May 25, 2002 
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Manisha Koirala
'Manisha's the most beautiful woman on earth'
Aditya Seal has the beginnings of a crush

Vickey Lalwani

Hindi cinema has rarely tackled plots on teenage obsession with older people.

Recently, Farhan Akhtar's maiden directorial venture Dil Chahta Hai did border around a young man (Akshaye Khanna) in love with a middle-aged divorcee (Dimple Kapadia). But it was a loose adaptation of the all-time teen favourite Hollywood flick Summer Of 42.

Akhtar, for his part, hesitated to develop that liaison further.

Thirty years ago, Raj Kapoor the director who always kept himself ahead of times, explored the subject of young student Rishi Kapoor developing sexual feelings for a teacher Simi Garewal at his boarding school, with more guts and sensitivity than Akhtar.

Kapoor's magnum opus, Mera Naam Joker, showed the beautiful, spirited and graceful Simi handling the moonstruck boy with extreme sensitivity, when she becomes aware of his feelings. She tenderly introduces her fiancee Manoj Kumar to him. During her church wedding, she remembers to give Rishi a warm and affectionate kiss on the forehead.

'A trip down memory lane' was what Rockford, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor had promised. For about 90 minutes, you are transported to Rockford, a Catholic boarding school at a South Indian hill station, where Rajesh finds his first love in Mrs Lily played by Nandita Das.

Now, K Shashilal Nair's forthcoming Ek Chhotisi Love Story revolves around a 14-year old played by Aditya Seal (from CNM School in the Western suburbs of Mumbai). He is mad about Manisha Koirala who lives in the adjacent apartment.

The two-hour-15-minute film, shot in a record time of 16 days, is a departure from the Bollywood grammar of filmmaking and contains no song-and-dance sequences. The urkha-clad heroine of Mani Ratnam's Bombay makes a provocative screen appearance in this film.

The film also features Ranvir Shourie (the music television Channel [V] veejay) in a guest appearance and Saroj Bhargava making her screen debut at the age of 75. Bhargava, a revered name in the radio and theatre circles of Delhi, plays Aditya's grandmother.

Aditya lives with his ageing grandmother in an apartment in Mumbai. Shunted back to India by his parents who are busy chasing the green bucks in America, he fantasies about a woman (Manisha Koirala), who lives opposite his apartment. Focusing a telescope into her apartment, he watches all her movements furtively. He synchronises his life with hers. He eats when she eats, sleeps when she sleeps.

Manisha is unaware of him. He make several clumsy attempts to capture her attention and befriend her. But all he manages is to win her irritation.

One day, he realises that she has a boyfriend (Ranvir). He watches them as they embrace, kiss, even make love. He feels Ranvir is hurting her.

He approaches her later and hesitantly tells her about his intense love for her. He even confesses to her he has been watching her daily and was privy to all aspects of her life.

She is stunned, but things don't end there.

"Working in the film was an amazing experience. It felt very nice that a filmmaker thought about the sexual awakening dilemma in this age group when one is neither a child nor a young man. It is actually a very difficult period. Everybody still considers you a child, which is not exactly true," says Aditya, matter-of-factly.

He was not exactly pressurised by the complexity of the role. It inspired him. "I consider myself lucky that I got such a serious role at this age. Usually a child/ young actor gets very superficial and cliched roles. The entire film revolves around my character.

"The role is complex; it was not easy to perform. Shashilal Nair and Saroj Bhargava helped me a lot. Even Manisha Koirala, who I think is the most beautiful woman on earth!"

He admits that at this age he is not really experienced in romantic matters but the feeling of love is not exactly alien to him. He believes that this situation is certainly not make-believe and these circumstances do occur in reality.

Ek Chhotisi Live Story marks a new chapter in Shashilal Nair's evolution. He has a childlike excitement about the movie, "I haven't made a Sholay in my career. There is an enormous distance that I plan to travel.

"ECLS is the beginning of that extensive journey. I was very clear I would do nothing I have already done earlier."


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