"I have an exclusive contract with Balaji which means that I cannot work for any other production house" : Manasi Varma

She is just 18, has shades of Zeenat Aman in her looks and Neha Dhupia in her voice and is being touted as the sexiest vamp among the new breed. That's Manasi Varma aka Monalika of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii for you! What more does she want?

Rewind. Her mum and dad did not discourage her from joining the world of glamour at such a young age, she claims to indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani, adding, "Since childhood, I used to sing and dance a lot. Plus I was always quite tall for my class. My mum knew that I wasn't made to become an engineer or a doctor, but either a model or an actress. Why should we have fixed ideas in our minds? What you are referring to, happens everywhere. It all depends on the girl. If her head is on the shoulders and she comes straight home after work, there is nothing to worry." Seems, a case of stable head on strong shoulders.

Excerpts of the conversation:


So how did your mum's hunch prove right?

I modelled for Pepsi, Titan, Baleno and L'Oreal Garnier. I contested at the Gladrags Mega Model 2003. I went for a Balaji Telefilms' audition. Actually, they auditioned me for another show which they were planning for Zee. But after four days, I was informed that I had been chosen as Monalika for Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii.


And you jumped at the offer?

If you want me to say the truth, I "was" a bit skeptical whether I should flag off my acting career with such a negative portrayal. I did contemplate. I sat with Balaji people; they convinced me and I realised that the role had immense scope to grow. The advantage about the role was that from the exterior, I just had to be myself. No sarees, just jeans and T-shirts. It's easy to act without make-up, hair-dos, extra jazzy clothes and what not.


But surely, you aren't so manipulative and evil in real life. That was different, wasn't it?

(Laughs). Yup, that was different.


When did you first realise that your character was working?

Good question because here, every actor is on the edge when it comes to his/her character. You know how demanding Indian television has become today. Shape up or ship out. I had my nervous moments but thankfully, not for too long.

When my character was strongly negative, virtually everyone I met asked me 'Why I am screwing up Shruti's (Tina Parakh) life?' Think of it, that implies I have managed to make a mark with my acting. But do you know that I am receiving public sympathy too, since my father in the serial Ajay (Prabhat Bhattacherya) is dead? I am enjoying the best of both worlds.


You have turned positive now, but knowing Ekta, I wouldn't be surprised if she makes it 'back to square one'. Isn't it disadvantageous to play so negative, candidly speaking, a bitchy babe, at such a young age?

It's disadvantageous to play goody-goody as well; thereafter you are mostly going to be offered boring characters who do nothing but preach. At the risk of sounding philosophical, every coin has two sides.

"It is very important to obtain the required look if one wants to get into the skin of the character he/she is playing"

Tell us. Would you behave like Monalika if placed in a similar situation in real life?

No. I am not a vindictive and revengeful person. I forget and forgive easily. At least, so far, it's like that. I don't know how I'll shape up in years to come.


You looked different in the first few episode of yours. Am I right?

(Startled) Your information is correct. I was not looking the Monalika I was supposed to look. So, I made my hair slightly brown so that there is an enhancement on screen. I started wearing coloured lenses- hazel brown, which is a lighter colour than my eyes. Ain't I looking trendier now? Isn't my body language more confident now? It is very important to obtain the required look if one wants to get into the skin of the character he/she is playing.


Do you know the length of your role? Change of tracks is the name of game on television these days...

(Interrupts) Touch wood. I have been told that it is a full-length role and I shall remain throughout. Pray that it stays that way. It is scary at times. Like there was this time in the middle when the entire focus had shifted on Shruti and Aryan or the focus had shifted to the identity crisis of Swati Dixit and Parvati Aggarwal, I had hardly anything to shoot. I was sitting at home and cooling my heels. Changing of tracks is common parlance, today. Only the protagonists are not affected, the rest all are.


Do you have any formal training in acting?

I went for the Kishor Namit Kapoor classes for four months. They have helped a lot. It helped in ensuring that I am not camera conscious and have correct timing of expression.

"Acting is all about spontaneity so I have no problem with a little bit of improvisation"

How important is the director, in your opinion?

The director is the captain of the ship, no doubt about that. Often, you feel that you are acting well, but the director tells you that it wasn't up to the mark. You think he is needlessly being extra particular but he turns out to be right; the end-product is far better than you imagined. The director's vision is vital to the success of a serial.


But, aren't things too hurried on television? It is said that scripts are even written on the sets. How do you cope up?

Well, learning the scripts is no problem as I was a good student (laughs). Yes, sometimes we improvise while shooting too, but I believe that acting is all about spontaneity, so I have no problem with a little bit of improvisation.

The only thing I can rant about is that television is not very organised. There are days when there is absolute chaos, nobody knows what is supposed to be done. But, touchwood, Balaji Telefilms is much more organised than almost all other production houses and everyone who has worked for them will endorse on this.


We also saw you a bit in another Balaji serial 'Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat' (on SET) which went off air last week, suddenly. Was it tough to handle two serials for some time?

If I was shooting for both the Balaji serials till late night, the next day's shift was arranged in such a manner that I get fair amount of hours to hit the sack. And hey! I am young and have loads of energy.


You got a raw deal in the music-video 'Main Hoon Don' which had Jackie Shroff as your co-star.

It was rather unfair because I was briefed that I was the main girl in the music video but when we actually shot for it the final version there were just a few glimpses of me. Which is why I am now more cautious before I sign on any more of them.


So what else is on the work agenda? Any other serials?

No. I have been getting quite a few offers. For instance, I recently got an offer from Aroona Irani. But, I have an exclusive contract with Balaji which means that I cannot work for any other production. That contract gets over after three months and I may start thinking of doing other serials then. Moreover, I am looking out for films.


But, nowadays, films are having an over indulgence of skin. Are you game for shedding your inhibitions?

It's just a passing phase. Eventually, people want a movie which you can see with the entire family. Jism and Murder may have done well, but remember that films like Koi Mil Gaya and Munnabhai MBBS did great business too, in fact greater. I don't mind wearing glamorous outfits with exposure within limits, but I am not comfortable with lovemaking scenes.


Back to 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii'. You did some very sexy scenes with Aryan (Ali Hasan)?

(Grins) I knew this was coming. Oh yeah, for one, I was sitting beside a fireplace and he comes and holds me tight from behind (laughs). It's okay, it took about three re-takes though.


How many people were around then?

Thankfully, care was taken to see that there was no one else on the sets for that scene, except those whose presence could not be done away with - director (Partho Mitra), cameraman and one/two light boys. Else, it could not have been done; it would have been embarrassing. Parthoda had explained to me that the scene was very essential and I agreed with him; it was the turning point of a new, interesting track. Didn't you yourself say earlier that changing of tracks is the name of the game, these days?


Did you get carried away during those scenes?

Arre nahin baba! On the sets, I indulge in only professional work (laughs).


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