Debutante actress Manali plays one of the female lead roles in Tapan Banerjee’s science fiction based romantic movie Rajdrohi. Manali started her career in acting in the theatre and has also worked for the television. The young aspiring actor shares her experience working in ‘Rajdrohi’, her views, thoughts and future plans.
Calcutta Tube: When did think of taking up acting as your career?
Manali: I have always wanted to be an actor and had an interest in acting. I joined the theatre in 2004, after I completed my graduation. I worked with the theatre groups ‘Sansthik‘ and ‘Atmaprakash‘. The first time I faced the camera was after finishing my post graduation. I was a student of History and also earned my diplomat in Mass Communications from the Jadavpur University. Rajdrohi is my first feature film. I have worked in a few TV serials before.
Calcutta Tube: Please tell us something about your role in ‘Rajdrohi’.
Manali: I am playing the role of a scientist. When my senior scientist whom I worked for gets missing one day, with my fellow scientists I keep continuing with his works. My senior made a rare invention of making humans invisible. Unfortunately, we could not test the invention on anyone, as no one was volunteered to do so. I cannot not test it on myself either, because it works only on men. But at last we find someone who agrees to try this new thing on himself. He happens to be be the son of the very scientist who invented it. That is how the hero becomes invisible and as the story proceeds, I develop a romantic interest in him.
Calcutta Tube: Please share your experience working in this debut film of yours.
Manali: I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this film. The movie has a very different kind of a story and new concepts. I have been offered some other roles in movies previously, but somehow I never accepted any of them because I did not like them. I agreed to work in this movie because of its uniqueness. I am very choosy by nature and will always be like this. No matter, whatever medium I am working in, I am very much concerned about the story and the character I am going to portray.
Calcutta Tube: What is your expectation regarding ‘Rajdrohi’?
Manali: The making of the film is complete and I have already watched the movie on a big screen. I think if others filmmakers notice the scenes I am in, they would certainly enjoy. The general audience would love the song picturized on me; the one sung by Asha Bhonsle. It is a dream sequence and the only song I am in. Since my role in the movie is parallel to the lead role, I have more scenes with the hero but not many songs with him. However, I have had ample scope of acting.
The best thing working with director Tapan Banerjee was that he knew what he wanted in this film and guided the whole crew accordingly. Not everyone can explain things to the cast and crew the way he does. That made things much easier for me.
Calcutta Tube: Have you ever taken dancing lessons? The actors in movies often require dancing skills.
Manali: I have never taken dancing lessons before working in ‘Rajdrohi’. However, the choreographer in the movie appreciated my dance moves. Right now, I am taking lessons in creative dance, as I wanted to learn some basics.
Calcutta Tube: Please share your experience working with senior actors.
Manali: In ‘Rajdrohi’ I worked with quite a few senior actors. Actor Arun Banerjee gave lots of helpful tips. I think a good actor is one who is very much predictable for the co-actors, but totally unpredictable for the audience. That is what describes Rajatabha Dutta the best. He is a genius. In commercial movies, we often have the same kind of roles that repeat in multiple movies. Very frequently, we see Ronnie da (Rajatabha) in negative roles in various movies and yet he portrays each of those similar roles differently. In Rajdrohi, he plays the role of a political person who turns to be a negative character.
Calcutta Tube: How did your background in theatre help you in acting in the film?
Manali: Theatre and feature films are totally different media. Although I acted in the plays before, my ultimate goal was always to face the camera. My source of inspiration to become an actor has always been films and my style of acting style is also very much camera-oriented. Unlike acting in front of the camera, acting on a stage requires more loud and clear expression. I am glad that I have not acted on the stage for a considerable amount of time. Because if I had, I could not have come out of that acting style. Acting in the theatre has served as a schooling for me.
Calcutta Tube: What do you do for fitness?
Manali: I like to do yoga. Gym is something that does not suit me at all. And I do not like to be dependent on machines. Even when I have attended gym regularly, I did not lose much weight. Gym is not my thing. The combination of yoga and diet works for me the best.
Calcutta Tube: What are your future plans?
Manali: As always, I am going to wait till I get to a good role. Right now, I do not have any TV serials on the air. When working in a TV serial, one does not know what a character is going to turn out to be, expect for the lead roles. It is much easier to choose a character in a film, because from the very beginning you know what you are going to portray. I have worked in three television shows before and luckily the roles were all very different from each other. It does not always happen that way.
Calcutta Tube: Since you are so choosy, what kind of films or roles exactly do you like to work in?
Manali: It is not that I want to stick to just the off-beat or parallel movies or one with a serious story. ‘Rajdrohi’ is a totally commercial film with a lot of songs. One of the songs in which Asha Bhonsle has lent her voice has been picturized on me. Even though ‘Rajdrohi’ is a purely commercial one, it still has an interesting story and I am delighted to be a part of the film.
To be very honest, I cannot predict on what is going to excite me and what is not. I may not find a character in an off-the-track movie exciting; again a commercial role may interest me. I would like to act in a variety of roles and prove my versatility. In the film industry we often see an actor getting stuck to a permanent image. Personally I would like to discover the wide horizons of acting.
Calcutta Tube: What other movies are you working in right now?
Manali: I am not working in any other movies right now. I have not found a role yet that I could accept. I think I will get better offers once ‘Rajdrohi’ gets released.
Calcutta Tube: Where do you want to see yourself in the next five years?
Manali: Hindi is my favorite language and acting is my passion. So, I would like to work in Hindi some time. I never took any Hindi classes. I learnt it on my own, just out of sheer interest and love for the language. I write all my journals and even pen poems in Hindi. In the beginning, I was shy my creations. But appreciation from my Hindi and Urdu speaking friends brought me a lot of confidence. Anyway, I am not sure exactly when I am going to work in Hindi, but I am sure that sooner or later I will do it. It can be in the Hindi television, plays or may be in Hindi movies. Again I am not sure how things will work out for me in the Bollywood film industry with my strong preferences and strict choices. In the first place, it is very difficult to start career afresh in the Bollywood and being picky may not leave one with much options. However, for me, the medium of acting in Hindi is not more important than the language itself and the quality of work.