Prakruti Mishra is one of those artistes from the state of Odisha who made a mark for themselves not just in the state but on a national platform. After working in the Odiya film industry right from the time she was a child, Prakruti participated in a talent hunt reality show and then, went on to be a part of some popular shows on television and web including ‘Bitti Business Wali’, ‘MTV Ace Of Space’ and ‘Class Of 2020’. In this interview, he talks about her eventful journey in the entertainment industry, what it felt to get a Special Mention at the National Film Awards, pride in being an ‘Odiya’, upcoming projects and more.
You were shooting for a feature film that was supposed to mark your debut as a lead actress in the Hindi film industry. Because of the lockdown, the shooting got stalled. What is the status on that film?
The film is being produced by OK Movies in association with PVR Pictures. We were shooting for it in Shimla. I was supposed to do two films back-to-back with the production house. We shot for ten days and then, the lockdown happened. All of us had to stop shooting and come back. It is not an ideal situation to be in but one has to be patient. A couple of shoots happened recently in Mumbai but they got stalled because some of the actors and crew members got infected with the virus. I hope things are back to absolute normal, like real soon. I am in touch with the team. The film will take a little while to take off.
You have been acting since you were a child. You were a part of several popular films and TV shows in Odisha but ‘India’s Best Cinestars Ki Khoj’ gave you a national platform for the first time. Do you think the show proved to be a turning point in your career?
I am not sure if the show proved to be a turning point in my career but being a part of it was a good experience. It proved to be a good learning experience as it was a reality show and we had to constantly prove ourselves in front of the judges and the audience. I think it was ‘Bitti Business Wali’ which gave me a lot of recognition, especially in the Northern part of the country. After that, I was a part of the reality show ‘MTV Ace Of Space’. That helped me reach out to a younger audience.
How was the experience of working with Vikas Gupta on ‘MTV Ace Of Space’?
It was a wonderful experience! I was a big fan of Vikas since his ‘Bigg Boss’ days. I once randomly texted Vikas on Instagram and told him how I love his work. He was very sweet and I also mentioned to him about all the work I had done. After a couple of days, he texted me again asking he if I would like to be a part of a show he was producing and anchoring. I went for a meeting and I got finalised immediately for ‘MTV Ace Of Space’. I had not even met him till the Diwali round in ‘Ace Of Space’. I share a great working relationship with him. A couple of months back, I worked with him on ‘Class Of 2020’ which was produced by him.
Why do you think there has been such less people from Odisha who have worked on a national platform like Bollywood?
A lot of people from Odisha go to Mumbai to work in the film industry. Everybody works very hard and tries his or her best to achieve their goals. I think a lot of times people give up too soon and come back. If you have a dream, you must work tirelessly towards achieving it. You have to wait for some time before things finally fall into place. Being patient is the most important thing. Some people do not get enough support from their families and that also makes things a little difficult.
Do you remember your first acting project?
When I was four and half years of age, I did an album for Sarthak Music named ‘Sabata Maa’. I am definitely interested in doing Odia films but I want to do something that is different. I have done almost 25 films in my career, majority of which were in Odiya. Now, I hope to be a part of some great content which is made in Odisha.
Do you think there is less exposure here in Odisha?
No, I do not think that is the case anymore. At this point of time, we do not have any less exposure than any other state in India. I think internet has blurred geographical boundaries. Social media and other digital platforms have given so many people the opportunity to showcase their talent. As I said earlier, things take time. Achieving success overnight is very rare.
A lot of young people in Odisha look up to you and have been inspired by your journey. How do you feel about that?
I feel humbled and there is a sense of responsibility attached to it as well. When I was planning to move to Mumbai, I used to ask some of my colleagues in Odisha whether they want to come with me. They were not very sure. You have to push your boundaries. I am very hungry as an artist. People should have that drive to do something more. I decided to pursue a career in acting because of my love for the craft. I did not do it to prove a point to anybody. You must try and do something that makes you happy.
What would be your advice to these actors from Odisha who wish to work on a national platform?
I would request them to polish their Hindi. It is one of the major reasons why a lot of people from Odisha or other states find it difficult to get work in Mumbai. At the same time, I think people need to feel proud of their origin. A lot of young people think it is ‘uncool’ to speak in Odia. Your culture makes you unique. I feel extremely proud about belonging to a state like Odisha.
There was a controversy around the producers of ‘Bitti Business Wali’ not clearing the payments of the actors.
Yes, we approached the Cine and TV Artiste’s Association to intervene in this matter. There were some internal issues among the production team. Despite the show doing fairly well, they decided to shut it down. They paid us a small amount and refused to release the remaining amount. I had around 7 lac rupees pending with them. When we approached the channel, they told us that they had already released the payment for all the actors to the production house. So, it was the production house which was at fault. The case is still pending.
You won a Special Mention at the National Film Awards for your Odiya film ‘Hello Arsi’. That must have been a special feeling.
I did not anticipate my performance getting so much love and appreciation from the jury. I could not relate to the script initially as the story starts in a car and ends in the same car. It was a very unusual script. When my dad read the script, he said I must do it. When my dad said that, I read the script again and fell in love with it. There was a particular sequence in which I had three pages of dialogues. I came back from Mumbai and shot for fifteen days for the film. Then, my director said he wanted to reshoot a couple of scenes. He did not want my eyebrows to crease in a few scenes. It was then that I realised I was doing something different. I attended a couple of workshops and that helped me get into the skin of the character. When the National Award announcement came, I was overwhelmed. That was the year I decided I would work more actively in Odisha.
You have performed to Odissi dance on several prestigious platforms. Would you like to represent it on a global platform someday?
Yes, I hope to win a Filmfare Award and then, do an Odissi dance on the stage (laughs). Let’s see if that dream ever gets fulfilled. Odissi dance is respected and revered all across the globe and I always feel a sense of pride when I perform to it.
You like to sing as well. You had sung a song in your show ‘Bitti Business Wali’ called ‘Aarthik Aazadi’.
The producers knew that I sing. They made me sing the title track and played that version for a few days. They did not pay me for that too but I was happy doing that. I am not a trained singer. There used to be musical classes at home and we have a music academy too. For some reason, I never took formal training in singing or my music. But, I love to sing.
An actor once told me that the biggest struggle for an actor is to keep getting work. What are your thoughts on this?
I have always believed that my biggest superpower is my sense of optimism. It has helped me get a lot of work. I always think if I do not get any work, I will move to Himachal Pradesh and run a small academy where I will teach acting and dance to children.
Can you share something about your forthcoming projects?
I just played the leading lady in a Hindi Short Film named ‘Masala Steps’ which has won accolades at different film festivals across the globe. I have an upcoming Hindi Film named ‘Prachand’ which will release soon on a national OTT platform.