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`Understanding makes acting easy'

She loves to experiment and wants to tackle thought provoking subjects. Manisha Koirala, Baba heroine, talks to CHITRA MAHESH.

Cool... but not casual about her work — Manisha Koirala.

IT COULD well have been a street in Mylapore. The pottu kadais, the sweetshop, cycle repair shop, the temple outside which are rows of stalls that sell garlands, the temple elephant and the people sauntering around- all provide the backdrop for Rajnikanth's next film, ``Baba."

In that sweltering heat and the glare of arc lights, this porcelain beauty stands unfazed and gets her dialogue right. Her attitude is cool and she goes in and out for her shots with an air of casualness. But she is far from casual about her work. While she relaxes, she also observes. And is also ready to talk about her experiences with Tamil cinema, though that was not the focus that day. The object was to talk to Manisha Koirala, stunningly beautiful in a copper sulphate blue outfit, about her role in the newly released film, ``Company," in which she plays a character that she has liked very much! While pleasantries are exchanged she remarks, ``It has been really good working on this project (Baba). I think it is one of my best experiences in eleven years of acting. The vibes are positive. There is no tension. We are required to work one shift and then we get Sundays off.''

She is suddenly diverted and changes gears. ``Lets talk about ``Company" ok?'' she says.

How did you happen to get the role in for ``Company"?

Ramu is one of the finest technician-directors we have. His sense of cinema is really nice and I like the fact that he dabbles in different kinds of subjects. But I think his forte is the underworld.

How would you rate your performance?

See, it's not a heroine's role. I'm playing one of the characters and I don't have one of those confrontational scenes or have to mouth heavy dialogue that will make the audience burst into applause. What I hoped to achieve, was reflect the subtlety of the character. I have concentrated on her attitude, the kind of body language she would have, the kind of get-up or how she would not even talk. I mean when she's required to talk, she will just refuse to talk.

Would you say a lot of preparation went into this role?

Not really. Once I get the hang of the character, it's easy. I'm not the type to say, oh, it was so difficult and I rehearsed and I practised, etc., etc. I think all my performances, right from ``Khamoshi," have been easy for me. I think acting is pretty easy if you understand the theme. Fortunately for me, I don't need to slog too much.

Do you empathise with such a character?

Not really. I mean I don't have to. I have to just understand, I have to empathise to an extent because I'll have to portray that. So I have to believe in what I'm portraying.

Is this the kind of role that you would like to do again?

I wouldn't want to repeat myself whether it is ``Bombay" or ``Mudhalvan" or ``Company" or ``Khamoshi" or ``My Escape from Taliban" which will be releasing soon. What I hope to achieve even for ``Lajja", is just play the character and get out of it. I am not into this thing of repeating myself just because people like me. I like to experiment a lot.

Is ``Company" anything like ``Sathya"?

It's a better version.

Any other projects you are working on?

My next release should be ``My Escape from Taliban." I've finished one with Shashilal Nair. Actually there are four films on hand and I have to decide which one I want to start first. I've been really working hard and I want to take a month or two off. Travel around Europe. Come back and start a new film, which should be ``Ganga." I have four or five good scripts, performance-oriented. Now I'm only doing films that are either like ``Company" where I have a small role, which I am proud of, or I have to be the main protagonist. No in-between.

How long do you foresee yourself doing this?

Well, let's see how it goes. I'm a highly unpredictable human being. I love acting. As long as I get my free holiday, I don't feel stifled or overworked. I'm happy doing my job. So it could carry on for another two years or so.

Do you have plans of trying something else at a later point?

Yes. In fact this time hopefully I will start my production in a big way. Once that happens I will take time off and direct films as well. Hopefully by the end of next year I should be able to do that.

What kind of subjects would you like to take up?

I already have two subjects, which are extremely close to my heart. I like thought provoking subjects. I like questioning things - especially things that are not right in society.

How was it to work with Ram Gopal Varma?

Wonderful. He's a good friend of mine. He's a nice guy to work with. But then I've worked with the best directors — Mani, Shankar and Shekar. I'm fortunate enough to be working with the likes of them. I feel good.

Well, then how did you decide to do this small role in Company?

It is a small one. Isn't it? Ramu came to me in the last minute. Somebody else was supposed to do it. And Ramu and I were supposed to work for some other film altogether. But he came and said, `Manisha, I am having trouble. I need you to do this film. Can you do it?' He explained and I said fine, why not? He is a good director to work with. He is somebody I get along well with. And I liked the character. She's bindaas. She has an attitude, there's arrogance, a mild highhandedness that I have portrayed in a subtle way. I liked doing it. But I also like doing mainstream films.

You don't see any contradiction there? I mean are you able to deal with both?


It was getting a bit late as Manisha had a flight to catch as her work for this schedule was coming to a close. She was being called for her last few shots for the day. Goodbyes came in a flurry but not before she said we will meet again!

As she got up, one couldn't resist asking her what else did she have to say to us? She laughed. ``I love being in Madras. And I love staying at the Taj. I feel really at home here. Great to be working. God's been kind to me.''

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