Manu Rishi, who believes acting and screenwriting are like two sides of his personality, plays a homophobic character in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. His other release is Doordarshan.
“I have always been in the writing zone, and now suddenly I have two films. I am very excited,” he said.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Manu Rishi opened up about Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and co-actors Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta. The actor also revealed how he manages to get that impeccable comic timing.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
In Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, you play a homophobic uncle who is unable to even say the word ‘gay’.
The major responsibility of showing homophobia was with Gajraj Rao, who plays my elder brother. It is a common fear, and people refuse to even think about it. My character also has a certain level of homophobia, like I am unable to speak the word ‘gay’. But personally, I don’t see myself at that level because we began our journey with theatre and our thoughts were moulded accordingly. We learned to give the same respect to such relationships. I got an opportunity to grow with this film. I was prepared to accept it as an expression of love.
Was it a deliberate choice to deal with such a relevant topic through comedy?
I believe when director Hitesh Kewalya thought of this subject, he would have decided to not say it through anger or pain. This was about love, so he has to say it with love. His intention was to convey something big with humour so that it becomes normal, a thing of daily life. When you are happy, your acceptance becomes easier. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a situational comedy. It isn’t just a gay love-story. It makes you understand things also. So we all supported his vision of not making a comedy just because comedy works nowadays.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan set had several senior actors. How was the atmosphere?
It was a very philosophical experience. Gajraj Rao shared his life experiences without any inhibitions. We struck a very deep bond. I respect him so much that it translated onscreen too. We used to bond beautifully over meals. After the success of Badhaai Ho, he’s become more humble.
I had seen Neena Gupta in her films before. But when I met her, it was more about meeting a brave human being with a strong point of view. At the same time, she is equally humble with a lot of acceptance. And the biggest thing is she is a very lively woman. A person can learn and grow in her company. You can say I have borrowed 250 gram liveliness from her. And I’ll keep using portions of that in all my stories and characters.
Is it difficult to keep the writer inside you at a distance when you are acting?
So many times, the writer inside me comes out while acting. But the way Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan has been written, I didn’t require to do any improvisation. We do make the lines colloquial as per our limitations. But the script here was written beautifully – every scene, every character graph and dialogues. The screenplay was very strong, so I only needed to act after a long time.
You play characters which are so real. How observant are you in real life?
I learned during my theatre days that you don’t become an actor just by enacting a scene, you become one by observing life. So when I came to films, more than any acting school, those observations helped me. I might have an uncle who I referred to in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. I definitely knew some Bengali man who I enacted in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.
What have you loved more – acting or screenwriting?
When I act, I like acting. When I write, I like writing! But when I write professionally, I keep acting aside because I need to remove myself physically from there. I can never distinguish between acting and writing.
What pulled you to the big screen from theatre?
I enjoyed theatre a lot, but sometimes a good film touches your heart. I faced conflict during theatre, and I ended up in films.
Doordarshan, Angrezi Medium, Laxmmi Bomb and Netflix film Guilty. You have a lot in your kitty.
My film Doordarshan is releasing on February 28. It also stars Mahie Gill and Dolly Ahluwalia. It is a feel-good film about a mother who comes back from a coma after 25 years. We recreate a world around her that’s 25 years back in time, so that she doesn’t get shocked that the world has changed. Even the family is broken. There’s a nostalgia attached to it. There’s a lot from the 80s in it.
I have also done a cameo in Angrezi Medium. I had this selfish desire to go and hug Irrfan Khan when he was back from his treatment. It’s director Homi Adajania is a friend. One day, we were sitting in his office, and I asked him why he did not cast me in Angrezi Medium. He said there’s a cameo which he wants me to do. Then a film with Rajat Kapoor also got over recently.
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