Former Miss World Manushi Chhillar recently made her big Bollywood debut with Akshay Kumar star Samrat Prithiviraj which hit theaters on June 3. Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Samrat Prithviraj failed to live up to box office expectations, however, Manushi, who was seen trying out for the role of Princess Sanyogita, left critics and audiences awestruck with her grace , her beauty and her performance in the film.
Recently at UKTN, we spoke exclusively to Manushi about her first film, her role, the challenges she faced playing Princess Sanyogita, the film’s box office performance, and the impact of a clash with Vikram of Kamal Haasan and Major of Adivi Sesh. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Q. Is this how you always saw yourself getting your start in Bollywood when you decided to be an actress?
Ans: I think when I decided to be an actress, I was already auditioning with Yash Raj, so I knew that would be my entry into Bollywood. I never thought or planned “kaise hogi meri entrance”, but I think it was probably one of the most beautiful platforms anyone ever had to debut… you know, having a production house like Yash Raj supporting you, a director like Dr Chandraprakash (Dwivedi) and a co-actor like Akshay (Kumar) sir.
READ: Samrat Prithviraj box office day 10: Akshay Kumar star earns Rs 62.30 crore, sees 60% drop in week 2
Q. Why did you take the risky decision to debut with a period film, Samrat Prithviraj, and not go for a safer bet as a masala artist?
Rep. The honest answer is I don’t know. As someone who hasn’t been in the movie business or really doesn’t know how to strategize which should be the first movie and which should be the second movie, I really had no idea what people usually start. To be honest I loved the story, the character and growing up I loved watching period movies, and I read about both running away from their Swayamvar and the whole fictionalized version of the movie. story… I found it very exciting… I wanted to start (in Bollywood) with a story that I think is familiar to most countries.
Q. For your role as Princess Sanyogita, did you have any reference points, maybe movies or books that you looked back on?
Resp: Yes and no. In terms of benchmarks, there have been films we’ve done before but I knew I had to build a character on my own, I couldn’t duplicate someone else’s work. If you talk about the movies I’ve watched in my life, whether it’s Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Jodha bai or Deepika Padukone in Padmavat, Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Bajirao Mastani, I watched those movies. They are all very different, the directors are different so the flavor of the film is very different. But you watch those movies to understand how an actor approached the role and created that character… Aishwarya Rai will always be Jodha Bai for us and I think getting into those kind of characters takes a lot of understanding. I knew Princess Sanyogita was something I had to start from scratch.
Q. What was the hardest part of playing the role?
Ans: I think the fact that people already had a perception and an idea of who she was and what she looked like and you have to match that perception in your first movie. I remember when I started, people told me that you’re not going to be compared to a debutante, you’re going to be compared to established actresses who have had periodic roles in historical films. I think that was a very big challenge for me… my first film being compared to actresses who have experience and are on top, I think that’s a challenge for me as a newcomer .
Q. But did you have any apprehensions since you said that you knew that comparisons would be made?
Answer: People were telling me, but I wasn’t thinking much, I was like I loved the movie, I loved the role, let’s just give our best and see what happens.
Q. Critics loved your performance, however, the movie itself didn’t perform as expected at the box office. How do you see that since it’s your first film?
Answer: I think since I started my acting journey, I have to make peace with the fact that I will have films that will do well and films that will not do well. And it’s in my hand that I have to make films to the best of my ability. A film is a team effort, not just the actors and the director, there are so many people working to put this piece of art together and there are different reasons why a film does well or not. Sonu Sood told me ‘don’t get attached to a project, do your best and leave it to fate’ and it is the truth that I realize today as an actor that what is under my control is to show up on set and do my job well. The result is not something that is in your hands. But I’m glad that I received a very good review of my performance and that people mostly liked me. I will take this as a victory for me.
Q. Do you think the clash with the other two films Vikram and Major affected Samrat Prithviraj’s performance at the box office? Do you think that if the clash had been avoided, it could have benefited the film?
Answer: I have to be honest, I haven’t watched the other two movies yet. I’ve only read the online reviews or whatever has been said…and I don’t think it (the clash) had much effect. You have to give me the benefit of the doubt here for being a newcomer and not understanding the business side of movies. I still understand what really happens after the movie comes out. In terms of clash, I don’t think…we’ve had some good movies that have come out in the last few months, movies that have been released in theaters and done well. So don’t think the shock had an effect.
Q. Now that you have made your debut in Bollywood cinema, would you limit yourself to the Hindi film industry or are you open to exploring films from the South?
Answer: I think the world has changed. I don’t think there is a Telugu industry, Hindi industry, Tamil industry, Malayalam industry or Kannada film industry. I think everything has become an industry now and if you still compare it with other counties, I would say it’s the Indian film industry. Now a lot of projects are being made in different languages… pan-Indian films are being made, so I’m open to making films that I would like to make, whether it’s Hindi films or Southern films. I want to work with good directors because at the end of the day, it’s a director’s medium. As an actor, I want to learn and I want to do exciting roles. I don’t think I’m limited to any particular language.