"God knows what would have happened to me if Ekta Kapoor hadn't come in my life" : Manish Goel

A typical filmi story... a young boy runs away from home to the city of dreams - Mumbai, with stars in his eyes. Then follows the struggle to get make it in the big bad world. While back home in Delhi, parents constant pleaded with him to return back. But he wasn't ready to abandon his dreams.

After four years of relentless pursuit he finally got a break in the industry. But that wasn't the end of the struggle, not as yet. Despite the break through the talented actor is yet to get an appropriate reckoning for his talent. That is life story of Manish Goel for you.

You must have seen him previously in Star Plus' Kasautii Zindagi Kay, as a sneaky character dependent on his wife for his daily bread. Of late he is garnering some acclaim for his portrayal of a sensitive husband Tilak in UTV's Bhabhi on Star Plus.

Latest role that he took up has been that of a Flight Lieutenant Saurav Singh in Miditech's Saara Akaash. But just when it seemed like there would be no looking back, he has opted out of the Star Plus weekly.

indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani met up with the 28-year old Goel in his Andheri flat to trace his journey, feelings and dreams.

Read on for excerpts from the heart-to-heart chat that transpired:


What made you take to the entertainment industry?

It all started when I was nine. I won an award for a role in a skit at an inter-school competition. Thereafter, my school (Father Agnel) encouraged me to participate in extra curricular activities like mono acting, dance competitions and dance charades.

Slowly, I started to dream about being a film-star. I started going to the gym, imagining my name amongst the top names in tinselville... Though there wasn't much encouragement from my parents, I thought it would be pretty easy. Pretty soon, the dream started to frustrate me. So after my twelfth boards, I ran off to Mumbai with an uncle. My parents had no ideas as I lied to them that I was going to stay at a friend's place for three days.

Thankfully, when my father came to know, he did not blow his top. Instead, he enrolled me at the Asha Chandra Institute of acting and went back. But I couldn't go through it, so I called my mom and we got the refund. But during the short while that I was there, I got my portfolio done for Rs 3,000.


And why did discontinue the acting course?

Well, the hostel facilities left much to be desired. I couldn't get attuned to the living conditions there.

But I left mainly because I was appalled by the quality of education. In the introductory class, we were asked to enact few Amitabh Bachchan scenes and the instructors asked us to do it exactly like the actor. If I had to learn to imitate other actors, I could have done that sitting at home!


What happened then?

Then, my mom took me to Anand Mahendroo; who was planning a new serial; with a reference letter in tow. I joined as an assistant, but there too, working and staying conditions were not too favourable - sharing a common toilet, sleeping on the carpet, making yourself comfy with just a table fan, eating meals only after all artistes have finished eating. I lost as much as 16 kilos at that time.

Strangely, my tummy was bloating. In short, I stopped looking as a youngster from every angle. I began to question myself that why was I doing this, but somehow continued. Suddenly, Mahendroo informed that he would be leaving for sometime to London. I could not go because he wanted to take only his first three assistants and I was the eighth one. I informed my mom and she came down to pick me up and I returned to Delhi.

My dad suggested that I do some course to make up for the time lost so that I could shape my future. I did a one year course in interior decoration, but… still yearned to become an actor. I started going for training in horse riding, gym and dance.

Thankfully, my dad yet hadn't given up on me, so the financial support was still coming. And I again tried to try my hand at acting. I filled up a form to enroll myself in the Stardust 'Want to be an actor?' batch. My dad this time too did not lose his cool, but told me in no uncertain terms that this was my last chance. Luck! I sailed through all the rounds. And we were put up at Nari Hira's bungalow in Madh Island and pampered with the best of lodging-n-boarding facilities (sighs).


What all did you learn in the Stardust batch?

We were put under Kishor Namit Kapoor. He did not teach us acting, which I think is purely intrinsic. Kapoor would throw up situations and ask us to react. Then, he would correct us and ask us to improvise.

He would work on our correct expression, usage of hands and legs, camera-facing abilities and pronunciations. With such a brilliant training and a subsequent article in Stardust thereafter, I signed up with four-film producers- K C Bokadia, Deepak Shivdasani, Rajat Rawail, Pammi Sandhu.



Not wow. None of these projects took off. Every time I called a producer, I was told that he is either in a meeting or in a bathroom. I was told that the market for newcomers was diminishing. I was even called by Gurudev Bhalla who is currently directing my serial Bhabhi, for a film titled Shararat, which later went to Abhishek Bachchan.

However, luckily, I had received a signing amount of about

Rs 70,000 from those four films. I wasn't asked to return it. And I utilised it to stay afloat. Surely, I was not going back to my dad. I decided to go and ask Manish Goswami for a role. While I was flying with those four film projects, Goswami had offered me a role for a TV serial, which I had refused. Now I knew he would say "I'll let you know," and that's exactly what happened.

"Aroona Irani signed me for Mehendi Tere Naam Ki but 24 hours before she began her serial, she informed me that I was not in it. Till date, it's a mystery why I was dropped"

So how did the door to the television industry open for you?

To begin with, I dabbled a bit in the music video Jassi's Kudi. Still, there was no work. I went to model coordinator Mona Irani and she asked me if I was ready to join the chorus for an ad. I told her that would be frustrating, but she said that I had no standing in the market. I agreed and did a few ads like Ponds, Lipton, etc. I also acted in a crowd in Just Mohabbat, Hip Hip Hurray, C.I.D, Aahat and Yeh Hai Raaz.

Along the way, Tony Singh offered me a side role in Just Mohabbat, which fetched me Rs 1,000 per day. That role gave me proper coverage and footage. I started getting noticed. Soon, Aroona Irani signed me for Mehendi Tere Naam Ki. But again, my wheel got clogged. Just 24 hours before Irani began her serial, she informed me that I was not supposed to do the show. Till date, it's a mystery why I was dropped. If Ekta Kapoor hadn't come in my life, God knows what would have happened.


How did Ekta come into your struggle?

Ekta called me and said that she had noticed me in the Jassi's Kudi video and cast me in Bandhan, which fetched me Rs 2,000 per day. Originally my role was supposed to be for 40 episodes, but at the end of the first day itself, she saw the tapes and increased my role to 70 episodes. As soon as my role in Bandhan got over, she cast me as Tushar in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii.

With Ekta's penchant of giving maximum opportunities to her actors, I soon found myself in Ghar Ek Mandir and Kuch Khona Hai Kuch Pana Hai; the latter one was meant for DD 1 but unfortunately did not see the light of day. After that, Irani called me again and said 'let bygones be bygones, I want to cast you in MTNK.' Nasir was dropped midway and I got into his place, opposite Urvashi Dholakia. And then came Kasautii Zindagii Kay.

It gave me a lot of good professionally and personally. I met my wife Poonam (who played Nivedita in Kasautii..., yes, played, because she is not doing Kasautii... for a while since her track in Ekta's another serial Kkusum has gained limelight).

Interestingly, although we were playing husband and wife, it didn't occur to either of us to make it happen in real life. It was my mother's initiative, which made reel life real. Just before my marriage, I signed Saara Akaash. Just after marriage, I signed Bhabhi.


Why did you disappear from 'Kasautii…'?

Well, my track was slowly diminishing and I spoke to Ekta about it. Actually, the story had deviated in such a way that I was being called for only a scene or two at random. Again I spoke to Ekta. At this point of time, she told me that I'll have to wait for some time for the track to come back. I waited… slowly, Bhabhi and Saara Akaash required me more and more, my track in Kasauti… was not happening, I took a decision of opting out of Kasautii… By this time, someone had poisoned Ekta's ears that I was not allotting dates to her serial. I went and clarified and also explained by decision. Being a creative person, she clearly understood.


But pray, why did you opt from Saara Akaash recently?

That's another story. When I had signed the show, I was told that the spotlight would be equal on the males - Anuj Saxena, Shakti Anand, Manav Gohil and myself. I understand that it is a serial and the precise equality cannot be maintained all along. But how could I continue if I was pushed into the background? The focus is on Shakti Anand and importantly, Sai Deodhar. It has become a woman-oriented serial.

Originally, I had signed a contract of 26 episodes. I spoke to Miditech and expressed my unhappiness. I told them that I would not be able to continue if things did not improve for me. My close-up would not mean anything to the director and producer. I shot scenes, which were erased. Whenever the length of the reel became longer, the axe fell first on me. At one point of time, I saw that my name was not in the script but I was being told to stand behind in the scene.

Why should I be cooling my heels when I am not being utilised as an important character? I was terribly upset. I refused to shoot for that scene. My point is creativity. If I am not convinced, I get too logical about the whole issue and prefer talking to the writer. Do you know what reply I got? That, the writer is holidaying in Goa and maybe he forgot to include my name! I was terribly upset.


But change of tracks is the name of the game in TV serials. Shouldn't you learn to take it in your stride?

What I expect from the producer is to be clear. He should plainly tell me that 'we don't have a track for you, currently'. But don't call me and push me in the backdrop and erase my close-ups.

A similar thing happened in UTV's Bhabhi; I was shown dead. The officials clearly told me that I would not be required for a few days. Now I am back big time. This is professionalism.

"Improvisation is possible only if an actor has a good rapport with the director "

Do you think that creativity is being sacrificed on television?

Yes, to an extent. The main reason why this happens is that actors don't get sufficient time to comprehend the scene. One, we do nearly 10 scenes a day, which I think is a bit too much if you consider the fact that we are given the lines just a few hours before the actual shoot. Plus, there is no continuity. If we go to an outdoor location or a particular studio, we are asked to shoot scenes which are not in continuity because the race against time debars the serial-maker from coming to that place again as and when the need arises in near future. Thus, at times, we shoot some scenes, which are eight to 10 episodes ahead of our present position. In such a scenario, it is tough to get the mood right without having felt the situation preceding it.

Plus, the high speed with which we are compelled to work can be detrimental to our understanding of the transition in our character, which keeps happening as and when the track changes. Like, now in Bhabhi, I have become a drunkard. So I need to do some homework in practicing how exactly a drunkard behaves, moves and talks. Else I'll go either over the top or be too subtle, but not in sync. Often, we are shooting for 13-14 hours in a day and don't get the time to do the homework.


Are you an actor who needs to do homework?

See, I understand what spontaneity is all about. But homework always helps. A doctor who goes to a patient is more at ease if he knows the history of the patient. A student writes his paper well if he has prepared his subject.

If not anything else due to time constraints, I make it a point to phone the writer once in a week and ask him how my character is going to shape up in the next seven days. I even ask the fashion stylist about the hairstyle and the clothes I am going to wear. I insist that I receive the costumes at least one day before a particular shoot. I can't digest it and I am never at ease if asked to wear something suddenly. Clothes play a large role in developing the right body language demanded by the mood of the scene.

There have been instances where I have been told to wear the same shirts, which were given to me last month. But if the track and the mood have changed, I never comply. Suppose last month they had given me red, blue and green shirts because the track was romance, how I can wear those bright colours now when I have become depressed? I demanded two kurtas and jeans.


Do you voice your opinion if you disagree on something?

Always. Like, there was this scene in Bhabhi recently where I come back alive. My re-entry scene was supposed to be in the hospital. The channel wanted me to look clean-shaven and good. I did not allow any make-up on me and did the scene with stubble. How can you show a man in a wheelchair whose love has gone away from him, looking spic and span? I know that some people didn't like my stubbornness, but I can't compromise on creativity and reality (shrugs).

Then, there was a scene where a woman (Shilpa Shinde) who has made me disabled comes in front of me, walks around the wheel chair and says one-full page dialogues - and I was told to sit there like a dodo, without any emotion or struggle. Doesn't that defy logic? I insisted that either I react in some way, or Shilpa suggested that she be given a pistol to put it on my head, which would justify my non-reaction. They relented and opted for the latter.

Also, I am very particular about the lines. If I feel that my character is not such who can say these words, I make it a point to explain to the director. At times, I am helpless- if there are lines, which have come with a footnote: 'You cannot change these lines'.


Do you improvise?

Yes. And that is possible only if an actor has a good rapport with the director. If an actor requests for a retake, a director should agree in the first place. Often, there is very little spare time and directors put forward their helplessness. Television shooting proceeds at a frenzy pace.


Some actors feel that directors should enact a scene before calling 'Action'. What is your take on this?

I will not endorse on this. There are directors who enact the scene as a rule, and thereafter, want the actor to rigidly follow their pattern of mannerisms. I am very uncomfortable. I believe that an actor should be given his space. I will definitely do as my director says, but concept per se, and not to the extent of 'aisa baithna hai, aisa uthna hai, is dialogue ko uthana hai, is dialogue ko dheme bolna hai.'


Are you happy with the quality of work prevalent and available on television?

For females, yes. For males, no. All serials are being made with the protagonist in mind being a female. Perhaps because the majority of viewers are females. And women want emotion. Even in case of Saara Akaash, look how the mother and the sister angle was brought in to generate emotion. I want to play dark negative characters, which arouse hatred for me amongst the viewers. I want to do comedy roles and make the people roll in laughter. There's so much I can do but… (Shrugs).


Which are the actors you admire?

Kiran Karmarkar and Ali Asgar. Nobody can imitate them.


Where do you go from here?

I am not content. Life is a long journey. I came to Mumbai to make it big. My dream of making it big on the big screen, for which I came away from home, is still there to be realised. God willing, I will get my fair share of chances and not disappoint my producers and fans.


But doesn't this film dream scare you looking at Amarr Upadhyay, Varun Badola, Gaurav Chanana…

(Interrupts) It does, but I'll give it a shot. Let me tell you that I am making a conscious effort of making my debut not as a hero. I am talking to a few producers.

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