India — Mishal Raheja is like a cat on a hot tin roof. His music video, Sara Google, has breached the seven lakh mark on YouTube in two days, but he reflects: “Will the initial euphoria sustain?”
Fans still address him as Dutta Bhau (the name of the underworld don he played in his popular TV show Laagi Tujhse Lagan), but this song could be the springboard to a new chapter as a singer-actor.
In 2017, Mishal was introduced to singer Hemaa Sardesai, (Aawara bhanware) at a debate session. She heard him hum and casually asked if he would like to sing a duet with her. Mishal recalls, “I had three reasons to do the single Power of Love – I would get the opportunity to sing with ‘the’ Hemaa Sardesai; work with internationally renowned music producer Tony Mercedes; and get to sing! As a child, I wouldn’t eat my lunch till the song Bol bol kuchh toh bol (Nauker Biwi Ka) was played on the VCR.”
While he was fine tuning his sa re ga ma with daily riyaaz, the music company Sa Re Ga Ma pencilled him in for their music video, Dream Girl, featuring Hema Malini as a singer and actor. Mishal exults, “Hema ma’am boosted my confidence by calling me Dutta Bhau in our very first meeting. At the music release, when she saw me sitting with the audience, she invited me to join Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Dharmendra and her on stage.”
Power of Love (2017) gave Mishal the impetus to learn music from Tridib Chowdhury who gave him a valuable piece of advice: “Tansen banna hai toh pehle Kaansen bano (If you want to sing well, concentrate first on heeding the notes).” Eventually Tridib composed the music for Sara Google.
Spurred to sing a Hindi song by his fan club, Mishalites, Mishal decided to dabble with the single, Aye Shama (2019), albeit as an actor-producer. He entrusted the ghazalnuma song to Hemaa Sardesai, a first for her, but she surprised the sceptics and herself too.
Walk the talk
To someone who doesn’t know him intimately, Mishal’s story appears to be about a rich brat with Dame Fortune as his arm candy. After all, he comes from an affluent family, lives in a palatial sea-facing home, holds a degree in business administration from Ohio University, has a fleet of cars, and a pair of dogs, Brad and Angie, who can’t sleep without a cooling air-conditioner. Mishal has many stamps on his passport as a travel blogger.
He dismisses the notion of privilege helping his career, however. “I had to struggle for a year before I got my first break. I didn’t enter the industry with blinkers on; I saw so many actors born to famous stars not being able to make a mark for themselves. It was only when Anurag Basu signed me for Love Story as the guitar-strumming lover that people sat up and noticed me.”
For a discerning viewer, Mishal’s performance in Love Story is one of his best, but it was the crowd-pleasing role as Dutta Bhau in Laagi Tujhse Lagan that made Kirron Kher remark, “I love you in the show.” He bought a Mercedes for his parents from the big bucks that came as a payoff “to show my gratitude”.
“I don’t feel a sense of entitlement,” he maintains. “Once I turned 16, I stopped celebrating my birthday. I thought, ‘I spend more money in one day than my employees earn in a month!’ Not fair.”
Before taking baby steps into the TV industry, Mishal apprenticed under his dad, a successful garment exporter. He says, “I declined my dad’s offer to share his cabin. I sat with the staff and ate lunch with them too.”
When Mishal’s film Budget Trip was not released despite being ready, for a flickering moment he thought, ‘Should I ask dad to produce a film for me?’
“But then,” he says, “Better sense prevailed. Everyone should have a mission statement. Mine is to make millions and help thousands of underprivileged people … and I will walk the talk.”
From HT Brunch, April 25, 2021
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