Manisha Koirala's new avatar: the actress plays a Parsi café owner in her latest Netflix film Maska
Manisha talks about working with the young actors, and life after her book, Healed.
Ever since her comeback, Manisha Koirala has picked up roles that have offered her audience and fans something more than the usual. Having been a leading lady always, the actress was confined to the typical song-and-dance routine.
However, her second coming has let her experiment with varied roles. Her latest film, Maska (on Netflix), showcases Manisha in a totally new avatar.
Coming of age
“It’s a slice-of-life film. I play the character of a Parsi, who is a restaurant owner. It is very interesting, something I haven’t done before,” reveals the actress. Manisha is often remembered for her glamorous looks, but in this role, she will be seen as a bespectacled, Iranian café owner and a mother.
Revealing what went into the preparation, she shares, “I had to learn the nuances of the language, work on my diction, and my body language. A lot of research went into it. I had a diction coach. I would go to different Parsi cafés in Mumbai and I would spend hours, sometimes days, observing the owners. It was a new experience for me.”
Actor Prit Kamani plays her son, and actress Nikita Dutta plays his love interest. Manisha’s character strongly believes in her Parsi roots and wants her son to imbibe this.
However, the young man doesn’t share her perspective. This is the first time that Manisha has worked with a very young cast, unlike her recent films which were mostly with her contemporaries.
“I loved working with these young actors (and the crew in Maska). I learnt so much from them. I come from a time when things were a lot more forgiving and were spontaneous, and things were easier. Today, everyone wants to be perfect with every step they take,” she says.
Maska is Manisha’s second collaboration with Netflix. Her first outing with the streaming platform was with Lust Stories. The actress played the leading lady, Reena, in Dibakar Banerjee’s short in the Lust Stories anthology.
In fact, Manisha is now working on her third Netflix film titled Freedom, which is also being directed by Dibakar. “We are still shooting for Freedom. It’s been an interesting journey, and this could turn out to be one of my best films,” she says.
However, when Dibakar offered her the role of Reena, the actress reveals she wasn’t sure. “Dibakar is someone I adore. I had watched his film Khosla Ka Ghosla, when I was a jury member at one of the Dubai Film Festivals."
"But when he offered Lust Stories, I was quite unsure. It was a short film and I didn’t know how my character and I would be perceived by the audience. Until the day I started shooting, I didn’t know how to present Reena, but I trusted Dibakar’s vision and it worked."
"People applauded my role and I am grateful it happened. Likewise, for Freedom, I have just trusted him, and done what he had in mind,” she reveals.
It has been a little over a year since the actress’ book, Healed, an autobiographical account of surviving cancer, was released. Life gave Manisha another chance and she is making the most of it, doing the roles she likes, travelling and fulfilling her dreams.
“I was giving my 200 per cent to the book when I was writing it, with some amazing female co-authors. I remember working 10 hours a day in my one room, just jotting down all the memories, and recording notes."
"I wanted to be as real as possible, I owned my flaws and narrated my weakest moments through Healed. I also wanted it to be a sort of motivation to people who could be going through such a crisis,” offers Manisha.
She also credits destiny for the pivotal roles she has been bagging lately. “I am blessed that I am getting such roles in my late-40s. I am not bringing my past to the present. I am learning in the present and preparing for the future,” says the actress. Between films, Manisha also trekked to the Everest Base camp, and her eyes are now set on scaling Mount Kilimanjaro.
Maska releases today on Netflix.