Munish Sharma wanted to make his mark as an actor. However, as is often the case, opportunities were a aplenty except for acting until the Malayalam film, Ramachandra Boss & Co happened. The film sees Munish as the antagonist opposite Nivin Pauly and he is thrilled that his work is being appreciated in the south.
After 18 long years of having been there and done that, Munish, laughs about his journey. Speaking over the phone from Kochi where he is shooting for the Malayalam web series, Blindfold for SonyLiv, Munish says, “It is a crime thriller, where again I play one of the antagonists.”
The Kurukshetra-born Munish has lived most of his life in JP Nagar, Bengaluru. Academics was his main goal till he hit age 18. He studied in Sri Aurobindo Memorial School and later “dropped out of his engineering at Sri Bhagwan Mahavir Jain College and went for auditions for a play. It was a top theatre group run by the late theatre personality Ravi Kumar, also the elder brother of the late actor Vishnuvardhan.”
The 38-year-old actor says it was his introduction to theatre. “I gradually ventured out to work with director Pawan Kumar. Apart from plays, I also acted in a couple of short films directed by him.”
Next Munish found himself associated with Ranga Shankara. “Here I realised that I was serious about acting. It was a life-changer for me, when I met people across the acting spectrum like Atul Kumar and more.”
Munish started off as a volunteer and soon theatre became serious for him and he found himself working with Vivek Madan, who founded Harlequin. “We did a lot of theatre and then suddenly I switched to fashion.”
There was a plan to shift base to Mumbai, which was shelved due to financial constraints, Munish says. “I have spent my entire life thinking about paying my rent. There have been days when I wake up and tell myself, ‘shoot! It already the 1st!’ At that low point was when I met Prasad Bidappa, who graciously offered me to work for him. So from theatre there was a two-year stint in modelling and fashion.”
Munish was content doing fashion and ramp walks till he was offered a role in a one man show, Five grains of Sugar, a play written by Manav Kaul. “We did 22 shows and now I mustered the courage shift to Mumbai.”
He did a few TV commercials and also played the role of an auto driver in the web-series Bollywood Hero. “I got the role simply because I knew to drive an auto. Thanks to my friends in Bengaluru, who taught me to ride it.” The actor was still not able to sustain himself financially as opportunities were few and far between.
“That was when I was offered a job as a casting associate in one of the major casting companies in Mumbai. Deep down, I knew it was just acting that I wanted to do, but my mind kept beeping the ‘rental’ alerts and I took up the offer,” reveals Munish, who went on to become a successful casting director and even branched out as an independent operator.
“The sad part was that acting took a back seat, but I did make a short film Tala Aur Chabi, which was featured in the Berlin Film Festival in 2013. And one day, I just felt tired, saturated and down. I was looking for a break. So, I shut shop in Mumbai and went back to my birth place.”
Once in Kurukshetra, Munish took up a job in a reputed school. “I designed a syllabus for theatre, music and film for children. The original plan was to stick on there for two years, but I ended up staying for six years! Working with children acted as a stress buster for me. We made short films and even went on trips to some film festivals in Goa. I enjoyed working with children so much that even today I am a consultant for the school”.
Just when he thought he was settled, the pandemic hit. “Acting returned to the forefront. I started looking for acting jobs. Streaming platforms were thriving and most of my friends were now established names on this platform. I re-connected with my casting associates, who are big time casting directors and asked them to help me get acting jobs.”
Munish soon found himself doing cameos in films and web series, including R Madhavan’s, Decoupled. “There was again a lull. And one day I saw a call for an audition for a Malayalam film. Everything in the ad was in Malayalam except the email address. I took a chance and sent my profile. To my pleasant surprise, they mailed back with two scenes, and dialogues, which they wanted me to act out, record and mail them back. I mailed them but did not get the role.”
Dejected, Munish resigned himself to the wait game, all over again. “I got a call from director Haneef Adeni offering the role of the antagonist in Ramachandra Boss & Co. I was seeing stars, unable to believe my luck. I was to act in a film with Nivin Pauly, in film made by his production house. My mind was racing and Haneef asked if I was okay with the role.”
Ready to play any character, Munish was off to Kerala. “You see till then, I had nothing to do. For instance in Rocket boys I did not even have lines, but was made to stand behind one of the scientists. This film is like a gift to me from the universe.”
Munish plays Amar Madhav, a spoilt, rich psychopath with a back story. “I have nothing in common with the character, but, Haneef was clear about what he wanted and I was able to deliver, thanks to him. I also learnt my dialogues in Malayalam. I owe everything to Haneef for giving me this break.”
Ramachandra Boss & Co. was released this September and Munish discovered he was in the spotlight. “During the film’s launch, people walked up to me and congratulated me on my work, but none of them knew my name. That is when I thought it was time to get myself a little publicity,” the actor says with a laugh.
“Nivin is a huge star, yet, he is so down to earth. The team was awesome,” says Munish. “It took me a little less than two decades to validate my struggle. For me as an actor, you get validation, when one role lands you the next acting job!”