Manisha Koirala on playing Nargis Dutt in Sanju, and Lust Stories: 'Want to do one or two meaningful films in a year'

Seema Sinha

Jun,26 2018 12:45:06 IST

Manisha Koirala knew from the very beginning that Sanjay Dutt’s life story is a great one to tell. “With so many ups and downs and so many incidents, if not his story then whose?" she exclaims. Koirala plays Dutt’s mother, Nargis in Rajkumar Hirani’s much-awaited biopic Sanju, which releases on 29th June.

She will soon reunite with Sanjay Dutt after a decade for the Hindi remake of a Telugu hit, Prasthanam. Needless to say she shares a close bond with the actor since both have been paired in several films together in the past (Yalgaar, Sanam, Kartoos, Achanak, Baaghi, Khauff and Mehbooba) and yet she discovered many aspects of his life only while filming Sanju. However, the actress never interacted with Dutt for any tips to play his mother’s part in the biopic, “because I never felt the need. I was playing Nargis ji and I had to focus just on that,” says Manisha Koirala in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.

Still from Sanju. YouTube screengrab

Still from Sanju. YouTube screengrab

Koirala was always known to be a spontaneous actor. But now, in the second phase of her career, she would like to take a slightly different route and prefer to prepare of her roles. For instance, she had to prep quite a bit to play Nargis in Sanju. “When I was younger, those days lot of spontaneity was required and I just hope that I don’t lose my spontaneity now (laughs out loud). I want my script now, I want my lines now,” she says.

This spontaneity stemmed from the fact that the actors were not given scripts and lines well in advance, back in the day. However, Koirala definitely likes the present system. “I love the fact that today we are well rehearsed and well prepared. Earlier on, no scripts were given to us, we were given scenes on sets and we would learn the lines on the spot. Today everybody learns lines much before. We know the character sketch really well and I am more focused now,” adds the actor.

Koirala has always managed to successfully strike a balance between mainstream (Saudagar, Gupt, Mann) and off-beat cinema (Bombay, Khamoshi, Dil Se) and she plans to continue the same pattern in the future. “Yes, in a way I am following the same pattern with Lust Stories which is more experimental, and Sanju which can be called commercial. But I am taking it slow. There are plenty of offers that come my way but I don’t want to do too much. I want to do one or two really meaningful films in a year where I am remembered, appreciated, get a pat on my back and then take it easy. I don't intend to overwork myself,” she says.

The poster of Sanju.

Undoubtedly, Koirala is in a happy space because on the one hand she’s basking in the critical acclaim for her role in Lust Stories, though she hadn’t expected “people to react so well”, and on the other hand, her look in Sanju has also been appreciated. “I’m so glad that people have liked my look. Lot of preparation and ground work was already done by Rajkumar Hirani and I took on from where he left. I saw few documentaries of Nargis ji. I was trying to capture her essence, understand her spirit, her inner world to make it look more authentic and convincing. I would sit on for long hours for hair, we would try different hairstyles and spend much time on make-up because it is difficult to look like somebody else,” says Koirala, further adding, “But my part wasn’t that tough because it is a special appearance and I had to just focus on the emotion bit.”

But, as Koirala rightly says, life’s full of coincidences. It’s interesting to know that over two decades ago, Sunil Dutt had called her after watching Mani Ratnam’s Bombay in his own preview theatre and told her that she reminded him of his wife, Nargis. “Obviously I had absolutely no clue then that I will be playing Nargis Dutt ji!

Initially, Koirala reveals that she was a bit hesitant and nervous to play Nargis (who succumbed to cancer in 1981) because she had herself battled cancer and had taken a five-year break to recuperate, and finally return to the big screen last year with Dear Maya. "To live through the pain and trauma did make me sad but I am glad I did the role. It was all worth it, because Nargis ji was such an iconic figure,” says Koirala, furthering, “I was a bit nervous on the first day of the shoot. I had this beautiful scene with Paresh ji  and Ranbir, and I wasn’t sure how to do it, but by the grace of god it went off well.”

Manisha says she was thrilled working with Ranbir Kapoor, who plays Dutt in the biopic. “He is such a brilliant actor and it is so good to see a good performer. I appreciate acting. I am a cinema lover so when I see good work, good actor, good director, I feel very thrilled. Ranbir is natural, he works hard but his efforts don’t show. It is in his genes,” she says.

In between her movies, Koirala is also trying to pen down her journey in a memoir. “It is about health; actually getting back to health. It will come out by the year end,” says the actor.

Updated Date: Jun 26, 2018 12:45 PM