FRIDAY REVIEW

An actress as an activist

Manisha Koirala.

Manisha Koirala.  

ONE FELT sorry for her. She had been laid up in bed for the past three weeks with jaundice. This, one's new favourite, vivacious Bollywood heroine. Bold, bubbly and articulate. A woman with a thinking head, and a generous heart.

Too much of holidaying and water sport during the last festival and a subsequent break in Goa. And then those taxing stints with Kamal Hasan on the outskirts of Mumbai for the under-production "Mumbai Express" seem to have taken their toll of a body frailing from after-effects of weight-shedding to re-restore the youthful vigour that sometimes too much of rest can do to a woman's body, in particular.

"I had been tiring of the same routine, the same kind of roles over and over again - even what they call bold ones. I had been doing that for 13 long years. I was no longer in any sort of race, and there was nothing more to prove to anyone in terms of talent. So I decided to cut down on assignments. Even that was misconstrued. They started saying Manisha was no longer in the running. And then when I decided to do another interesting glamorous role in this film called `Chahat' with relative newcomers, they said it was desperate." That was a grave error of judgment, though she defends it. "It was a bad film and any amount of decent work will not be noticed. It is part and parcel of this job. If I do only good films, unfortunately I will be bankrupt as I have crossed 30."

But then the developments in Nepal grip her. Her frustrations come to the fore. "Basically I want Nepal to be left alone to deal with its problems or help in peace prospect not in a disturbing manner. The point is it's a phase for press to write anything sensational without a strong base of truth or forgetting to write about the other aspect. I don't belong to this and never will." Is that an ageing actress basking in the shadows of wishful thinking, a staunch nationalist bothered by events in her motherland, or a budding activist, and a human rights in the making those strong statements?

Or all of them rolled into one, spitting fire not on screen, but off it and, perhaps, preparing herself for a different role in life - far away from the grime and glitter of arc lights, for a performance under a harsh sun in the open sky? Seeking freedom from all sorts of bondage. So whatever anyone might say, Manisha Koirala is unwilling to allow anyone to write her off in a hurry, on the basis of a few failed flicks alone.

SURESH KOHLI

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