Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza Deshmukh‘s coming-of-age love story in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na wasn’t the only highlight of the 2008 film. Actress Manjari Fadnnis‘ was the surprise package who, with her ‘What’s This?’ stint as Imran’s girlfriend, made everyone sit up straight and go ‘Who is THIS?’ The debacle of her 2004 debut film Rok Sako Toh Rok Lo didn’t deter her from working across film industries beyond Bollywood, namely Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Marathi. Besides her exceptional performances in all these languages, Manjari has also treated fans to the melody of her musical roots. All set to star in upcoming ZEE5 Original film Barot House, Manjari bares in an interview about her journey from an aspiring singer to an actress and being a true ‘Cancerian.’
Excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Q. Barot House looks scary. What made you do the movie?
The moment I heard it’s based on a true story, I read about the incident. I was shocked to know that something like this could even happen. Then I met Bugs, he is just amazing! He is a director who knows what he wanted. I was sure then that I want to do the film. The co-stars, Amit Sadh of course, is a fantastic actor, I had a lot of reasons to do it. The script is outstanding, the way it is written. Catch the trailer here:
Q. Going by trailer, the plot seems disturbing. How did you prepare for such an intense role?
Don’t ask! Those 20 days of shoot were an emotional roller coaster ride. Because we have to keep ourselves in that frame of mind, throughout the shoot. The happy moments in the family in the film don’t last very long. The moment we get into the whole incident and then what happens, it is very disturbing emotionally. As actors, we have to go back to certain emotional memories which probably we’d never want to go back to. At least for me, I just did not want to revisit certain memories. But I was pushed to do it to feel what was going on at that point of time on the sets.
We had workshops with Bugs. I must say we are lucky to have him as a director. Apart from being the amazing director he is, he is a fabulous actor. He has done theatre for so long, having such a good actor directing you in the direction you need to take your mind, especially for such a difficult role. The way he made us approach the character was really really helpful.
Q. What was the experience of shooting in Gujarat like?
Amit and I play Mr. and Mrs. Barot in the film. We are a family from Gujarat. We have four kids and Amit has a younger brother and we have our mother-in-law in the house, neighbours, and everything. Daman is a beautiful place. For me having the sea around is always important, I am a complete water baby. We had this lovely seashore around where we were shooting, little-little cottages. It was a very charming little town where we were shooting.
Q. Amit hasn’t done as many suspense dramas as you, did you have any tips for him? What is he like off-screen?
(laughs) No, no, no. I have a lot of respect for Amit as an actor. He has shown so much dedication and commitment to his character. He is a very great co-star, I just love the way he approaches his performances and stuff. He is so chilled out, he is like a complete free-spirit. He will do what he wants and when he wants. I still have to get to know him as a person better, because during the shoot we have to be in a certain mood and state due to the intensity of the role. But he is such a sweetheart to work with.
Q. And what about the little actors who play your kids?
The kids were a delight. They were our only escape from the emotional madness that all of us were going through. They were so adorable. Given the intensity of the shoot, Bugs handled them really well. That little girl would actually be acting, ‘Is that my mum?’ Another one would be chilling in the van, dancing and all. It was a very depressing van of mine if I had to give a serious shot. Till the time I would finish my scenes, I wouldn’t switch my mood. After it was all done, my van became a game zone. We found our balance otherwise we’d have been in the mental hospital by now.
Q. What attracts you the most about a project – script, character or paycheque?
Paycheque is always a factor, it’s our bread and butter. The best part I think is to completely understand the psychology and a completely different human being. I just find that whole process of getting into a person’s mind and soul very very interesting. Also aspects out of the script like where has the character come from, getting under their skin. It starts from the script, of course, once I have loved it, then the process as an actor to put in starts. Who are the directors, the producers, the co-stars, the character…On the whole, Barot House was very very exciting!
Q. You are an Army kid. What was the most challenging and exciting part growing up?
Oh, yes! The exciting thing was every three years my dad would be posted someplace else, that was exciting. Exploring different cultures, meet new people, see new places, all of this was exciting. I am a typical Cancerian, so I am extremely emotional and it’s difficult for me to leave people behind. I tend to get attached to people and places. My friendships are for life. I still have friends from a nursery school in Jammu and other places I have been to. I won’t be alienated anywhere though. I will go make friends, I have gone on my solo vacations and come back with really good friends.
Q. Do you have any fears, personally or professionally?
Personally, I fear the most is losing my close people and disappointing them. Professionally, nothing scares me. I love this profession, I love being an actress, I love the people in the industry. So yeah, nothing scares me really.
Q. You have been around for almost 15 years now, but we have only seen you in selected roles. Why so?
I was selecting the best of what I was getting. I have always been very instinctive about the work I want to do. Yes, there were times when I was not getting what I wanted. But I am also happy about the various work I have done, across industries. In spite of not coming from a film industry or a film family, I have still been constantly doing what I love doing. I have worked in more than half of the languages, so I am happy.
Q. Do you regret passing out on any role?
Not really. I made sure that anything I liked, I did it. And anything I left, I don’t regret it because it wasn’t mine. I am fine with that.
Q. You aspired to be a singer. Then how did acting happen?
(laughs) Yes, I wanted to be a singer. I have always wanted to be an actress actually, but I started out with singing since the age of three. The moment I discovered acting, it took all my passion. Singing, of course, I am trained in classical, but the acting was something I wanted to do. I was selected as one of the finalists for a show, although I did not make it to the band, within a couple of months of that, I got my first film. Lately, I have been getting my calling of singing back, I have a few singles ready. I have been pitching it to certain labels, so I am hoping something works out really fast and you all will be able to hear something soon.
I have given myself playback in a Tamil film in 2009. I have collaborated with a few musician friends of mine. But you know what happens, when I feature in music videos, people think I am acting and not singing. It happened during the Tamil case and a song I featured in. People don’t know my love for singing and music.
Based on true incidents, Barot House premieres on ZEE5 on 7 August 2019. Show your love for Manjari and #BarotHouse in the comments box below.
In the meantime, watch blockbusters films like Simmba and Uri: The Surgical Strike on ZEE5.