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With the recent films Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhaan, Doordarshan and last but not the least English Medium, the versatile actor cum prolific writer Manu Rishi Chaddha left a big impact on the audiences. I caught up with the amiable actor recently before the lockdown was enforced and here’s what the actor has to say about his choice of roles as a writer as well as actor in films. Over to Manu Rishi Chaddha

One major complaint against you is that you are not seen in films for a long period of time. Are you too choosy to do each and every role that is offered to you as an actor?

Recently, I was seen in big roles I films like Doordarshan and Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhaan and in a small cameo role in English Medium. It is not that I am too choosy as an actor or else you would not have seen me even in English Medium in a cameo role. You see, I have to juxtapose my two different roles as writer as well as an actor. If I concentrate more on acting, I do not get time to act and also vice versa

Can you explain?

I am satisfied as an actor but my friends often cal me to be part of films like Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhaan or for that matter Doordarshan as an actor too and I cannot say No to them. I believe that a film is always made with the accent on the content and an actor is chosen often on the basis of the trust and faith by the producer or the director

How did you bag the role of the leading man in the film Doordarshan?

The producer Anand Tiwari is a friend of mine and I know him right from the time when I was assisting Gurmeet Singh in direction. Gurmeet had made the film ‘What The Fish’ with me. Dimple Kapadia had played the main lead in the film. If a friend asks me to do a film as a n actor, I am game. Like I am also in producer Karan Johar’s film for Netflix called Guilty because Ruchi Narain who is directing the film asked me to be a part of it. I could not say No to them when producer Dinesh Vijan and director Homi Adajania asked me to be a part of English Medium in a cameo role. n Laxmi Bomb, I play the brother in law of Akshay Kumar. I also have a good role in Mirzapur.

What is your role in Doordarshan?

I play the main lead in the film Doordarshan, with Mahie Gill as my leading lady. It is the story of a middle aged guy who is on the verge of a divorce with his wife. To tell you the truth, I’d say that I did not have to do any preparation as an actor for my role in Doordarshan, because it was a very ordinary performance and I did not use any of my acting skill for it. Today, I am a 48 year old man. When I came to Mumbai as a 28 years old young guy, when all around me only 20 year old young boys were being launched in films. I never had the desire to play the main romantic lead in any film at that time. If I play the main lead in Doordarshan, it is only because today, a John Abraham or a Hrithik Roshan or for that matter a Salman Khan with abs will not readily come forward to play a middle aged husband in Doordarshan in an ordinary mundane role. Like Hrithik Roshan appeared in an ordinary role in Vikas Bahl’s film Super 30 but was not really accepted by the audiences because people do not want to see the super stars in ordinary roles, though the film clicked at the box office.

Why do you want to play only supporting roles and not the role of the leading man in films like say Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan?

When I came to be an actor to Mumbai, I wanted to be a Faroouque Shaikh or a Nawazuddin Siddiqui and not a Salman Khan or a Shah Rukh Khan. Because I feel that at the end of the day, I’d say with due respect and please do not misunderstand me that, whether it is Salman Khan or for that matter Shah Rukh Khan, all of them support a film by entertaining the audiences and in that sense they are nothing but supporting actors in any film. I can play any role and get away with it because I am of the opinion that I am an ordinary producer’s Hrithik Roshan

Go on!

Though I need to eat ‘vada pav’ as a creative writer to keep my juices flowing, and I cannot afford to go to the gym every day and spoil my taste, I do not mean to say that those who are fit and good looking with abs are inferior to me. At the same time, I mean that by no means anyone can replace actors like Amol Palekar or Farouque Shaikh or for that natter Sanjeev Kumar who used to eat heartily without bothering at all about their abs.

You feel that you do not owe anything to the audiences who want to see you in films regularly?

As an actor, I will continue to remain involved to the same extent but physically, I will keep definitely changing physically depending upon the requirements of the characters which I am called upon to perform, as and when the audiences also will start loving me more as an actor and will be ready to appear in different avatars to satisfy my characters too.

You are a versatile actor who can tackle any kind of role. How do you react when people refer you as a comedian?

I am not at all irked when people especially my fans call me a comedian because I feel that it is also a craft to be a comedian and hence I am happy if someone calls me a comedian. My job is to do acting. I do not bother if someone does not know how to define me as an actor as long as I am considered an actor. Like I tell people that I am part of the Hindi film industry and do not like being told that I am part of Bollywood.

To what extent, does being a writer help you as an actor?

The fact that I am also a writer definitely also helps me as an actor, because the thinking process is the same for both  but there is a lot of difference as far as reaction of the craft is concerned. While as a writer you may see some minus points in what you have written but you tend to ignore them when a director has a different view point or vision

Which are your five best films as an actor till date?

Though I have put in as many as 22 years as an actor, right from my first film Raghu Romeo, I do not think that till date I have acted at all in any film. I have also acted in a Telugu film called Aaytha with director Chandrashekar, who is Ram Gopal Varma’s brother in law. Chandrashekar is as subtle as Anurag Kashyap and from him I have learnt to be subtle and internal as an actor. I hope that one day or the other; I get a chance to act too. I call myself even today a supporting actor who is lucky to play lead roles at times. Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Mithya, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore, Life Ki To Lag Gayi and last but not the least Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhaan

As a writer, which are your best films till date?

It was great to work as an actor with filmmakers like Sudhir Mishra and Dibakar Banrjee and learn a lot about writing too. Ek Deewana Tha, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore, Yeh Saali Zindagi and last but not the least Oye Lucky Lucky Oye are my best as a writer.

What is your wish list among directors?

As an actor, I am waiting to work with Anurag Kashyap, who is known to catch rawness and is involved with his work.

What is your mantra as an actor?

You have to believe in learning every day. It is a very personal thing and it is necessary that you should grow not only s a human being but also as an actor.

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