Actress Pragati Mishra's transition from the stage to the screen is an inspiring story in itself. An apt definition of someone who hails from a small town but possesses dreams that outsize social conventions, Pragati has charmed the audiences with her performance as Shubra in the latest Indian OTT outing 'UP65'. The Free Press Journal team caught up with the young actor to unearth what lies within her confident and effervescent acting credentials.
Sharing her first reactions to how did she view the outpour of fan love that came her way, post the show, Pragati shares, "Prior to the release, we had a screening. Two episodes were screened and I was like, ok, this is what we have made. It's good and awesome. There was a lot of cheering and hooting. The next day, I opened my phone and it was filled with DMs from strangers whom I do not know. I just locked myself in my room because I did not know how to respond to so many messages. As an actor, if your work is appreciated, you get a lot of love and it's wonderful."
She further adds, "But, it felt extremely overwhelming because I felt that there are people who are talking to me but I'm not not able to talk back to them. There was so much that I wanted to say to them but I'm so happy that people have found my character to be relatable."
Instagram: Pragati Mishra
Hailing from Banda, Uttar Pradesh, Pragati never really planned to pursue acting. She reveals, "I came to Mumbai to study and not become an actor. After my 12th grade, I realized that I wanted to pursue journalism. Because a friend of mine told me that I talk a lot. I had planned to pursue engineering because I couldn't understand the practicality of solving a theorem. So, when my friend suggested that I pursue journalism, I walked up to my father and expressed my ambition. He encouraged me to pursue whatever I wanted, so I moved to the city."
So, how did she find her footing in the city of dreams? "When I think of the first time I came to Mumbai, I stayed at a 1 BHK, where my land lady was a widow. The rent was her only source of income. I was sharing the flat with a family of three and my room with two other women. That's my first memory of Mumbai and I remember how scared I was when I came to the city. But, I feel very grateful that my parents have been very supportive of all the choices that I made. I worked in advertising for a year and then I eventually told them that I actually have always wanted to be an actor and I want to pursue it."
The actress feels gratified for the relentless support her family has rendered to her in her strive, so far. On an emotional note, she shares, "I have been able to pursue acting because my father supported me. In theatre, you make no money, but my father has supported me all along. We come from a place where our houses are made of mud, we cannot converse in English and the thinking differs from how my family and I think, in comparison. Also, my father has been born and brought up there. So, it was a challenge to break away from the norm. But, I'll give all the credit to my parents for their upbringing and the self-belief that they have instilled in me."
Instagram: Pragati Mishra
In UP65, Pragati plays Shubra, an upright, just and ambitious girl from Varanasi. What excited the actress to pursue this role? "When I got the character sketch for Shubra, it said that this is a girl from Varanasi, who's very smart, confident, lives her life to the fullest, is all heart, loves to help people and is a prankster. Since the show is based on the book, UP65, when you think of the students being depicted on-screen, there is a certain image about them they are very nerdy. But, I loved that Shubra is in extreme contrast to that view. It's such a wholesome and well-written character. I can be very filmy in my head so, when I read the script, I could tell that Shubra is pure like the Ganges. What I don't relate to is that she is very studious. Which I'm not.", she laughs.
Pragati exclaims that working on UP65 was an enriching experience as it allowed her to be collaborative and opinionated with the makers. She reveals, "I don't know if a lot of people get an opportunity to work with a production or a director or a writer who are so open and so collaborative. I think I've been spoiled. My director Gaganjeet Singh would encourage us to improvise on every scene. We had an acting workshop for 15 days and while rehearsing each scene, we would discover how it can be bettered. Since the show is based upon author Nikhil Sachan's bestselling Hindi novel, we were allowed to discuss our scenes with him on the phone. Because the story is about him and his wife Shubhangi. We felt very validated knowing that our opinions were considered."
A still from UP65
As we conclude, the actress also shares the humbling account of working with filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj for a day during the shoot of the latter's Charlie Chopra. She gushes, "That one day's shoot was the best day of the year for me, by far. Shooting with Vishal sir has been such a surreal experience because I got to observe how he works up, close and personal. I realised how he enjoys a name in the industry, because he knows how to value and respect you as an artiste. He'll address you by your name and make you feel seen.". she signs off.
You can watch UP65, streaming now on JioCinema.