Meet Bollywood's rising talent
With Phas Gaya Re Obama, Manu Rishi Chadha finally tasted success. A brilliant actor seen in only bit roles before, Manu made his presence felt in the well-reviewed 2010 film.
Manu talks to Sonil Dedhia about his struggle in Bollywood, as he tried to find a place for himself. He also talks about Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, which helped him discover his acting as well as writing talent.
Phas Gaya Re Obama received great reviews, and was one of the successful small-budget films of 2010.
I had a wonderful experience shooting for the film.
I want to say that Phas Gaya Re Obama was the only small-budget film last year. Peepli Live had Aamir Khan's backing, Udaan was produced by UTV, Ishqiya was produced by Vishal Bhardwaj... The budget is not the only thing that makes a film big or small. The backing needs to be taken into consideration too.
You were brilliant in the film but not much is known about you. Tell us about your early days.
My father would shout at me for not taking interest in our automobile spare parts shop in Delhi. But my heart was not there.
My mother influenced me a lot because she was interested in the performing arts. She would make me take part in plays in school and college. That gave me a lot of confidence. I did theatre for almost seven years. When I was 18, I wanted to become an actor. So I came to Mumbai with the dream of becoming an actor.
Some friends in Mumbai told me make a portfolio and send it to casting directors. But I didn't do that, as I wondered how people can get work by just showing pictures.
I continued doing theatre. One day I met Rajat Kapoor and he asked me to be his assistant director. I assisted him on Raghu Romeo and also did a cameo in the film. I did cameos in Mithya, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local and Mixed Double later.
Image: Manu Rishi in Phas Gaya Re Obama
'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was a turning point for me'
I came to Mumbai in 1999. Here, you have to really struggle and work hard but deserving and hardworking actors always get a break.
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was a turning point for me. At the beginning of my career, I would do any and every role that would come my way. I took up advertisements and did a television show.
But after Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, people started recognising me. I was in a position to decide what I wanted to do. [Manu bagged Filmfare and IIFA awards for Best Dialogue as well].
Image: Manu Rishi, Abhay Deol and Neetu Chandra in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!
'I am ready to write about Delhi all my life'
You were offered a role in Khosla Ka Ghosla.
Yes. (Director) Dibakar Banerjee was on the lookout for someone, who had a typical Delhi accent. My role was first offered to Pawan Malhotra. But he could not do it because of date problems. So Dibakar tried to convince me to the role.
In fact, I was offered a role in Peepli Live too. Everything was confirmed until one day someone from the director's office informed me that they had found someone better than me.
You have written as well.
My acting career was not taking off. I almost thought of going back to Delhi. Some of my films were not taking off, and work that I did in Saathiya got edited out.
So my friends (and actors) Piyush Mishra and Deepak Dobriyal told me to start writing. Eventually, they would turn into dialogues or a scene or a story.
Almost all the films you have written have Delhi as the backdrop. Won't that stereotype your image?
I am ready to write about Delhi all my life. Nobody asks that when so much of Mumbai is shown in films. I think filmmakers have only recently started portraying the real layers of Delhi. Earlier, it was the same India Gate or Qutub Minar or Chandni Chowk or the Parliament.
A lot of people must have not heard of Sainik Farms or Janakpuri, which was shown in Band Baaja Baarat, or the small shady lanes in No One Killed Jessica.
If I am able to give something new to the audience with the price of getting stereotyped, I don't think it's wrong. I have so much to write about Mumbai. With time, you will see that too.
Image: Manu Rishi and Boman Irani in Khosla Ka Ghosla
'I still wonder where Anthony Gonzalves is'
What kind of movies would you like to write?
I would love to explore Mumbai. I am a big fan of Amar Akbar Anthony. I still wonder where Anthony Gonzalves is. Was it a fictional character or did someone with that name and antics really exist? I still go for a stroll on Versova beach (in suburban Mumbai) looking out to see if gold still comes from those docks.
I have never seen Mumbai shown in a bad light in any films. There a lot of stories about the city which have still not been told.
How did Sudhir Mishra approach you for Yeh Saali Zindagi?
I had to struggle a lot as an actor. I would go to Sudhir's office and tell him, 'Kya Sudhirbhai mujhe kaam nahi dete ho, Shiney ko bhi kaam diya.' [You don't give me work, you gave work to Shiney Ahuja too].
One day, he called me and said that he had written the first draft of Yeh Saali Zindagi. I offered to write the dialogues.
Image: Movie poster of Phas Gaya Re Obama
'Deepak Dobriyal is the best actor in the industry today'
What is Yeh Saali Zindaagi about?
I have shown a different Delhi in Yeh Saali Zindaagi. It's the evil side. It is a quirky love story with an element of thrill. It's an obtuse take on how far people can go to get the women they love, and how things go wrong in such situations.
How has the industry treated you?
I have learnt a lot of things, and I love it. I can explore myself as an actor and have also discovered my writing skills.
I have made good friends like Piyush Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Sudhir Mishra and Rajat Kapoor. I feel Deepak Dobriyal is the best actor in the industry today, without a doubt.
I had written my first script, Tina Ki Chaabi, which will release this year. Amit Saxena will direct it. I will act in it too.
I am also acting in a film called 10ml Love and Boys Toh Boys Hain.
Image: Chitrangada Singh in Yeh Saali Zindagi