"I will do whatever it takes, because I am a go getter"
It was perhaps her charm in adverts directed by renowned directors in their own right, that caught the eye of Bollywood's kingpin Karan Johar to cast her for his upcoming Student Of The Year.
But it was her talent and experience which comes from her widely acclaimed theatre performance already applauded by critics that clinched the deal enough for Manasi Rachh to star in the much awaited film of the year.
She essays a role she doesn't exactly relate to, yet understands it perfectly well. Mansee Dabral interviews this student sans the checkered uniform yet with all the playful schoolgirl bellicosity that her role demands.
A relative newcomer with just two movies behind you, how did you manage to procure your role in a Dharma Production ?
That's true, I consider myself really lucky, because after Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, which was my debut and Charlie Ke Chakkar Main, which is not even released yet, things went really smooth for me as a newcomer.
Nandini Shrikent who was casting for Student of the Year, called me in for auditions. For the first round I had to read lines from another film, and two weeks she called in again and this time they had dialogues from the film itself, for which I did my part and left.
After a few days I got a call from the production department saying I had got the role.Things were really that simple and it moved very fast from there. It was so exciting!
What's your character like in the movie ?
I play this character called Shruti Pathak, who is Shania's (Alia's Bhatt's) best friend in the movie. She is this really head strong girl who has to always fight to prove her mettle as she doesn't like playing second fiddle to Shania. The character is outspoken and doesn't shy from calling a spade a spade. She is also extremely ambitious and focused on her sport.
Does your character draw parallels to the person you are yourself ?
My character is defiantly very strong, but as a person she just doesn't know how to have fun! I am completely the opposite. I am way more fun, chilled out and bubbly!
Yes, I am very aggressive when it comes to my work and I will do what it takes because I am a go-getter, but on the personal front, I am random if anything. I don't harbour any angst within. I like to write, paint bottles, indulge in the creatives. I am not angry with life like my character is.
You sound almost an antidote to your character, how difficult is it to essay roles that are so contrasting ?
It was challenging for sure, but after a point when you understand where it is going, then it gets into your system. You have to understand why she is doing certain things, and for this, I would give Karan (Johar) full credit.
No matter how random my questions were, he would explain patiently and in depth, giving enough on the character and the reasons for why they behave a certain way, so I always had a back story in my head going on. When you are convinced about your character and their mental make up, it doesn't become that difficult.
Karan Johar is a director every actor worth his grain of ambition in Bollywood wants to work with at some point, and you got this chance really early on in your career, how was the feeling and the experience of being directed by him ?
If there is one word for Karan, it is simply that he is so sorted. He knows exactly what he wants from his characters, from his sets...it is like he has played the movie a hundred times in his head before it is even shot!
The strange thing is, when I first knew I had to work with him, I took it in a very matter of factly fashion, as I have worked with other big names like Prasoon Pandey and Sujit Sarkar before. But when I met Karan for the first time, his humility intimidated me.
I was so in awe of him because you look at him and realize he is so big, and yet he talks to you like you are a buddy. As a person, I have never seen someone who is so talented, and yet so humble, and as a director, his attention to detail, his sense of grandeur is truly unmatched.
Moving onto the cast ensemble share something about the three leads, Alia, Sidhhart and Varun. What kind of energy did the three bring to the sets ?
Alia: I have to say, she is very talented and very sincere with her work. She is a very pretty looking girl, and is a true sweetheart. Since she was also the youngest one on sets, everyone would keep pulling her leg but it was all done in good spirits!
And there were times when we were shooting together, where I would forget I am doing a scene, because it all felt so real, because we were constantly playing off each other, it has been great! There were times in Bangkok where we partied together and just chilled in Dehradoon post pack up as a whole group.
Varun: In one word, Awesome! Varun is so talented, and on and off the sets he was always up to something! He was so humble one couldn't believe he was David Dhawan's son! He would come and greet everyone on the sets, talk to everyone..Varun is truly a great guy!
Siddharth: We hardly had any scenes together except a dance sequence and Siddhart as a person is also quieter and focused, so did not get a chance to interact much with him, but he is really dedicated and a true professional.
Take us behind the scenes on the movie and in your own preparations of what went into making of Student of The Year for you ?
What I personally prepared and trained for this film was to learn how to swim! The role demanded me to be a state level swimmer, which meant I had to train and go from being a non swimmer to getting every stroke right to look convincing enough to play a trained swimmer.
The ReelSports team, led by Rob Miller who also coached on Chak De, were deployed to train us, and I went into intensive training for this. So yes from being someone who probably couldn't swim to save her life, today I have grown to enjoy the waters thoroughly!
Tell us something more about your other upcoming release, Charlie Ke Chakkar Main ?
With Charlie Ke Chakkar Main, the movie, my role everything is a complete reversal from what Student of the Year is all about. Where SOTY is a clean, happy, young and refreshing comic love story, Charlie Ke Chakkar Main belongs to the darker genre, where there is everything from crime to mafia to the harsher realities of life intertwined and brought out through a complicated and intense screenplay.
It is an ensemble cast which includes the likes of Naseeruddin Shah. But being a part of the film was a very instinctive decision for which I did not think too much. I simply went ahead because I loved the team so much, they were such warm people and shooting has been so much fun!
The film was shot on a shoe string budget, within a span of twenty days, and being a part of it has been one of the best experiences of my life!