Posted by Fenil Seta
Ahead of her comeback, the actor is glad that Hindi cinema has evolved from dancing around trees, even though she thoroughly enjoyed doing just that
Kunal Guha (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 14, 2017)
"I’ve been figuring out how I want to lead my life, so it has been an internal journey,” Manisha Koirala says of her last few years when we meet her at an Andheri club. The actor, who has been in remission for the last five years, makes her comeback with Dear Maya where she plays a middle-aged recluse. Koirala will also star as Nargis Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt and in Dibakar Banerjee’s next. Returning to films following her tryst with the debilitating health condition, Koirala never had a Plan B. “I never considered changing my line of work. If at all, I thought of not working at all,” she smiles.
Koirala acknowledges that her life-threatening condition altered her outlook. Today, she is unfazed by all that life lobs at her. “There were times when I was so emotionally fragile that the smallest of things would break me. If there was a bad article about me, my day would be bad. But after going through this disease (laughs), I’ve realised, nothing is that important. It has given me courage and wisdom to accept situations as they are.”
The actor who made her debut in Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar and went on to act in blockbusters such as Bombay, Khamoshi: The Musical and 1942: A Love Story, is glad that Hindi cinema evolved from just “dancing around trees”. “While I enjoyed the fantasy and dreamy films that were made when I began acting, my personal choice was always closer to the films being made now — subtle and less melodramatic,” says Koirala, who lists Masoom, Arth and Saaransh as her childhood favourites “because they were more realistic”. “Even in school, if I really wanted to do something, I would do it right, else I was not a great student. So, this reflected in my work too.”
Accepting the role of Nargis Dutt in the Sanjay Dutt biopic also meant playing onscreen mother to an adult — a first for Koirala. “Honestly, I had my reservations and was slightly apprehensive. But then, I didn’t care because I’m getting to work with a good director and portray the legendary Nargis Dutt, so my insecurities weren’t worth entertaining,” says the actress who fell in love with Hirani’s “style of storytelling” after watching 3 Idiots.
Following mixed success in the last decade, Koirala is more open to failure today. “I just did films in gaps, some happened to be good, some weren’t, which is a part of the whole thing,” admits Koirala, who moved to France briefly during one such ‘gap’. “My mother always wanted me to be independent. When you’re a film actor, you have too many things available to you. Even at shoots, someone holds your umbrella. Since I love Paris, I rented an apartment there to experience how it felt to do things on my own. I always loved to cook but there, I’d shop for groceries and do other chores too. I couldn’t speak in French and no one spoke English so I learnt how to communicate non-verbally. I only had one or two friends there, so I had to make new friends. It opened me up and gave me the confidence that I can be Manisha Koirala without the tag of a celebrity or star and yet, be happy,” she says with the disclaimer that she’s unsure if she’d do it again.
Currently, Koirala is directing all her efforts to stay healthy. Non-negotiables include keeping the body alkaline, getting 8-9 hours of sleep, sticking to an 80 per cent vegetarian diet and most importantly, staying positive. “Scientist and biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton says that even if you have mutative genes but you are positive and healthy, they may not be expressed,” says Koirala, who blames the demands of her profession for derailing her health.
“As an actor, you’re focused on how you look, rather than being healthy. You become skinny or you’re pumping yourself with steroids. Going through the experience (ovarian cancer) made me realise that external beauty is important but I need to have vitality and energy too.” Koirala feels she paid little attention to her health during her prime. “During my younger days, I’d work for 18 hours and do three shifts a day. I never took a Sunday off or went on a holiday. Your mind is numb, your body is tired and you’re just working like a robot,” says the actor who now wants to “focus on work and disconnect too”. A spiritual sojourn to Kailash and an escape to Italy are on the cards this year. “At the age that I am in, I want to embrace life,” says the 46-year-old.