Manisha Koirala: Film Festivals a ‘Platform’ for Raising Issues
Actress Manisha Koirala: Film Festivals a ‘Platform’ for Raising Issues
By: Geeta Goindi
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Acclaimed actress Manisha Koirala was in town recently to attend the first-ever DC South Asian Film Festival where the premiere of her movie, ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish,” was being held in the national capital region.
Along with Manisha, the festival featured prominent luminaries of the Indian film industry. The stars included Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Deepti Naval, Rajit Kapur, Suneil Anand, Raima Sen, Prashant Nair and Omi Vaidya, together with our DC-based film-makers Manan Singh Katohora, Harpreet Kaur and Suneeta Mishra.
Organized by Manoj Singh and Sangeeta Anand of Ceasar Productions, known for bringing high-caliber programs to our community, the three-day event, June 1-3, held at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, was packed with meaningful cinema.
On the eve of the festival, the Indian Embassy hosted a reception to welcome the artists, where we caught up with Manisha. The accomplished actress is well known for her roles in films such as ‘Saudagar’, ‘1942: A Love Story’, ‘Agni Sakshi’, ‘Bombay’, ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’, ‘Dil Se’ and ‘Company.’ In fact, she dons many caps - social activist, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, accomplished Indian classical dancer.
On the personal front, she is a warm and down-to-earth person, sans any starry airs! At the reception, she greeted and mingled with everyone, patiently posing for several pictures from a crowd that clearly admired her towering talent.
Below are excerpts from our tete-a-tete.
GG: On previous occasions, you have visited Washington to perform in stage shows. A film festival is an altogether different event and experience. How do you feel this time around?
MK: I’m very excited and happy. I’m always eager for any festival to do very well because it is a platform. It provides a platform to so many film-makers, so many movies to be watched by the audience. Sometimes, good films do not get a proper release, but a film festival gives a good platform for viewership. I, as a person who loves cinema, would want to encourage it and would want it to be super successful.
GG: Is Washington your only stop or are you visiting other cities?
MK: I have done many rounds of film festivals around the globe. This time, it is only for this festival. I’m going for a holiday after this. (Laughs).
GG: What was it like working with Deepti Naval in her directorial debut, ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’?
MK: Superb! She being a good actress herself really adds to my performance. She understands how good or bad it is, so she can direct me properly. I think if people have liked my work in ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’, half of the credit goes to Deepti because she is a fabulous actress and director.
GG: The title of the film, ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’ is unusual and intriguing. Is it a metaphor?
MK: Yes. It is a metaphor. It’s a line in a song. (The title is poetic and conveys that there is a sunny day after days of merciless downpour).
GG: Your role in the film - that of an aging prostitute - is not easy to portray. How did you essay this character?
MK: It does take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride when you are playing such characters. But then, I always like something that doesn’t come easy. I like challenges. I would want to cross my boundaries and do something more and this movie has allowed me to do that. This character has allowed me to do that which, as an artiste, though it is difficult, it is very satisfying.
(We caught up with Manisha again, post the screening of ‘A Little Revolution’, a profoundly moving documentary by director Harpreet Kaur and producer Manmeet Singh on the issue of farmer suicides, specifically in Punjab where it has grown to epidemic proportions.
This short film, true to life, focuses on the plight of those children left behind whose fathers, in some cases both parents, have committed suicide out of sheer desperation, driven by debt! The statistics are alarming: every 32 minutes, a peasant farmer commits suicide in India. Much to our dismay, Harpreet Kaur informed us this figure is under-stated.
We queried Manisha about her view of ‘A Little Revolution’, a story of suicides and dreams...)
MK: I loved the film. This has been a really grave issue. A couple of my friends have already made a documentary on farmer suicides. This is a really powerful film. These (film-makers) have done fabulous work. I think we should all support them.
GG: What was it about the film that touched you the most?
MK: I really liked the director’s (Harpreet Kaur) passion to get out of the comfort zone, go there, meet the children, give them enough courage to speak for their rights. I think that is commendable. I love the inspiration that she gave to the children. That’s phenomenal!
We probed further...
GG: What did you think about the fact that the director put the children up front to convey her message?
MK: That’s great because they should learn how to speak for themselves. That’s what she did. She gave them a voice to speak out. That’s what I love about the film.
GG: Do you think that has helped her cause to spread awareness of this issue?
MK: It will definitely help. When we see films like this, we will talk about it. Lots of people are already moved by the film. There is going to be a movement and that’s how problems get solved. It is a great way to introduce a problem to people. It touches people’s hearts and motivates them to do something about it!
For more information, readers should visit www.alittlerevolution.com...“Every farmer counts and every child dreams!”