After heartbreaks, low phases and going off-track, Manisha Koirala says she has now made peace with her past
Shaheen Parkar (MID-DAY; May 15, 2017)

She's back on the B- Town scene after — as she puts it — facing death and no more of taking your health for granted. When we meet Manisha Koirala at a suburban club at a little after 9.30 pm, we see no signs of exhaustion although she has been giving back-to-back interviews for the past few hours for the promotions of her upcoming film, Sunaina Bhatnagar’s Dear Maya. Manisha has two more projects lined up — Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt in which she essays the actor’s mother, Nargis Dutt, and Bombay Talkies 2 in which she features in the segment directed by Dibakar Banerjee. As she sits down for a chat, she keeps wiping her face with a wet tissue. Excerpts:

Do you find the pace of promotions hectic now?
It is indeed hectic. I am doing it after a gap and things have changed. I consider myself old-school, but I am keeping up with the times. But, I do not want to overdo things that can take a toll on my energy. I want to strike a balance. I am doing whatever I can for Dear Maya. There is so much competition now. The audience has too many choices; they could rather be watching a movie on Netflix [instead of your film in theatres]. We have to push little harder to lure the audience.

How do you look at the new phase of your life?
I am grateful for a new lease of life. My battle with cancer opened my eyes to several things. In the last five years, I had a lot of time to introspect. I consider myself in a better space now. I don’t want to look back. I have had my bad times. I have had heartbreaks, low phases and gone off track, but it has been a learning phase. I am content with life and have made peace with many things including my relationship with my parents. What matters to me is that I remain happy. I know it is not going to be easy. I don’t want a man in my life now. I don’t want to shake up my life again.

What were your apprehensions about a comeback?
I was coming back after a break, so I was keen to get it right. I was conscious about the decisions that I needed to take. The script, producer, director — everything had to be right. At the same time, I didn’t want to push myself. I want to enjoy my work and don’t want to do what I did in my 20s. I have made compartments in my life; I want to enjoy them all.

How is the shoot of Bombay Talkies 2 coming along?
I feature in one of the segments directed by Dibakar Banerjee. I play a mother of two who loves the water. I was a jury member at the Dubai Film Festival where his 2006 film Khosla Ka Ghosla was screened. Dibakar is a new-age director with new vision. I was hoping to work with him one day, and now I have got the chance.

Initially, you had reservations about playing Nargis Dutt in the Dutt biopic?
When casting agent Mukesh Chabbra called me for it, my first reaction was, ‘What? I have to play Baba’s (Sanjay Dutt) mother now?’ We have done several films (Yalgaar, 1991; Sanam, 1997; Kartoos, 1999). I was always a tomboy on the set when shooting with Baba. I had my reservations as I would end up playing mother’s roles. I know how the industry functions. I pondered over it for a while and then said yes. I thought to myself, when will I get to play Nargis Dutt again. When I told my mother, she was excited about it. She told me about Nargisji and her trademark white sarees. I am looking forward to the film.

Have you interacted with the Dutts recently?
No, I am going with Rajji’s [Hirani] vision. I had once met Priya Dutt on a flight to New York where I was headed for a medical checkup. I have always admired the work she does for Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation. Last month, she invited me for a cancer survivors event, I told her, ‘now tell me about your mom’. She handed me a book, Mr and Mrs Dutt, (co-written with sister Namrata Dutt Kumar).

Your brother Siddharth Koirala has disappeared from Bollywood.
He is back home in Nepal and into politics now. He is married and has a daughter.