Irrfan hadn’t attained Bollywood stardom then, but was an established TV star, and I was in awe of him. He came to me and asked my name. He explained the role which was of a woman of the locality. He asked me if I was interested to do it and I agreed. I got signed for roughly a thousand rupees per day. We shot there for two days.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
Pubali Sanyal from NSD was playing another local woman. Tannishtha Chatterjee was playing a suspicious lady who moves into the neighbourhood. Pubali and I come to sell a small room to Tannishtha. This was the scene.
I was told in Delhi that I don’t know anything about camera angles. So I went to Irrfan and asked him where the camera was. Irrfan, with his straight face, asked me to concentrate on my acting, and told me that capturing that in the camera was his job. So, he refused to tell me where the lens was. That made me really happy as it meant I won’t have any issue about angles.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
The scene required me to bend my head as if trying to see who had come. I did it with an upward movement and the shot got cut. Irrfan came to me and asked what I was doing. I said, “Dekh rahi hoon (I’m trying to look).” He said, “Dekh rahi ho na? Toh mujhe dikha kyun rahi ho? Dekho. Dikhao mat. (Then why are you showing me that you are looking? Just look naturally.)” For the next three takes, we toned the acting down. But Irrfan wasn’t happy. So in the fourth take, I and Pubali peeped out of the window, looked at each other and walked off. Irrfan said this is exactly what we had to do.
4. How was the rapport with your co-stars when you got to meet or work with them again?
I did not get to work with Irrfan or Tigmanshu after Andhakar. I did meet Tannishtha later.
Q. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
At that time, I did the best that I could do. As an actor, you keep analysing yourself and keep growing. The day you become satisfied with your work, your craft will die.
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6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
My mother’s influence was strong as she was an art and cinema person. So, I grew around idolising Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Supriya Pathak, Deepti Naval and others. I wanted to emulate their performances. I wasn’t big into the stars of the 1980s. Later, as a commercial actor, I really liked Juhi Chawla. I loved her brightness, comic timing, energy and innocence.