Up & Up
Riding high on the success of Mission Mangal, Sharman Joshi catches up with Titas Chowdhury, reminiscing his colourful two-decade journey in the industry where he has been a part of some of the biggest ensemble casts
Heartiest congratulations on Mission Mangal crossing the Rs 100 crore mark at the box office!
Yay! Thank you! It feels fabulous. This was so very required. Akshay (Kumar) Sir is used to it. For him, it is just another cup of tea and it's wonderful that he is continuing with his winning streak. In the process, I eventually became a part of a film, which is being so well received and loved. I'm very thankful to R Balki and Jagan Shakti for casting me in the film and having faith in me. The moment I heard the script, I wanted to be a part of it because it is such a unique film – it is India's first space mission film! It is written wonderfully and narrated in a very entertaining way. These are the kinds of films that I personally love doing. Mission Mangal has been a pleasurable journey and now with the audience's response, it feels even better.
What kind of feedback have you been receiving?
I've received some wonderful feedback. The nature of the business is such that when your film works, there is an abundance of love that comes your way. When a film doesn't work, I know how it feels. That's the beauty and the exciting part of the business. People are saying that Mission Mangal is a perfect film for their kids because it's entertaining and they're getting to learn something at the same time. They also said that they had read about India's mission to Mars in the newspaper in the passing but didn't realise what went into it and how significant it was to India's progress.
Do you read all the reviews that are out there?
I don't read any of the reviews. I rely heavily on word-of-mouth publicity. If someone has watched a film, I'll ask for their opinion on it. Audiences do, and fairly so, read reviews and then decide whether they want to watch a film. It's a fairly expensive proposition to go out there and watch a film. With all due respect to reviewers, often what happens with reviews is that personal agendas come into play, which is completely human. Often, your mind has been coloured for various reasons or it might be a film that is not up to a reviewer's taste and I don't think it's enough for me to judge a film based on reviews. I need a more varied opinion from people coming from different walks of life, who have nothing to do with cinema or the business of it.
When Mission Mangal was announced, the buzz surrounding it was huge and the general perception about the film was that it is essentially a story about women scientists. As a male actor, was there any initial inhibition?
These kinds of stories will keep coming in, so I didn't respond to them. But this film was made way before these stories came out. When I read the script that was sent to me by Jagan, I saw that the women are instrumental in accomplishing the mission; they are crucial and in fact, the driving force in this particular film. But as you might have seen, the men have an equal part to play. I had no inhibitions, I was too excited.
You've been a part of great ensemble films in the past. How is the vibe on the set of a film like that? Do you feed off each other's energies?
Of course! In a creative space, you tend to do that but you also have to be conscious that it doesn't override your state of mind as far as your character is concerned. I loved the positivity with which Akshay Sir would approach his work and his overall disposition on the set. He was very particular about timings as far as starting and finishing our work was concerned. I like that kind of space. It's wonderful when your leader is taking all of you to wards that direction. It's nice to anticipate that lunch will happen at one o'clock, we will take a break at four o'clock and we will begin shooting at nine o'clock or ten o'clock sharp.
Mission Mangal is a film based on a serious subject with a light-hearted tone to it. Do you think it is important for films to be laced with a bit of humour so that they can reach a wider audience?
Yes, I don't have an iota of doubt on that. How do we reach out to the larger audience with Mission Mangal, a story so intense and laden with technical jargon, without boring them? We wanted to make the audience go through the human journey of these scientists. To help them understand and take them through the technical and scientific aspects of how these scientists had sent a spaceship to Mars, we needed to tell them human stories and moments, some even fun ones, from real life.
You started your career with Godmother in 1999. How do you look back at your journey over the last two decades in the industry?
It feels like I've just come in because I don't know half the industry even now. I still have a lot of work to do and I still get excited like a newcomer before going to a set. It has been good so far. I hope to continue that for another 50 years.
Are there any regrets? Do you wish you could go back in time and check certain things?
I wish I was born in the US!
Let me not give a boring answer. I wish I did Hollywood films. I don't like Indian cinema (laughs). On a serious note, very early on in life, there was something that didn't go right and I started blaming my father thinking that he didn't advise me well enough. It was such an awful thing to think. My father just wanted the best for me. From that point onwards, I had decided that I'll have to carry the onus of making decisions for myself. If they work out, that's fine. If they don't, that's also okay. As they say, it's very easy to forgive yourself. I don't like blaming anyone for any failure.
You've experienced so many highs and lows in your career. How have you dealt with the professional upheavals?
I'm an old soul and I've been quite sorted in life. God has been kind to me and I've never taken my successes and failures seriously. These are not things that I am randomly saying; I genuinely believe in these – they come as instincts when I suddenly feel upset about something. I start thinking of the good parts in my career. My journey during my early days when I was trying to get a footing in the industry was also great fun. Cinema has always been my goal but it was not the be-all and end-all. I had found my first love in theatre already. I was sure that I would reach cinema through theatre. I had decided that I would toil hard and do the best plays so that people would start talking about my work and some film director would approach me. And that's how it happened. Vinay Shukla came to know about me from one of the plays and that's how I got a role in Godmother. I am grateful that I got to do some special and wonderful films like 3 Idiots, Rang De Basanti, Life in a... Metro, Golmaal and now Mission Mangal. With each film, I'm growing as an individual and as an actor. I think that the choices that I've made as an actor, so far have all been good.
What's next for you?
There's a web show that is coming up in Diwali titled Pawan Puja and will be streaming on MX Player.