After watching her enact a scene during the screen test for 1942: A Love Story, director Vidhu Vinod Chopra dismissed Manisha Koirala as a “terrible actress” but in no mood to give up, she requested him for a second chance the next day and the rest is history.
A gritty Manisha came the next day and after her performance, Chopra remained silent for long, as if in a daze.
And then he said the words that were music to Manisha’s ears, “If this is the heart and soul that you promise to put into each scene of my movie, I will sign you up instead of Madhuri Dixit. Manisha, yesterday, you were at zero. You are at a hundred today.”
Manisha recalls this episode in her memoir Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life.
“I remember my screen test for 1942: A Love Story. Veteran filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra had called me to do a scene. But to my disappointment, at the end of it he remarked, ‘Manisha, you were shit. You’re a terrible actress.’ This was not acceptable to me. The warrior woman inside me had been challenged. I requested him to give me twenty-four hours to come back for a second chance. Back home, I practised my lines passionately, over and over again, until my mother became distressed at my state,” she writes.
“What are you doing to yourself? It’s okay if you don’t get this movie. Don’t kill yourself over it,” her mother told her.
The next day, Manisha says, she poured her soul into her performance and subsequently got signed for the movie.
Manisha, who won a tough battle against ovarian cancer, talks in her book her treatment in the US, the care provided by the oncologists there and how she rebuilt her life once she returned home.
Born into the prominent Koirala family in Nepal, Manisha made her Bollywood debut with Saudagar in 1991 and went on to act in films like 1942: A Love Story, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Bombay, Khamoshi: The Musical, Dil Se, Mann, Lajja and Company.
She took a break from acting in 2012 and returned five years later with the coming-of-age drama Dear Maya, Netflix’s Lust Stories and biographical drama Sanju.