From being a UPSC aspirant to playing a substantial role in MS Dhoni-The Untold Story, the journey of Kranti Prakash Jha was full of ups and downs. He talks to Sangeeta Yadav about how this film is a turning point for him
- How was is to play Dhoni’s friend Santosh Lal?
It was a fun experience. Like any other real life friends of Dhoni, Santosh Lal was very close to him since childhood; they played together as well. He was the one who taught Dhoni the famous helicopter shot. The irony is that he is no more and I don’t know if I have done justice to the character or not. Lal turned alcoholic and had to stop playing cricket. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Dhoni flew him from Ranchi to Delhi in an air ambulance for advanced care in AIIMS but Lal finally died in 2013.
- How did you prepare for the character?
Whatever narration I got was from the director and Dhoni’s friends. I took cue from that. I am told that Lal loved samosas and therefore we ended up using it as a prop when Dhoni asks him if he can teach him helicopter shot and Santosh replies ‘sasmosa khiladoge toh seekhadenge’. When we were shooting, his friends used to come to the sets and the hotel to meet us. They were a constant support for us. Then Dhoni paid us a surprise visit and one look at me and he said that Santosh’s complexion was dark; I am fair. We covered that aspect with make-up. He also told me about Santosh, that helped.
- Has the film impacted you in any way?
Many people called up and appreciated my performance. The real Lal’s friends also called to say it was like seeing him alive all over again. It felt great. People identify me now as Santosh Lal. I was in a mall recently and some people came to me and said ‘tum wahi ho jo ladki ko dekhker chakka marte ho’. I found it hilarious because in real life I would never imagine to do something like this.
- Was there any pressure on you?
I never felt the pressure. At the end of the day, a film is a film, it doesn’t matter whether it is big or small. But yes, working with director Neeraj Pandey, who has given hits like Special 26, Baby, Rustom, made me a little nervous initially. But he soon put my fears at bay. He creates a family environment at the set. He is calm too and that sets the balance in difficult situations.
- What is your take-back from this film?
Life is all about your family and friends. Just be there for them and they will also be there for you. Also, no matter what the circumstances you are in or what you do and become in life, you should never have regrets. That’s what I take back from the film.
- Was it difficult to learn the helicopter shot?
It was the most difficult thing that I had to learn. What was more challenging was to teach the same to Sushant Singh Rajput in the film who called it the thhappad shot. Before shooting for the film started, we had to play cricket for one month as part of the training.
- Any fun moment?
An interesting incident took place in Ranchi where all the cast and crew of the film decided to play cricket and it was Sushant versus Neeraj. I was in Sushant’s team and in my first ball, I bowled Neeraj sir out. We played four games and by evening everyone had bodyaches.
- How did acting happen to you?
I did theatre when I was pursuing my graduation from Hindu College in Delhi. I then sat for Civil Services Exam but couldn’t clear. So I gave up and came to Mumbai. This was nine years back. I started doing theatre and did plays across India. My first Bollywood film was Vikalp (2011). Then Ram Leela came and I got an opportunity to work under Sanjay Leela Bhansali. These were small parts. But the big break came when I did a film — Mithila Makhaan that won National award for the Best Film in Maithili Language. I went on to do several Bhojpuri films like Deswa which was later translated in Hindi asOnce Upon A Time In Bihar.I also did an episodic TV show — Stories by Rabindranath Tagore by Anurag Basu.
- What are the difficulties in making a mark in mainstream cinema?
Everyone has a journey; be it a star kid or a newcomer. It’s very difficult for actors coming from North India or regional cinema to make a mark in Bollywood. People have been stereotyped. They say,‘yeh Bihar se aaya hai toh yeh aisi bolta hoga’. It has been shown in films also. No one in Bihar talks like the way they have been portrayed in movies. Not that I blame them. When I was in Delhi, Biharis were called Harry. We’ve to break the stereotype. We’ve many stars from the North who have made it big through sheer hard work like Amitabh Bachchan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. You have to keep working and give your 100 per cent no matter where you are from. Never give up or get swayed by what people have to say.
(The article also got published in Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/hard-work-is-paying-off-now.html).