"'Kkusum' is definitely not going to be easy. But what can be more exciting than a big challenge to herald one's comeback vehicle?" : Manasi Joshi Roy

Looks like Ekta Kapoor should be heaving a long sigh of relief, and probably even singing "Koi Mil Gaya" . Reason? Her search for Nausheen Ali Sardar's replacement in Kkusum is finally over. Quite a nightmare it must have been, apparently, the soap queen never had it so tough. Not even when Amarr Upadhyay (aka Mihir Virani) quit her flagship show on Star Plus Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

After tapping every potential candidate, including the likes of Gautami Kapoor, Iravati Harshe, and even Meenakshi Seshadri, she finally got someone to step into Nausheen Ali Sardar's shoes. And some replacement it has been.

Suddenly, she remembered an actress- simple and sweet, no flamboyance, so very like the reel character Kusum. The only hitch was: Will the actress agree to join back the daily grind, after a hiatus of two long years. A few phone calls and meetings later, things fell into place.

The show must go on, Ekta believed. The show will go on, the girl said.

Indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani caught up with that girl... the new face of Kkusum- Manasi Joshi Roy.


Is it a case of once an actor, always an actor?

You can say that again! Well, I did want to come back for quite some time now, and there were many offers to but nothing as exciting. Prior to the break in my career, I had played a strong protagonist in Saaya. I held center-stage. I didn't want to take up anything that is fluffy after that.


But role that you have accepted, that of the protagonist Kusum in 'Kkusum', isn't as meaty as it was before. Especially so after the 18 year fast forward...

I can't comment on this. But I think that they know my capabilities as an actor.

I told them that I wouldn't like to take up the role, if Kusum is reduced to just another lead character. I made that point clear before I signed on the dotted line. I have been told that Kusum will be doing many interesting things from here on.


How did 'Kkusum' really happen?

I took a maternity break two years ago. We, Rohit and I, have an 18-month old daughter Kiara.

Honestly speaking, I did tune into Kkusum only during the brief period when Rohit played Kkusum's husband Abhay. When the shows executive producer Saket called up to ask if I was interested, my only knowledge about the show was what I had read in the newspapers and heard from peers. I was aware that Nausheen was calling it quits and that the show was set 18 years ahead. Initially, I was reluctant to take up the part primarily because of the fast forward. But Saket insisted that he planned to make it an interesting role and Ekta had specially asked him to speak to me. I still wasn't keen on playing a mom and asked him for some time. Meanwhile, Rohit said that I should seriously think about taking it up (smiles). And I agreed.


Was this your first interaction with Balaji?

No, Balaji Telefilms have called me on a couple of occasions before this- just after my daughter was born- but things didn't worked out. They approached me for Karvachauth and a couple of other shows, recently.

Prior to that I was approached for Ghar Ek Mandir. Since it was just after my marriage, I didn't think that I would be able to devote that much time and refused the part. Anyway, I met up with the creative team and took a look at Kusum's role and it seemed interesting. All this while Rohit continued to convince me. Thanks to him, I was able to understand the wide appeal of Kkusum.

Not that I was convinced that I can look like a mother of an 18-year old, but I decided to let that go. When I finally said yes, Balaji Telefilms put me through the Kusum salwar kameez and saree look and we discussed dates and remuneration.

"Acting is like riding a bicycle"

How many days will you be offering? Were your remuneration demands met?

I am offering 20 days in a month. As for the remuneration, let's say we all are happy (laughs).


What was the unit's response?

It was good. Being from the TV industry, I know most of the people. It helped. Since I am new to the role, I told them that they ought to help me out. And I think they will be helping me in understanding certain nuances in my character, which I may overlook at times.


Won't it be difficult to get into the skin of the role, which is still associated with Nausheen? In the industry lingo, Nausheen has left a 'chaap' on the role.

It's definitely not going to be easy. But what can be more exciting than a big challenge to herald one's comeback vehicle? Plus, I have done my homework. I sat with the creative head and the writers of the show for a crash course in the earlier 600-odd episodes.

Even otherwise, I have always kept a track character graph - where it came from, what it underwent, where is it heading to…

" Is there nothing more to a woman's life than the saas angle?"

Family matters: A still from 'Kkusum'

So you have been a method actor?

If that is called a method in acting, then yes, I have been a method actor. But at the same time, I have been a spontaneous actress too.


Could you elaborate on that?

For scenes where I have to do comedy, like I did in Gharwali Uparwali, I had to visualise some funny moments in life and for scenes where I have to shed tears, I have think about some painful memories. I need to feel from within to give a correct expression on screen. Often at times, audience laugh at an actor when he/she is crying. It happens when the actor is not charged sufficiently and accordingly. Glycerin doesn't help your acting is what I believe. And that is what I mean by my method acting.

As for the spontaneity, it is basically the uptake I offer to my co-actors' lines. To me, spontaneity is a result of dedicated method. I know my CO-actors lines, because I have read the script. Still I must react in such a way that it should look as if I am hearing it for the first time.


But of course your lineage might have helped...

I did come from theatre background. My dad Arvind Joshi is a writer, director, actor in Gujrati theatre. My mom was into acting. My brother is an actor as well. So you can say that acting was in my genes. I did my first professional play (Gujrati), under my dad's direction, when I was in college. And I guess that's why I never felt the need to join a professional training course in acting.

After I finished my graduation (B.A.Psychology), I started getting a lot of offers in modeling and films. I toyed with the idea of joining the film industry, but decided against it; I don't think I am a good dancer. I took up modeling and did a lot of assignments. At that point of time (1995), Star Movies asked me to host a show Bol Bollywood. Later I did Feroz Khan's play All The Best, which turned out to be a smash hit; eight years down the line I am still doing and enjoying it. And then came Gaatha and Saaya(smiles).


You must have developed a very glamorous image from your modeling assignments. How did you take up the plain Jane role in 'Saaya'?

Actually I had auditioned for both the roles- Sudha (simpleton) and Kaamya (fashionable). They offered me Kaamya. I insisted that I wanted Sudha's role. Kaamya's role was very obvious with the kind of image I had built. It wouldn't have been a challenge. I want to grow as an actress. It paid off.


How did it pay off?

The industry realized that I could portray a different character. I was offered different kind of roles. Of those, I chose yet another different role- Gharwali Uparwali, which required me to develop a comic timing. I also did Ramesh Sippy's pre-independence saga Gaatha. Actually, the pilot for Saaya was shot before the pilot for Gaatha, but Gaatha happened first.


You faced the lights after two years. Was it tough on the first day?

Acting is like riding a bicycle. I think I have answered your question (laughs).


Not without my daughter: A still from 'Kkusum'
"Why don't we have something like 'Friends', which makes you laugh and go misty-eyed at the same time?"

Do you feel that the TV industry has changed in these two years?

Not much except for one thing- speed. Earlier, the market was full of weeklies. Today, dailies have taken center-stage. In terms of physical and mental activity, the scenario is more taxing.


But has the TV industry progressed?

In terms of inputs and outputs, yes. I mean, advertising, marketing, has become very aggressive. But I am sorry to say that the TV industry has regressed in terms of content. Is there nothing more to a woman's life than the saas angle? And what are these revenge dramas where decorated women go to high extremes to plot the downfall of anybody and everybody? Does this happen in real life? No, it doesn't. Then why not be real? Besides, their angst seems so contrived. Why are comedies so much over the top? Why don't we have something like Friends, which makes you laugh and go misty-eyed at the same time? Why are emotional dramas so high-pitched? The biggest things can be said subtly. Why are we hammering things? Why are actors being made to blow their lungs out? Above all, why there is so much less work for men?


Would you would prefer something like 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin'?

Hmmm… no. I don't think Jassi… is good enough. It's still about a woman. I would prefer something more subtle and innovative. Why don't we have a simple love story? Why don't we have something like Fraisier (Star World)? I think Astitva- Ek Prem Kahani is pretty good too.


So, who should bell the cat?

Channels! I understand that business demands them to stick to what is running, but at the same time, there should be a small window left open for constant experimentation.


Future plans?

I would like to direct a TV show one day- something very real, something you, I and every other person can identify with.


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