Anshuman Jha who is known for his movies like ‘Love, Sex Aur Dhoka’, ‘Yeh Hai Bakrapur’, and ‘Mona Darling’ to name a few, makes certain confessions before the release of his upcoming film, ‘Angrezi Mein Kehte Hai‘.
The young talent was always adamant about choosing films and scripts which had an underlying moral narrative and social satire. His emphasis on the relevance of content-driven films, instead of the masala content for drawing audiences to mindless item numbers can be distinguished through his choice of roles like the upcoming film, ‘Angrezi Mein Kehte Hai‘. Anshuman talks about his role in the film which is slated for its release this May 24, and his experience of working with director Harish Vyas.
“AMKH is a very special film because I wanted to work with Sanjay Mishra for a really long time. He’s one of my favourite actors in India. I absolutely fell in love with the world Harish was trying to create in Banaras. I was born in Allahabad and I have spent the younger days of my life there so it holds a very special place. He offered the character of Jugnoo to me, and the character is a very loud and happy one. Typical of what you’d say “Banaras ka launda”. I had not done a character like this in my film body of works so far. So the character was very interesting and challenging at the same time.
Harish is very simple and an uncluttered sort of a man. It reflects in the kind of works he does. I am so proud and happy that I had the opportunity to be a part of such a project, and more than that, the journey and the relations that I’ve made in the process of the film.”
I think Ranbir Kapoor is a phenomenally blessed actor because he keeps pushing the envelope as an actor. He is a star, yes, but he is also a brilliant actor and that is why he is so good.
The film went to New York and won the best film there. It also had a standing ovation at the Jaipur International Film Festival. If one wants to progress and develop in their field, it is imperative that they learn from the experiences that they are engaged in. The people surrounding Anshuman created an atmosphere which enabled him to thrive and comprehend his art all the better. Accomplished actors such as Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi helped Anshuman grow. The story of the film itself allows a change to the prevalent norms of how an Indian man deals with his ordinary life.
As the socio-political climate of India changes, the differences are evident even in the choice of films by the Indian audiences. They are now more open to watching a movie which captures their emotions and engages them intellectually. Anshuman would like to give the changes a bit more time in order to cement such thought processes into the psyche of the Indian audience.
“It’s changing for sure but it will take its time. We as a socio-cultural society will have our picks. The art form of any country defines the era and my film LSD was in a way, a pathbreaking film. It didn’t have a heavy star cast but did the kind of business it did and was a hit at the box office. It has already been seven years since. And luckily, every year there is a lot of new good content that has been coming up in this space. But the biggest challenge in India is still the exhibition. Indie films in India are still fighting for a space in the movie theatres. But at least people are backing high content-low budget stuff. This is exactly why you will see a ‘Vicky Donor’ come out, but for its time it was a very noble concept. Not too many people would make a film on sperm donation. Or films like ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ where the actors who you don’t know are doing so well. So obviously there is an audience appetite for good content and people keep getting better. We are in good times. People are open to new stuff and this has a lot to do with exposure. There has been a massive change in the past decade. Social media and internet has created a huge impact.”
As mentioned earlier, Anshuman tries to constantly challenge himself with his choice of characters. His repertoire is certainly well equipped in order to tackle a diverse range of roles. However, it does prompt the question of what is it that he is looking for, for the spirit of an artist.
“It’s a very good question. I want to do everything. I am a trained dancer and I have done martial arts. I think for the next half of my life, I would like to do or recreate the kind of characters that I have done on stage and bring that on celluloid. I really consider theatre as my “riyaaz”. I think every art form needs “riyaaz”. Absurd things happen in real life, so it is difficult to predict. We might have this conversation and anything may happen in the next moment, in a good way, in a not-so-good way, anything might happen. So characters that have that kind of a graph is what excites me. Conventional and unconventional, I want to do both. Everything is connected. Why indie cinema and good content based shows are coming up is because you have the option of ignoring something that is shitty. The universal market is open. Digital content gives the power to the content creators a lot more to be creative. I think for most people, especially actors, the goal is to work. ”
I don’t understand how in our country, things like Hotstar play the censored version of ‘Mona Darling’. It is digital but still, you play a UA version. My point is that everything should be out there. It is all a choice.
A major problem that has plagued Indian cinema is censorship. As with the recent controversies of the CBFC banning movies such as ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, online digital streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar have been a breath of fresh air. Anshuman, however, believes that even the digital streaming platforms such as these have limited autonomy in a country such as India. He gives his views on the curbing of censorship by these platforms.
“I would really like to believe so but I don’t understand how in our country, things like Hotstar play the censored version of ‘Mona Darling’. I don’t get it, it’s digital but still, you play a UA version. My point is that everything should be out there. It is all a choice. If I don’t like something, I will not watch something, but if somebody else does they should have the freedom to see it.”
Regardless of how different his roles are, Anshuman has constantly grown as an artist due to the struggles he faced and continues to face. For him, there is no growth without the constant encounter with the challenges in life. Brought into the world of acting at the age of fifteen, he gives a little insight into his brilliant mind.
“I was told by a leading director that I look like a child and I will not get any leading role or good work. I was very clear that I did not want to do supporting roles. I waited and I assisted and that really helped me because that gave me a perspective to connect with people. I also understood the world of cinema. People who know me think I should direct. Subhash Ghai thinks I can make a better director than an actor. Maybe sometime in life, but not now. I am grateful for the opportunities that I received, there’s a time for everything, however. The stage is meditation and the films are just euphoric. Unfortunately, we as a country encourage a lot of mediocrity. That’s how mediocre performers manage to survive. But after a certain point, if you are not working on your craft, no amount of star power will help you. In the last one decade, we have huge examples of that. I think Ranbir Kapoor is a phenomenally blessed actor because he keeps pushing the envelope as an actor. He is a star, yes, but he is also a brilliant actor and that is why he is so good. His struggles are different, I am sure he has his own. Struggles are permanent, only the levels keep changing.”
At this stage, the challenge is to keep moving forward with new projects, Anshuman gives us a look into his future plans and upcoming films.
“There’s ‘AMKH‘, then I’m working with Oscar nominee Ashwin Kumar, there is also a web show for Zee 5, and there’s something in theatre. I am in talks for doing something for Broadway, it’s an international theatre production, then there’s another indie film ‘Midnight Delhi’ where I am playing a dark character. It’s partly based on a true story. I am starting the shoot for another film with Tannishtha Chatterjee, it’s called ‘RSVP’ directed by Chandan Roy Sanyal, it’s India’s first device film.
People who know me think I should direct. Subhash Ghai thinks I can make a better director than an actor.
As about my past experiences, I am thankful for a lot of things. I really enjoyed working with Harish, hands down. I love Dibakar, he is one of the best filmmakers not just in India but in the world. I have been lucky to work with Vikas Mishra who directed ‘Chauranga’, he was a wonderful human being. And there’s another National Award Winning director, Janki Vishwanathan. Janki was my only experience of working with a female director and I think what she brought out of me, only a woman could have managed that. She brought a certain sensitivity and mature perspective, only women have such powers. It was an honour to have had the privilege to work with all these directors. I think I am little biased towards Harish as a person, and I absolutely adore him and our experiences. We’ve built on this together. Harish is a simple man and he’s so transparent. He’s taught me that the film ultimately, is bigger than all of us as individual units.”
In a world where films and television are treated as a money minting industry, reaching a milestone in terms of quality content is only achieved by an elite breed of actors – enduring good cinema. Anshuman Jha has certainly joined that rarefied club, a flair that would most unquestionably go to the head of its ambitious, passionate artists.
For Anshuman, the milestone is a moment for meditation on an ever-ascending creative ride that has led him to achieve top ratings in unique films and characters in recent memory. He has earned one of the most enviable number of awards and acclamations for his performances, on a journey to keep getting bigger and better.
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