Till we meet again

Sanjeev Satgainya


No political comments! No political questions! It was agreed upon before Manisha agreed for a chat. I was ushered into drawing room, and in no time appears actress turned producer Manisha Koirala. She appears more beautiful off screen clad in her light brown kurta salwar.

Manisha Koirala, one of the most influential actresses in Indian cinema, is in the Capital. It was a visit with a purpose — she came here to participate in a Walkathon organised by Rotary Club to raise funds for cancer patients — but unfortunately the programme got cancelled. For us, though, it was a good opportunity to catch up with her for a brief tête-à-tête.

From ‘Pheri Bhetaunla’ in Nepali to ‘Saudagar’ — her first assignments in Bollywood, and then ‘Paisa Vasool’ (her self-produced movie) — Manisha has journeyed a lot. “I have come a long way, I have experienced life so well and I have learnt lot of things,” she says. Manisha and Neer Shah — veteran director of Nepali film industry — are now planning to work upon ‘Nepali Aama’ — Nepali version of ‘Mother India’ as it is touted. “Yes, it is,” she quips and adds, “It has the similar structure, same story concept and the focal point will be the grievances that suppressed Nepali people have to face in their day-to-day life.” Does it concur with the movies of today’s generation — reworking on a movie of that era? “It certainly does. Time has changed but the emotions remain the same and we want to portray the emotions and grief of the people.”

The days that Indian cinema saw during the ’50s and ’60s were the “golden days”, believes Manisha. “Directors like Mehboob Khan and Guru Dutt were institutions in themselves. Indian cinema saw dark years during the ’70s and ’80s.” But where does she put that era when she entered the industry with a big bang, protégé of the greatest showman of Bollywood — Subhash Ghai? “It was a period of transformation and I really could learn lots of things in the last decade.” Today’s cinema, as she defines it, has got a wonderful audience. “The mindset of the audience has completely changed and they are more matured. Even the barrier between the commercial and art movies is being broken down,” she feels. “It’s very strange that one really does not know what will work and what won’t.” Some of Manisha’s wonderful movies have not done very well — though her performance in those movies received accolades. “While doing ‘Agnisakshi’, I was not much sure about the movie and I believe that I didn’t put that much effort. But strangely, it came out pretty well and in some of the movies despite more concentration, it didn’t work well.”

Since her last release, ‘Paisa Vasool’, she has not done any project. ‘Paisa Vasool’ failed to achieve the success that Manisha would have wished it as her first project as a producer. Wasn’t it too early to think about film production? “I am very impulsive. I do make plans but when I feel like doing it, I just jump into the project. Of course I suffered a huge loss but along with that it was a good lesson-learning period for me and people know that I had put my best efforts,” she does not have any regrets.

‘Damsel in distress’? Does Manisha walk with the troubles all the time? ‘Ek Chhoti Si Love Story’... she does not let the question go. “No, I don’t want to put any comments on that. I really got hurt with it and that’s it,” she immediately interrupts but yes, she talks about controversies. “The time when you are in difficulty is the right time to show your strength. As an individual I should have enough guts to fight for my right. I have enough guts to speak out my mind and I do that. I don’t live a double-standard life, I don’t believe in hypocrisy. In the last 10-12 years everyone has come to know me very well. There are no tussles with my colleagues, with actresses or anyone else.”

Boyfriend, marriage? “No, not at least this year. There are lots of things to be done in my life before marriage, but why do people want me to marry and get away,” she asks back laughingly. “During the release of ‘Paisa…’ I was working like a maniac. I wanted to have little break then. Till April I am not involved in anything but I have discussed three projects one of which is with Aparna Sen and I am very keen about this.” There are bigger dreams as well. Manisha has shown interest in movie direction and establishing film institutes in Nepal and wants to take up a course in direction. “I am planning to do a course in film direction in New York.”

Manisha from a naïve young girl to a matured perfect actress has seen ups and downs in Bollywood. “When I was auditioned by Vinod Chopra for ‘1942 — A love story’, I performed, the scene I had been given, very casually. When I was told by Chopra that I had done very badly, I asked for one more day and that night the effort I put in I still remember very well. At that time I learnt that it needs a lot of effort to act, to perform, to internalise the character and play the emotions of the character. It was the turning point in my career in terms of acting,” she shares.

How does she get inspired to perform something? Did she watch Kramer vs Kramer while doing ‘Akele Hum Akele Tum’ or ‘An Affair to Remember’ while doing ‘Mann’? “I believe in putting your emotions as the character desires. I don’t want to copy. So, I didn’t watch any of those movies.” But what does she love to watch? “I love watching international films. I watch Spanish and Italian movies.”

She says that Nepali film industry should explore more to internationalise Nepali movies. “We have scope but it certainly will take some time. Films like ‘Caravan’ should be made which helps recognise our country in international arena.” She picks ‘Khamoshi’ and ‘Bombay’ in her favourites list and Mani Ratnam as the best director. The UN goodwill ambassador says that there is more responsibility when one works with a big organisation like the UN and a person’s keen interest too plays a vital role.