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Born and brought up in New Delhi, Manurishi Chadha, shot to fame when he won the Filmfare Best Dialogue Award for the 2008 film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! Manurishi, who started his film career as an actor with the movie Saathiya in 2002, today, has established himself as an actor par excellence with an impeccable comic timing and a writer whose work connects with people. In his own words, even after being a part of the film industry for so long, he’s still learning and he will continue to do so. In an exclusive interview with Nation Next, Manurishi Chadha speaks, about his recently released film Nanu Ki Jaanu, his film journey, his connect with Abhay Deol and more. Excerpts:
You have written the recently released Horror Comedy Nanu Ki Jaanu. Tell us something about it.
Nanu Ki Jaanu is not a hardcore horror film but a horror comedy. The film is a social, emotional and romantic horror comedy. The horror we have used in the film is a kind of a philosophy. We have used horror metaphorically. It’s often seen that if a person is scared of something, it can make him change his life in a good way. We have used that fear as horror. We have tried to scare people, make them laugh and we have tried to give a good message through the film. Abhay Deol, in the film, plays the role of ‘Nanu,’ who is hooked on to doing some things he should not do. He rents a house and then makes false documents of the same house. He then forces the owner to sell the house to him at a low price. Abhay falls in love with a ghost (Patralekha) and this creates fear in him. How this fear changes him forms an integral part of the film.
Horror Comedy is a genre, which is not experimented much with in India. What made you write Nanu Ki Jaanu?
To write for a particular genre, it’s very important for me to have a connection with that genre. This story is somewhat on story by a famous South Indian writer known as Mysskin. I liked the story and so I started developing it as per the circumstances, which exist today in the world. Making commercial films is in itself a horror sometimes. While making commercial films, we analyze what the audience likes and wants. So, Nanu Ki Jaanu is a commercial film written for the masses.
The film started slow on Friday, I think partially because of the critics. Critics think in their own way and think on an individual basis. Sometimes, they get personal as even they know that only criticizing and singling out one person will create entertainment. They forget their boundaries in the process. It’s very easy to write a half page article on a film, it’s equally hard to make a complete film. It requires scripts, actors, producers, directors, technicians and a lot of resources to make a film. I’m saying all this in spite of the fact that the critics have always been kind to me. I don’t know how these people give films like Masti three stars. Having said this, we are happy that the movie is gaining momentum. When we visit cinema halls at times and see and hear people laughing, we get satisfied. We realize that ‘Agar critics bhagwan ke bacche hain, toh audience bhagwan hain!’ (If critics are God’s children, then audience is the God!)
You have worked with Abbhay Deol on multiple occasions. How was the experience working with him in Nanu Ki Jaanu? What kind of quotient do you share with him?
When we were shooting for - Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! - while, I was an extremely new writer and an old actor, Abhay Deol was the hero and star of the film. The chemistry you see between us in the film, was created just five-ten minuites before giving every shot of the film. We were not friends then. During the filming of Aisha, for which I wrote the dialogues, a small connection was forged between me and Abhay. Then there was a film, which I was going to direct and Abhay liked the script and he was going to act in it. Though the film couldn’t get made, our paths crossed again. When I wrote Nanu Ki Jaanu and went to narrate the film to him, he liked it. Abhay works as per as his will while I work as I always want to keep working. There have been times when I have written films for even Rs 1,100! Abhay and my relationship is now becoming strong. We have started respecting each other’s film journey. He speaks less and stays in his own positive energy. He won’t speak to a junior actor much but will give him a hug and that hug will say everything. He has experimented with Nanu Ki Jaanu and has done the film as per his own intelligence. Now, we have a bond based on mutual trust. I’m a commercial writer for Abhay and for me he’s a commercial actor.
You started your journey in the film industry as an actor in 2002. But it was writing dialogues for - Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! - which got you recognition. How did you become a writer?
I always had a habit of writing but I would share the things I wrote with only my close friends. It wouldn’t be a film or theatre script, I would just scribble. I have grown up in Chandi Chowk, Old Delhi. People living there have a knack of telling stories in an animated and interesting way. If my father narrates a story to me, it has me hooked to it. Same was the case with my cousin who would tell me the story of the film he would watch as we were not allowed to watch a lot films. As I did theatre, I realized the power of story telling old Delhi inculcates in an individual. I always had a way of telling things in an interesting way too.
Piyush Mishra, once, told me, ‘Apne muh pe pen lagale, mazaa aa jayega!’ That motivation from him excited me. He then recommended me for a film. Even though writing for the film was a bitter experience, my writing was acknowledged by National Award winning cinematographer Rajiv Menon, who has shot films like Guru and Bombay. Amit Saxena, who directed the 2003 film Jism, also liked my work. Soon, I was approached by Dibakar Banerjee for Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! These people along with my old friends Deepak Dobriyal, Vipul Vig and Deepaq Sharma always supported my writing.Also read: Meet ‘Nabbe’ from the film ‘Nanu Ki Jaanu’
You always motivate others to write as well…
Piyush Mishra told me to do it and I reached here. You never know, a word of motivation from me can boost somebody to do good work as well. I love it when I see people around me writing. I always tell Deepaq Sharma that even he should write and bring out the story teller, which he has within him. I feel great when I see friends like Vipul Vig (writer of Fukrey) doing great. Friendship doesn’t mean that you just stand by each other in bad times, it means that you grow with each other.
You were a part of the Asmita Theatre group in Delhi before shifting to Mumbai in 2001. Was acting in films always part of the plan?
I did theatre in Delhi and would really enjoy it. But I really don’t consider my relationship with theatre very striong. Theatre has taught me to complete my commitments but I won’t lie, I was never a very honest theatre actor. I did not grow being a part of theatre but I love it. I love it so much that when I shifted to Mumbai, I worked backstage for 140 productions of a play by Rajat Kapoor. I have always loved theatre. It has scared me and scolded me. It has made me realize that I’m not a very good actor. The honesty and strength that theatre gave me helped me achieve my goal. I always wanted to do films and now I’m only doing films. Having said that, I now also want to do theatre. I want to write a play. I’ve a created a small writing pad at my house for writers and actors. We will surely do something over there related to theatre.
Tell us about the projects you’re working on…
I, Leena Yadav (director of Parched) and Vivek Anchalia have written a a script called Rajma Chawal. At Leena’s behest, I have also done a small role in the film. Acting for the role meant that I could work besides Rishi Kapoor and eat my favourite dishes at Chandni Chowk, so I loved doing it! Then, I have also shot for the web series Babbar Ka Tabbar along with Ayesha Raza Mirza, Avneet Kaur, Bhavin Bhanushali and Anshuman Jha. The web series, produced by Mango People Media spearheaded by Neha Anand and Victor Mukherjee, will be aired on Zee 5. I am also doing a film with Abhay. Then, I’m gearing up for season two of Amazon web series Inside Edge. I’m also writing a web series for Amazon, which I’m really excited about. Unfortunately, I can’t share more details about it as of now because of some protocols.