Deebashree Mohanty (BOMBAY TIMES; July 9, 2017)

How does it feel to be back in front of the camera, a place you ruled for years before you were forced to take a break?
I would like to believe that I ruled the camera before I was forced to take a break (laughs). That apart, I love being back! There is nothing more satiating than to be able to do what you love doing. I have other interests as well, but the camera gets the best out of me. But let me tell you, I wasn't born to be a natural in front of the camera. It was all thanks to my mentors that I did what I did.

Please elaborate...
My mother was very keen that I get the part in '1942: A Love Story', but on my first take, Vidhu Vinod Chopra said I was a shitty actress and I couldn't do justice to the role. I was hurt, dejected, but I took it up as a challenge. I rehearsed till late at night and the second take was way better. On another day, I remember director Shekhar Kapur beating it down my head: “Manisha, flirt with the camera!“ Unfortunately, I didn't understand what he meant then. Now, I have come a long way.

So, you are not signing a lot of scripts these days?
I am being very choosy. There are some scripts that are not demanding enough for me to take up, others are a bit too challenging for me physically. In any case, I have decided to dedicate a lot of time to nature ­ movies will happen here and there.

'1942: A Love Story', 'Bombay', 'Dil Se' ­ you have been a part of movies around socio-political issues. Was that a conscious decision or did it just happen?
You will be surprised that I had also briefly contemplated turning down 'Bombay' because I feared playing a mother and being typecast. Cinematographer Ashok Mehta told me, 'pagal ho kya? Do you even know whom you are saying no to?' It's all thanks to such people and my mentors that I could play those parts. I wish I were offered such roles now like those I was offered 20 years ago.

Let's talk about your battle (with cancer)...
There's nothing left to talk about. I don't want to glorify my sickness and use it as a stepping stone for anything. It's a thing of the past and I don't want to dwell on it. It's painful to even think about those times... let's leave it at that.

You are writing a book documenting your struggle and life thereon...
I am still contemplating. I have learnt a lot from my sickness and I want to share some of those feelings with people who are bat tling similar problems. I want to tell them that nothing is unbeatable!

Could you share some of these learnings that you are talking about?
I spent a lot of lonely days, restricted to my hospital bed in NYC. There was a lot of time to dig deep, introspect. I realised that I was arrogant and ignorant about a lot of things in life. I was very complacent and had taken life for granted. Earlier, I would think of dieting only to lose weight and look pretty. Now, I realise the importance of overall nutrition; how a balanced diet is of utmost importance. I have also learnt that life should be enjoyed to the fullest. Take as many breaks as possible to rejuvenate in the right manner.

You used to call yourself a rebel...
I was one because I didn't wish to follow any trend blindly. Being a rebel gave me a sense of freedom, and I don't want to lose that ­ ever. With age, I have become matured enough to understand that there is no point in wasting time just rebelling.

Do you regret having been complacent about life?
I don't regret anything ­ neither my mistakes, nor my decisions. Yes, some things haven't worked my way, but I have moved on from everything. My stint with cancer has taught me to forgive, for get and quickly move on.

What are your plans for the moment?
The hills beckon. I plan to take a break for a about 3 to 4 months. Then, I will concentrate on a few scripts before leaving for Nepal to spend time with family.

You've often said your family is your first love...
My parents and my brother have stood by me in the worst of times. They have made me realise that there is no bond like the family bond. I am a very family-oriented person; that's why I want a daughter of my own. I plan to adopt one from Nepal by the end of this year. It will be five years since I became cancer-free. That would relax me a little. My doctors say in my type of cancer, it takes six to seven years to be out of the woods. But I don't have the patience to wait any longer.