Close your eyes and imagine a gravelly and textured voice. A voice that narrates stories of ordinary lives, of struggles and triumphs next door, of love and loss in the age of communal riots, all painted with the vivid hues of Indian soil. If that voice resonates with your soul, then you’ve probably encountered the magic of Piyush Mishra.
There is a Piyush Mishra of today, you know.
And then there is Piyush Mishra, who had a ‘journey of becoming’ who he is today.
Like most of you, I also became a fan of Piyush Mishra for his iconic song, ‘Aarambh’ in Gulaal movie and his acting in movies like Gangs of Wasseypur and Tamasha. I became his ‘self-declared biggest fan’ after attending ‘Ballimaran’ a few weeks back in Pune. This wasn’t just a concert about a singer singing his compositions! But about a man who shared his observations and journey to reach the lyrics of songs he wrote as a composer. This is Piyush Mishra for you — a man of multiple talents and a remarkable voice.
Before I talk about Piyush Mishra, here’s something about his band:
Ballimaaraan is the name of a street in Delhi where Mirza Ghalib used to stay. Ballimaaraan– the band of today, takes us on a genre-defying musical pilgrimage. This band isn’t just about catchy tunes; it’s an ode to the Urdu wordsmith, where retro vibes swirl with contemporary beats, giving birth to soulful anthems like “Aarambh Hai Prachand” and introspective ballads like “Husna.” Since 2016, Ballimaaraan has captivated audiences across India, reminding us that the heart of Urdu poetry still beats strong, infused with the vibrant rhythms of today. The band, comprises Piyush Mishra (on harmonium and voice), Nishant Agarwal (as lead guitarist), and Lubhanu Priy (keyboard), along with others. This isn’t just another band but the music feels like a theatre dialogue.
Piyush Mishra’s journey was never intended to reach the silver screen of Bollywood. In the dusty lanes of Gwalior, he was just a small boy named Priyakant Sharma. He changed his name to ‘Piyush Mishra’ in the 10th Standard as he felt it was more appealing to his personality.
He discovered the magic of storytelling in the creaking floorboards of an old theatre and decided to give his passion a chance by joining NSD- National School of Drama. In his third year at NSD, he played the title role in Hamlet, directed by the German director, Fritz Bennewitz. For Piyush, it was his first tryst with stardom!
Piyush Mishra’s early career took a different turn than initially perceived. While offered the role of Prem in “Maine Pyaar Kiya” after graduating from NSD in 1983, he wasn’t in a position to accept it then. This was part of a period in his life where he deeply explored theatre, immersing himself in the artistic realm. Notably, he spent two decades in Delhi dedicated to his craft, honing his skills and finding his voice as an artist.
Looking back, Mishra openly acknowledges that this phase also involved navigating significant personal challenges. As he mentioned in “The Times of India” interview, he faced internal struggles and admitted to a period of self-destructive behaviour. However, with the support of his wife, he embarked on a transformative journey, embracing self-reflection and embarking on a path of mindfulness.
An important part of his personal growth involved seeking forgiveness from those he had impacted during his challenging phase. Recognizing the hurt he caused, he actively reached out to apologize, even though revisiting these experiences initially brought painful feelings of guilt.
It was only a matter of time before the Hindi film industry discovered this multifaceted talent. Mishra’s big-screen debut came in 1993, and since then, he’s adorned countless films with his presence.
He played the role of a CBI investigator in ‘Dil Se’. After that, he appeared in and delivered several critically acclaimed performances. In movies like ‘Maqbool’ and ‘Gulaal’. He’s played the menacing gangster in “Maqbool,” the quirky narrator in “Gangs of Wasseypur,” and the storyteller in “Tamasha”.
But Piyush Mishra is much more than just an actor. He’s a gifted singer-songwriter, lending his soulful voice to films like “Fukrey” and “Gangs of Wasseypur.” He even wrote the lyrics for the songs of Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Black Friday’, which included those of Indian Ocean’s biggest hit to date “Arre Ruk Ja Re Bandeh”.
He’s a poet, with several published collections that capture the essence of life in all its complexity. He’s a screenwriter, having penned dialogues and stories that resonate with audiences.
His song “Husna,” performed on Coke Studio and featured in Hindi Kavita Sangreh, is a beautiful ballad about the shared soul of India and Pakistan despite their differences. Husna by Piyush Mishra is a heartfelt poem that showcases his commitment to the causes he believes in. He even supported students protesting at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). He encouraged them to fight for what they believe is right. Through his music and actions, Piyush Mishra proves that art can be a powerful tool for expressing one’s beliefs. And making a difference in the world. In addition to this, singer and poet Piyush Mishra is also known for Ik Bagal, Aarambh hai Prachand etc.
Piyush Mishra’s life is like a beautiful, but sometimes difficult, story. He faced challenges both in the world around him and within himself. But he didn’t let those challenges win. He found strength in his art, turning his struggles into powerful performances that touched people’s hearts. He’s played all kinds of roles, from tough guys to thoughtful poets, and always brings a raw, real emotion to his work. His story shows us that art can help us heal and grow. We learn that even when things are tough, we can find a way to shine. If you read through his journey, you’d appreciate his truthfulness and courageous letting-go approach. His way of living is an instance of the “Ye Bhi Theek Hai” attitude. So much learning!
The last loyalist of Indian Theatre packed his bags – Indian Express in 2003, when Piyush Mishra decided to leave the theatre for his debut in Bollywood.
Now, it’s your turn to share more about him with us!
Tell us, what’s your favourite Piyush Mishra performance? A film, a song, a play – anything that left a lasting impression.