Playing evil on the big screen brought actor Mansi Multani dangerously close to having anxiety attacks. On the sets of Pari, as Multani, who plays Kalapori in the film, waited for her shot in the prosthetic, make-up and costume, she felt “broken” and “vulnerable” inside. “Prosthetic makes you feel like something is closing in on you and you can’t breathe. With that on your face, it becomes difficult to wait for long. With latex on my mouth, I couldn’t move it much. If there was sweat or heat, the mask became loose,” says the actor, who went through the “taxing” process of make-up for nearly three hours on the days of her shoot.
One day, as she was on the verge of a breakdown after an eight-hour wait, the Pari team realised how the prosthetic was affecting Multani and cut down the waiting period. “I had to stay positive and act before the camera. This became easier once they called me for my shots immediately after my prosthetic make-up was done. Having played a witch on stage earlier, I had to learn how to do it for the camera — how less can be more,” says the actor, who plays one of the witches in Rajat Kapoor’s adaptation of Macbeth, titled What is Done, is Done. She considers essaying Kalapori, who is “the embodiment of darkness”, as the most challenging role she has done so far. Though it’s a small part, she is happy that she’s features in the promotions of this Anushka Sharma-starrer. The horror film, which released last week, has received a mixed reaction though the performances have been praised.
However, Multani was not the first choice to play this evil spirit. Four days prior to the start of Pari’s filming, she got a call for an audition. Within two hours of auditioning, she had a discussion with director Prosit Roy and was on board. “If this is my journey, then I’m embracing it. The role may go to someone else first but it’s another kind of magical thing that determines who ends up doing it,” says the 30-year-old, who is playing one of the lead roles in Kadakh, directed by Kapoor. This role, too, was earlier meant to be played by another actor. Kadak, which is currently in post-production, is the story of one Diwali night when strange events unfold.
For six years, theatre dominated Multani’s life as an actor. In the well-travelled Piya Behrupiya, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night directed by Atul Kumar, she plays the lovelorn Olivia. She also features in the Sunil Shanbag-directed Stories in a Song apart from acting in Hamlet: The Clown Prince and Ishq Aaha. She gained popularity for her turn as Olivia, but had to struggle to find the character. “I was the last one in the cast to find my character,” she says and adds that once she modelled herself as a Punjabi aunty from Karol Bagh, it became easier for her to crack it.
What gave an added edge to her stage performances, especially in Piya Behrupiya and Stories in a Song, is an early training in Hindustani vocals. Born and raised in Delhi, she joined The Valley School, Bangalore in Class IX. The alternate education system there changed her life.
After nearly 550 stage shows, Multani had almost developed an artistic block. So, she grabbed the opportunities to explore other mediums of performance art. “While doing theatre, I was not going for that many auditions for television shows or ads. Last year, I decided to act in the sitcom Har Mard Ka Dard. I was conscious about not playing a regressive or scheming character. Playing an apsara, who sported glasses and braces, was a lot of fun. My experience of theatre improv came handy as I appeared in different avatars,” says the actor, who had made a brief appearance in Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2014) and was the casting director for Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City (2015).
Following her television stint, the Mumbai-based actor has decided to face the camera more often. “I love being on the stage. For now, however, I want to be in front of the camera. It is hypersensitive and it captures every little detail. It’s exciting to explore it,” says the actor, who can also be seen in the web-series Time Out. Even as she waits for the release of Kadakh, her first as a lead actor on the big screen, she plans to focus on music till the next interesting assignment comes up.