Some days leave me amazed at the sheer number of immensely talented people I know, who have struggled and worked relentlessly to
doing what they love. Piyush Mishra is a classic example. Back when we were in SPA, Piyush was a large presence in our lives. Us, the theater walas, were members of a group called Spandan, the naatak company of our college, SPA. And certainly, for us, Spandan was the heartbeat (that’s what spandan means) of our student life.
Piyush, a product of the National School of Drama, and a hardcore Mandi house product (anyone who has hung around that place would know what I mean) had a special connection with SPA. His wife Priya was our senior. And so, we had the privilege of him directing some of our productions and composing music for others.
I never acted in any of the productions he directed, but I was a part of the initial build up, the script reading sessions, the improvization sessions and so on and so forth. The manic activity back stage and the riotous joy after the performances can still send most of us on a high. Piyush was a hard taskmaster. A buddy we were all a little scared of. Someone unafraid to speak his mind, capable of immense affection and immense rage, all in the span of a few minutes.
I did, however, act in a production titled “Accidental Death of an Anarchist”. A Dario Fo script, we were directed by Arvind Gaur, who is now a well-established personality in the theater world. Many members of his group Asmita, performed with us, lending their presence to the songs and crowd scenes in the play- some of them Manu Rishi, Deepak Dobriyal are making their place in the meaningful side of the Hindi film industry now.
Notably though, Piyush wrote lyrics and composed music for this intensely political script. I distinctly remember the day of the performance at the Air Force Auditorium at Subroto Park (we were being paid to perform, it was beyond our imagination at that time!). Piyush was making us rehearse the songs and we were all tired and nervous. A few things weren’t coming together as we wanted and there was tension in the air. In the middle of the rehearsal, Piyush screamed at me. “Tum to gaayak ho Mukta, tum besura kyon gaa rahi ho!” – You are a singer, why are you singing off tune. The disappointment and anger directed towards me shook me to my core. I didn’t dare cry or react…the only choice ahead was to improve.
I see that kind of single minded focus, especially towards his lyrics and music in Piyush’s work today. I enjoyed his lyrics in Aaja Nachle, but his work in Anurag Kashyap’s Gulaal (acting, lyrics, music) really seemed like an extension of that passionate man I saw in action back in college. And now, this piece from Gangs of Wasseypur haunts me, taunts me to go back to my music again.