NewsGram presents an exclusive tête-à-tête with the cast and crew of this year’s National Award winning Maithili film, Mithila Makhaan. In the fourth part of the series, actor Kranti Prakash Jha shares his thoughts with Shillpi A Singh on his pleasant and eventful journey, the onscreen portrayal of the young and the restless youth of Bihar, and how films can help change the popular perception and misconception about Bihar and its people.
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” This quote by Che Guevara seems the aptest description for actor Kranti Prakash Jha, the actor who has made a splash in the regional language cinema with his realistic performance in the National Award-winning Maithili film, Mithila Makhaan, Bhojpuri film Deswa and its Hindi remake, Once Upon a Time in Bihar. The actor has another ace up his sleeve: he has co-written the dialogues of Mithila Makhaan with director Nitin Neera Chandra. The beautiful coincidences in Kranti’s life made a Civil Services aspirant to come to the City of Dreams, make a pit stop in the glitzy modelling circuit and move on to scorch the silver screen all of these have been revolutionary moves, to say the least. And they have been guided by a great feeling of love of life that has changed the course of this boy from Bihar’s life forever and for better.
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Twists and turns
Kranti was born in Begusarai, known as the Industrial Capital of Bihar and the birthplace of great Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. It also has a great historical relevance as it was part of the Magadha Kingdom. That perhaps explains Kranti’s choice of history as a subject for his undergrad and postgrad studies. An alumnus of Hindu College, Delhi University, he took the road often travelled by men of his ilk from Bihar — sit for the Civil Services exam. He slogged day and night but somehow failed to make the cut for UPSC exams. Dejected and disappointed to the core, he came Mumbai for a short vacation but stayed on to make the Maximum City his home. “Man proposes, God disposes,” he said summing up the story. He entered the Grasim Mr India contest by chance, and from there moved on to modelling. “I had a zilch expectation making it. I filled the form just for fun. But I am glad that I got selected, and it has been the most enriching and fulfilling career experience.” He did print and television commercials for brands such as LIC, Raymonds, Pepsodent, Hyundai, among many others, before taking the big leap to the silver screen, albeit in the regional language cinema.
For the young actor, acting is a heuristic teaching method. “Being in front of the camera, emoting, mouthing lines and living under the skin of the character encourages me to learn, discover, understand, and solve problems, by experimenting, evaluating and in the process improvising and improving as well.”
With his affable, adorable and believable portrayal of the young and the restless in yesterday’s and today’s Bihar in three of his outings — Mithila Makhaan, Deswa and Once Upon a Time in Bihar — Kranti has done it and done it with pride. He debuted in Deswa and cast a spell on Bhojpuri cine-lovers with his portrayal of a civil services aspirant in Bihar of the Nineties, who along with two others are forced to enter the world of crime after all their efforts and ambitions are thwarted. The trio lands in jail, and finally, when they are released in the Naughties, they find that the state of affairs in Bihar has changed.
He repeated the feat in Mithila Makhaan by essaying the role of an educated and affluent Toronto-based NRI, who returns to change the face of his native village with his entrepreneurial skills. With this role, Kranti has not only explored the vast expanse of his acting calibre but also given a sneak peek into the enormous potential and promise that he holds for the big screen. “The village which was ravaged by Kosi deluge serves as the perfect backdrop and evokes a sense of belonging in the male protagonist, Kranti, forcing him to give it all in Toronto and head homewards. It is a journey of trials and tribulations and how he takes a step, stumbles, fall and then rises again to set up a flourishing fox nut business in the village. The protagonist takes the Make in India idea a step further with his collective effort to bring back the glory of Mithilanchal region and instil pride in people about their culture.”
He will be seen in Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
Kranti has beautifully shifted gears in the film, essaying the role of a suave NRI and rustic Maithili speaking man with ease. Maithili being his mother tongue was another advantage, and his dialogue delivery in chaste Maithili only adds to the charm of his onscreen character, Kranti, who takes immense pride in speaking in it. The actor succinctly put forth his thoughts in these words — “Agar hum aaye kahan se hain ye pata nahi hoga toh jana kahan hai ye bhi pata nahi chalega (If we are unaware of where we have come from, then no matter how hard we try, we will not be able to know where we have to go).” He pitied how today’s younger generation had been brought up in only Hindi and English. “In the mad rush, youngsters have lost touch with their native language, which could be Bhojpuri, Maithili, Awadhi, Magahi or Angika. These languages are dying, and hopefully, regional language cinema will give it a new lease of life. We must remember that our mother tongue is our identity, and it needs respect,” he said.
A Bihari to the core, he has tried to be the best from Bihar in the roles that he has essayed on screen. “The story, dialogues and screenplay all of it has aimed to dispel the negative notions that people have about Bihar and Biharis.” The belief and pride in being from Bihar helped him do justice to the demands of his roles in both his films.
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Wooing the Audience
The film has had three screenings in India — Patna, New Delhi and Pune — and had a world premiere at the recently concluded International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) in Toronto. And the audience was left spellbound with his performance. “His acting is credible, calculated and a class apart. The regional language cinema in Bihar and Jharkhand needs actors like him and filmmakers like Nitin Neera Chandra, who can help restore the dignity of Bhojpuri and Maithili films, and reclaim that lost identity. Those who promote crass and vulgar stuff in the name of commercial demands need to do a reality check,” said Anshuman Sinha, music therapist and movie buff, who happened to watch the film’s screening in Patna. It is unfortunate that despite all efforts, and winning the National Award, most of the regional language films get limited to the festival circuits. Like it happened with Deswa, the first Bhojpuri movie to be part of the Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India, Goa, and having been part of many film festivals across the globe but could never get a theatrical release. “Deswa and Once Upon a Time in Bihar are expected to be out on Muvizz.com in July. And Mithila Makhaan is likely to hit the theatres after monsoons,” Kranti said.
History in the Making
Mithila Makhaan has many firsts to its credit. It was the first film to be shot across four countries — USA, Canada, India and Nepal and the first film ever made in Maithili from the twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand to win a National Award, a befitting tribute to Maithili cinema on its golden anniversary. It was the first ever film to have a world premiere at IFFSA. It is also part of the upcoming Jagran Film Festival. And last but not the least, it has certainly changed the popular perception about regional language cinema from Bihar and Jharkhand. “Hard work with honesty always bears fruits”, and the result is Mithila Makhaan bagging the National Award. I always used to wonder how “rashtriya puraskar se sammanit” would sound and after being bestowed with this honour, I feel overwhelmed and on top of the world,” he said on the Maithili film’s astounding win at the 63rd National Film Awards.
The history student is indeed on his way to make history in the world of cinema. Way to go, Kranti!
(In the next part, we will get up, close and personal with the female lead of the award-winning film. So watch out for this space!)
Shillpi is a freelancer with NewsGram. She may be reached at: [email protected]