After a five year break from arc lights, Manisha Koirala, who makes a comeback with coming of age drama, Dear Maya, was nervous about facing the camera.
The 46-year-old actress will be seen in the role of a middle-aged woman looking for love, and she says, “I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I was on the edge when I was facing the camera.”
Manisha has worked with some of the biggest directors back in the 90s like Mani Ratnam (Bombay, Dil Se), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Khamoshi), Vidhu Vinod Chopra (1942, A Love Story), and now she chose to make her comeback with young director, Sunaina Bhatnagar, who has assisted Imtiaz Ali for six years.
“I first read the script, I loved it instantly and so I decided to meet the director. When I met her, I knew that she will make a good film. Sunaina had made a good character sketch. She was very clear about the character’s psychology. It is a feel good film, and that is another reason it attracted me,” says Manisha, who’s working with a woman director for the first time in her career.
Says Sunaina, “Manisha told me that she was used to melodramatic, loud acting, so she wanted me to tell her if she was doing that. Somebody as talented as her was so honest about it and hence I knew it will be an easy process of shooting with her. Her sensibility is subtle and realistic. Even in those days she tried to keep it subtle.”
Interestingly, while her character in the film is shown being a victim to the pranks of two young girls, Manisha says, that she was a big time prankster in her hey days. “I have played many pranks on people,” she laughs.
After Dear Maya, Manisha is looking forward to Dibakar Banerjee’s Bombay Talkies 2 which has been made in small segments like the previous part. Then there is Sanjay Dutt biopic, “in which I play Nargisji. I have a miniscule yet an important role. It is like special appearance,” she says. “I have altogether worked on four films this year and played some interesting characters. Next year I have been offered two to three good scripts so let’s see how that progresses,” says Manisha.
Coming to the Dutt biopic, one wonders if she shared some notes with Sanjay Dutt particularly since both of them have been paired together in over half a dozen movies in the 90s. “Sanjay and I are like buddies but we haven’t spoken as yet about me playing Nargis ji,” she smiles.
Even as Manisha sounds awestruck by the work of her contemporaries like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, she can’t stop praising some of the current lot of actresses. “Look at Alia, Kangana and Deepika’s work, they are doing more meaningful roles now. I saw Udta Punjab, and I don’t know much about the film but I remember Alia’s work. She leaves an impact. I saw Queen years back, Kangana left an impact,” says Manisha.
However, she is aware that the dream roles may not come to her easily at this juncture. Recently Raveena Tandon had a funny take on the sequel to Andaz Apna Apna; she said that if the slapstick comedy was to be made today, she and Karisma may feature in the sequel only as a photograph: “You know how the sequel will begin? Both Lolo and my pictures would be hanging on the wall with Aamir and Salman crying that they have lost their wives. Cut to the next scene, they will be seen running after 21 year old girls”.
To this Manisha says, “That is so true, Raveena said it so correctly. But this is a kind of dilemma that all actresses go through. It is in Hollywood as well.”
“Manisha, who has worked with all three superstars, continues, “What is not natural is that these three Khans have still managed to survive. After being in the industry for 10 or 20 years, it is natural that you go down and some other energies, talent come in and they follow the same graph. But Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir are still on top. There is something god gifted in them. Nobody can replace them. It is a unique feature. We should admire their staying power, rather than feel bad.