Monday, July 15, 2024

I personally loved Animal film and I don’t analyze movies that deeply – Actress Manjari Fadnis in an exclusive interview

Interviewed by – Murchana Goswami

Edited by – Robin Bhuyan

Written by – Nupur Jha 

Manjari Phadnis is a well-known actress who has appeared in numerous movies throughout her career. Although she has predominantly acted in Hindi movies, she has appeared in several South Indian films as well. She began her career with the film Rok Sake toh Rok Lo alongside veteran actor Sunny Deol. She came to prominence with her role in the acclaimed film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, where she played the role of Meghna. Some of her notable works include Zokkomon (2011), alongside Darsheel Safary and Anupam Kher, Grand Masti (2013), alongside Riteish Deshmukh and Vivek Oberoi, and Barot House (2019), where she was seen alongside Amit Sadh.

Her most recent works includes the 2021 film State of Siege: Temple Attack and the 2022 Marathi thriller film Adrushya (2022). In 2022 and 2023, she appeared in the web series Masoom and The Freelancer. Other than cinema, Phadnnis has also actively supported environmental, social as well as animal welfare causes. Join us in an exclusive interview with the beautiful and talented actress, as we talk in detail about her life, her career, as well as some of her insights regarding cinema.  

What made you decide to become an actor – was it a career choice or just fate?

I’ve been on stage since I was three, whether it is for singing, dancing, or other reasons. Acting caught my interest when I was 14, playing my first role in school. It was a lot of fun getting into character, and I thought it was something worth exploring in the future. At first, it was just a hobby alongside my other activities. By the time I was 16, I realized that acting wasn’t just a hobby; I enjoyed it the most and wanted to pursue it professionally.

You started your career with a lead role in Rok Sako to Rok Lo alongside veteran actor Sunny Deol. How was your experience working on that project, and how did it happen?

At that time, I was living in Pune, but knowing that acting opportunities were in Mumbai, I had to convince my family to let me go there, even though they were against the idea. I had done a photoshoot with Dabboo Ratnani in Pune, and because of that, I had a list of casting directors and model coordinators. Initially, I visited some of them, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any opportunities, so I patiently waited.

After a month, one of my model coordinators called me for an audition for a new production house. At that point, I had no idea how to present myself, do makeup, or even dress appropriately. I did some basic makeup in a corner of my house but was confident I looked good. After the audition, Shubhas sir, the executive producer, liked my performance, although he suggested I wash my face as my makeup was making me look like a ‘white monkey’. Fortunately, I cleared the first round. A month later, I had a second audition with Arindham sir. However, Subhash sir didn’t want to take any chances and sent me an assistant to take me to a parlour for proper dressing. That’s how I cleared my second round and ended up in my first film.

You played the memorable role of ‘Meghna’ in the critically and commercially successful movie Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Could you share some memories and experiences from the shooting?

At that time, I had no idea about the movie or the audition. However, I kept randomly bumping into Pakhi, who is the wife of Abbas Tyrewala (the director of ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’). They were in the process of auditioning for the character ‘Meghna.’ After several accidental meetings, Pakhi suggested I try out for the role. She warned that it was not the main role but a second lead. Considering it was an Aamir Khan production, I weighed the pros and cons and read some scenes. I really liked the character; it reminded me of Rani Mukherjee role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain.

However, Abbas Tyrewala had already seen over 400 auditions by that time and had shortlisted three candidates. He was adamant about not seeing any more auditions. Despite this, while they were sitting and planning to watch a movie one day, Pakhi slipped in my audition tape.  That’s how he saw my performance, and I ended up playing the role in his movie.

You have been part of OTT series like The Freelancer and Masoom. How was your experience, and do you think OTT will impact cinema?

I had a wonderful experience with OTT. Around 2017, I felt suffocated and tired of being typecast in movies that lacked layered characters. However, when I debuted with Zee5’s Barot House I realized that OTT doesn’t prioritize market value as much. They prioritize good stories and characters more.

Despite this, I don’t believe it has negatively affected cinema. After the COVID-19 situation, bringing people back to cinemas was initially challenging. However, now we see movies achieving 500 or 1000 crores at the box office. Films like 12th Fail have done well, indicating that if Bollywood presents good stories, people will still come to cinema halls.

What attracts you to play certain characters, and how do you choose your roles as an actor?

I believe that the character chooses you rather than the other way around. It’s important for me to consider who is directing the movie or series because even a good script may not be presented well if the director isn’t competent. Additionally, I choose roles based on the potential impact they can create.

Is there any particular career role closer to your real-life personality or holds a special place in your heart?

Meghna from Jaane tu Ya Jaane Na is a character that is close to my heart. I am delighted and surprised by the amount of love I continue to receive for that role, even more so today than when the movie was initially released.

Another role that holds a special place was my role in the web series Miya Biwi aur Murder alongside Rajeev Khandelwal. I played a poker-faced character with quirky ideas, and she was naturally funny without even trying. The role closest to my real-life personality is the character from Khamakha. It was a short film released in 2017 which had won the Filmfare and the People’s Choice Award. I starred alongside Harsh Vardhan Rane in that project.

You have acted in different industries, including Bengali, Tamil, and Kannada. Have you noticed any differences in their operations?

While I feel more comfortable in the Hindi industry, I’ve had amazing experiences working in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu industries. During my shoots, I met some truly wonderful people. One notable difference is that South Indian movies tend to have faster releases. The fans deeply love their stars and are eager to watch their films, reducing the need for extensive promotions. Other than that, everything else is quite similar across industries.

You are one of the actors who made their own way. How would you describe nepotism in the Bollywood industry?

Yes, it does exist, and it’s a reality. It’s a privilege for those born into film families. However, it’s not something we should constantly complain about. Every parent wants to secure a better future for their child, and if it happens in Bollywood, so be it. Producers and directors often prefer working with individuals they are familiar with. While star kids may have their own struggles, ultimately, it’s up to the audience to accept them or not. Even though it might seem unfair, that’s how life works, and you must accept it.

How do you balance your life and career, especially when the industry can get noisy and competitive at times? And what keeps you motivated?

The best decision I made was to step out of the competition and the rat race. Work is enjoyable for me, and I approach it with a peaceful mindset. While it would be nice to be part of a celebrity list, if it doesn’t happen, it won’t burden me. I believe that being in the industry and keeping your heart in the right place is essential for a beautiful experience.

Admittedly, there have been low points and challenging experiences. The industry has its share of negativity, and actors face numerous rejections daily. However, with the support of my parents and by the grace of God, I always bounce back.

The recent movie ‘Animal’ sparked controversies. What are your thoughts, and do you think it will negatively impact the youth?

I watch a movie for entertainment, not to analyse the director’s choices or the characters’ persona. For me, it’s about enjoying the characters without overthinking, because that is how cinema is meant to be. As a fan of Ranbir Kapoor, I enjoyed the film, and I didn’t find it really misogynistic.

As for the youth, let’s not underestimate their intelligence. They can tell right from wrong. I don’t think watching violence on the screen will turn them into gangsters.

You have also been actively supported and spoken in favour of environmental issues. Can you tell us about more about your work?

I take it very seriously, and people should be more considerate and sensible with what they do for the environment. I’ve seen people throwing plastics and garbage into oceans, harming animals. It’s crucial for people to be more understanding and sensitive to environmental issues.

 

What are your future plans or projects that you look forward to exploring?

I recently worked on a film called Chalti Rahe Zindagi. The film has received lots of love from international and national film festivals and might be released this year. I’m eager to see how people will react to it. Regarding upcoming projects, I have exciting projects coming such as Pune Highway and Penthouse.

Thank you so much for your time!

Thank you!

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