Manisha Koirala in Bhoot Returns
Bhoot Returns, releasing this Friday, will be Manisha Koirala’s first horror film. t2 caught up with the Dil Se girl on returning to films, collaborating with Ram Gopal Varma and more.
Is Bhoot Returns the ideal film to make a comeback with?
Honestly, I wouldn’t really call Bhoot Returns a comeback because it isn’t that I have been away from films for a long time. In fact, I Am (directed by Onir and co-starring Juhi Chawla) released last year. But yes, I am happy that people are reacting so positively to the promos of Bhoot Returns. The audience seems to be more excited than I am! (Laughs) I have never really attempted a genre like this before and to see that the audience is keen to see me in a different kind of film is very encouraging.
How did the film happen?
Although we did just one film together (Company), Ramu and I have remained friends over the years. We have been talking off and on, although honestly, it’s not always been about films. After I got married, I wasn’t really taking up any work, but once he heard that I was coming back to Bombay from Nepal, he spoke to me about the sequel to Bhoot. Although it sounded very intriguing, I told him: ‘But I have never done a horror movie before’. He was very persistent. Gradually I came around and I was like: ‘Why not? Let’s try it’.
How much of a challenge was it to do a horror film?
As an actor, I have always liked to be challenged. I just don’t like an easy job where I can go through a role practically with my eyes closed. Anything that is tough is good for me (laughs). But honestly, this film was pretty easy because when the director and the screenplay writer work in tandem and the character is well defined already, as an actor, you just have to follow that. I was blessed that Ramu was helming the film because when it comes to well-written characters, no one does it better. And, of course, you have to leverage all your experience in acting through the years and pour it into your role. Also, instinct has always played a very important role in the way I have approached all the characters I have played all these years and nowhere was it more evident than in Bhoot Returns, in which my role was largely driven by action and reaction.
Are you a horror-film fan?
Not at all! (Laughs). I am very scared of them. In fact, I haven’t watched a single horror film after The Ring which scared me so much that I decided not to watch any more after that. I remember I couldn’t sleep after watching The Ring.
You worked in Company a decade ago. How different is the Ramu of today?
Ramu has always been creative… Ramu has always taken chances as a filmmaker. He’s done various kinds of films… you really can’t pin him down to a single genre. He’s experimented as a filmmaker, for good or for bad and he has succeeded more often than not. He’s one of the finest directors I have worked with and it’s always been such a pleasure to collaborate with him.
Have you watched his recent films?
Some of them, yes… some of them, no. No matter how much I would have liked to watch each and every film of his, I haven’t really been able to. I did like Bhoot a lot, I think it’s one of the best horror films that Bollywood has ever produced. I remember I had goosebumps when I saw it because the feeling of fear was so real and so in-your-face. But if you ask me about Hindi films in general, the last one I watched was Paan Singh Tomar and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s one of the best films I have seen in a long, long time.
Will we see you doing more films now?
I think it’s going to be pick and choose… just a film or maximum two a year. That’s because I also do a lot more stuff apart from just films in Nepal as well as in Bombay. I work in a lot of charitable organisations and that takes up a lot of time. Also, to be honest, great roles and great directors really don’t come easy. For actors like me, it’s always a wait to get something substantial and rewarding enough to sink my teeth into. Anyway, I feel that I have done all that I needed to do in the 20 years that I was in Bollywood… 80-odd films was a lot for me and most of it was appreciated. I have enjoyed my career in Bollywood and been through the whole grind of early morning shoots, multiple shifts, promotional activities…. I just want to sit back and do fewer films and more importantly, enjoy Bollywood now (laughs).
There is a new wave of films and filmmakers in Bollywood. Has any filmmaker caught your eye?
Tigmanshu Dhulia may have become a rage after Paan Singh Tomar but I have always wanted to work with him because I simply loved his earlier films like Haasil and Charas. I knew him from the time of Dil Se when he was assisting Mani Sir (Ratnam) and he came across as someone who had the spark even then. I also want to work with Anurag Kashyap because I like the kind of cinema that Anurag and Tigmanshu represent… slightly more rustic, slightly more Indian in content. I really want to work with them and I am hoping that it happens soon.
If you had to choose to remake a film of yours, which would it be?
Oh, there are so many! I think Khamoshi, if made today, would strike a chord again with the audience. Sanjay (Leela Bhansali, the director) came up with such a beautiful film and all our characters… mine, Salman’s (Khan) were written so well. Principally, I am not against remakes, like some people are. If a film can be reinterpreted in a new and fresher way, I am all for it.
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