Bollywood Special

By Arpita Jindani

manisha-large.jpg (11034 bytes)Little did people know that the short and crisp new hairstyle donned by Manisha Koirala of late has to do with Ramgopal Varma's ambitious film, 'Company'. The role opposite Ajay Devgan, earlier given to Rinke Khanna, has now gone to Manisha for reasons unknown. The director has said that she is just what he needs to spice up the film. Manisha, of course, is thrilled, for this is going to be her first film with Varma.

Manisha, who is going through a dismal phase in her career, admits that the film will do her a great deal of good. "I need a glamorous, bitchy appearance for the role in 'Company', and for this I had to change the way I looked. The haircut is part of this change," she says.

Though contemporaries Karisma, Raveena and Tabu still walk off with the best roles in town, Manisha isn't really worried. "I've done films like 'Agnisakshi', 'Grahan', 'Yug Purush' (which were very powerful films) at a time when most of my so-called contemporaries were doing singing-dancing roles. Even now, when a lot of young, aggressive actresses are around, I am still doing a 'Lajja' and a 'Company'. I need to be convinced about the set-up I work in. The director, the banner, the role, everything is of importance."

Manisha's not-so-secret liaison with Australian diplomat Crispin Conroy has led to much speculation in the industry. "I should learn to keep my love-life secret. Only, the entire industry gets to hear about it," she says.

The actress is taking her Second Coming seriously, picking and choosing 'meaty roles' with good directors and the occasional potboiler like 'Mehbooba'. She is also busy scripting her own film that she hopes to produce soon.

What makes 'Lajja' different from the films that she has been featured in so far? "My role in 'Lajja' is distinctly different from the characters I have played so far in that I play a woman who is married, yet happy: a woman who loves her husband, but does not receive love in return. Trapped in such a situation, this woman leaves her husband and seeks refuge in various places where she comes across women from all walks of life and in all kinds of situations. What unites the central character with the other women in the story is exploitation. 'Lajja' is a powerful film with a powerful subject."

With 'Lajja' being chock a bloc with leading ladies, was the competition claustrophobic? "Not at all, there was no competition at all. Everybody associated with the film worked with utmost professionalism. Each and every actress has reason to feel proud of her role in the film. Rekhaji, Sonali, Madhuri…. are more than happy with their performances. And the same holds true for the male cast-Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgan."

What about her roles to come? "Well, I don't really believe in divulging details till a project is finalized. What I don't mind revealing is that I have a couple of interesting projects lined up."

Her timetable doesn't appear to be booked to the brim. Has she fallen out of favor or is she just being choosy? "It's just that I have decided to be more selective about my films. Not too many filmmakers are coming up with exciting scripts. I will do my best to be associated with the best. Yes, I realize that I am making a big gamble by being choosy, but I am sure that dedication from my side will even the odds."

Do she a dream role in mind? "What I am looking forward to is an out-and-out different role. For instance, I would have loved to play Erin Brockovich. And I am always open to playing woman-oriented roles."

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