Maanvi Gagroo has her hands full with back-to-back projects. She kicked off the year as Siddhi Patel in Amazon Prime Video original series Four More Shots Please. Recently, she unveiled the trailer of her most popular web-series TVF Tripling 2 and now, on ZEE5, Maanvi has a film based on Section 377 titled 377 Ab Normal. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Maanvi talks about the film and much more.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
We just saw you in Four More Shots Please. You have finished Tripling 2, and now, you have 377 Ab Normal. All three are different from each other. How was it to work in them?
They are releasing almost together but we shot them separately. Four More Shots Please was shot last year between January and April. Tripling 2 was shot till December 2018. 377 Ab Normal was shot recently. It just happened that all three of them are releasing one after another but thankfully I have had time to get out of one character and prepare for the other.
The fact that they are coming together is actually working for me because people are going to see me in three different characters. They are seeing all of it together and it will help them to see the range I have as a performer. So, I am excited about that.
Out of the three, which character was more challenging to perform?
All three of them were challenging in different ways. Four More Shots Please had many firsts. It was for the first time when I was playing someone who is highly fashionable. For once, I was worried about make-up and hair too. Also, I have never even kissed on screen. So, even the bold scenes were firsts for me. Otherwise, it was a very different set-up with four women protagonists, all women crew.
With Tripling 2, it is like coming back home. There is comfort because you are working with the same team. TVF is like family. The tough part was that I was freaking out that I have forgotten Chanchal’s voice. By voice, I mean the way she speaks and her diction. I was like what if I cannot recall her character.
For 377 Ab Normal, the character was extremely different. I play a lesbian in the film. That is something I do not relate to personally, but I have a lot of friends who are gay. I just wanted to give the character dignity without belittling it in any way.
Any first-hand instances or experiences that you had which helped you to play the character in 377 Ab Normal?
I do have gay friends and all of them have different stories of coming out. Some did not even come out of their closet, some are struggling to be accepted by their families. So there were all of these stories. Apart from that, I read a lot. Back in my college, I had a course in gender studies and I generally also like to keep myself updated with all the happenings in the field. So, I do have an innate interest in the subject.
I had a lot of information to build my character on but beyond that what I ended up doing and learning is that I had to stop seeing it as a gay relationship because it is not about gay or straight relationship. It is about two people falling in love and the connection they share. It is understanding that in the connection, everything else is just incidental – be it region, nationality or gender. We have to start treating gender as basic as everything else. So, I learned that through the project.
We as a society tend to put labels and are dying to put people in a mould. Be it gay, lesbian or LGBTQ all are just labels and I hope one day, we get done with such labels.
LGBTQ rights is an extremely new topic. While youngsters are embracing it, society at large is yet to come to terms. How will the series help in breaking the taboo?
I think this whole society acceptance comes from a place of being misinformed or ignorance. I told you when I started working on this film, I was also looking at my character’s relationship as a gay relationship but when I finished, I had a different perspective. That happened because of a lot of reading and by speaking to a lot of people. Till the time the society will not have exposure, it will be difficult for them to understand.
Also, it is amazing how it has been part of our society for a long time, but we still look at it as a taboo. During the course of the film, we were talking about Khusro and how he has mentioned same-sex love in his work. West is ahead of us but it is only now when they have become more inclusive and holistic. There, even in media, there is a representation from the LGBTQ section. I think there has to be more representation in Indian media as well. So far, (in the films) we have seen comic gay characters. They have been mocked and laughed at. While it is a great thing to introduce something to the society through humour but after some point, the attitude or treatment has to change. Now is that time when they should be presented the way they deserve to be represented.
Now that Section 377 has been decriminalised, people have a lot of stories to tell and explore. Before September 2018, it was a criminal offence. So, even if you were propagating it, you were supporting crime. That is what the film is about. The fight and journey to decriminalise same-sex love.
Talking about the much-awaited show Tripling 2. Are you nervous?
Honestly, I am very scared. The expectations are so high. When the poster released, I remember, we have a Whatsapp group on which Amol mentioned that nowhere in the poster the show’s name is mentioned. It just had the release date. Creators where like, ‘it is okay.’ They did not think it is a big thing. But the minute we posted the poster, it broke the internet. You won’t believe that it received such a crazy response. People were messaging me why am I not posting, but the apps would crash every time! So, yes. I am very nervous. This is for the first time when I am doing a season two of anything and especially of a popular season one. In the history of series or sitcoms, season two have usually disappointed. So, my fingers are crossed.
What’s next for the web-series queen?
I quite enjoy it. I got the tag of the ‘first lady of web’ with TVF Pitchers. Over the period of time, the tag changed to ‘queen.’ I love it. The problem is, if I ever fail, people should not go like – what queen is she? why doe she exist?