Former Miss India World, Manasvi Mamgai, turns her attention towards Bollywood with the movie Action Jackson. As Bollywood Hungama’s Soumya Anantharaman reports, the beauty takes to the big screen as if born for it…
You are debuting opposite Ajay Devgn in a film directed by Prabhu Dheva. That sounds nothing short of a dream debut in Bollywood. Is this what you expected from your first film?
Honestly, I never had any set guidelines, but because I am a dancer, I wanted to work with a choreographer-turned-director since they would be able to understand me better. I wanted to work with directors like Farah (Khan), Remo (D’Souza), Prabhu Dheva and when that came through, it was a dream come true and Ajay (Devgn) was a bonus. It was also a dream debut because of the role I was offered. It is such a powerful one. For a newcomer to get a role like that doesn’t happen often.
How did you bag this role?
I had to go through the normal grind of auditions. It was purely on merit and I didn’t know anybody. I got to know that they were casting so I met the producers. After that, I met Prabhu Dheva and during that time I had the fan girl moment. I have been a fan of his all my life and I even called my friends back home and told them I was auditioning for a film of his. I had the first round of auditions. It was a lucky day because everything worked well for me.
Tell us about your role in Action Jackson.
I play a gangster in the film named Marina and the role is glamorous, sexy, powerful and flamboyant. I have a lot of power in the film. These days, there are many such strong roles for women and thankfully I am doing it in my first film.
Will we see the former Miss India World doing stunts in the film?
Yes, of course! I am the action girl of the film. I’ll be doing a lot of fighting.
What kind of training did you do?
I went to Pondicherry where I learnt this Kerala martial art form called kalaripayattu for about two to three weeks. Then Ajay put me though his commando trainer Shifuji under whom I learnt commando training.
We have heard that you were asked to gain weight for the film. How did you react to that and what was your plan to get into the right shape?
That whole banana milkshake rumour has gone viral, I guess (laughs). Actually, the thing is, off screen I look petite and the first time Prabhu saw me, he said that I was very thin. However, when I go on screen, the confidence changes my persona. Also, my metabolism is very high so I lose weight quickly. Considering that we do stunts and dance the whole day, I was asked to maintain my weight and I ate every two hours. I had a high carbs and protein diet. As far as the banana milkshake rumour is concerned, it’s just that we hardly get any time to eat on set, so it was the quickest thing to gulp and go. So, yes, I was having banana shakes for two to three days, but that was just blown out of proportion.
What was it like working with the dance master Dheva?
I have learnt a lot from him and Ajay, too. Prabhu is a perfectionist. He looks calm and sweet, but he is very strict on the set. He doesn’t say much; that is, there is no screaming or shouting, but he has that power that when he comes on set, everybody is on their toes. Every-thing needs to be just perfect. That quality is what I have learnt. He is such a nice dancer and puts the same kind of passion into everything he does.
Were you nervous to act in front of “superstar” Devgn?
Frankly, I was not nervous on camera, probably due to my passion for acting. But off camera, I felt intimated sometimes. Off camera I think I was a little conscious rather than nervous because you have grown up watching them.
You danced in Gangster Baby which is a song with elements of action. Please elaborate.
I remember the first shot of the song. It was my first song, first shot of the day and there was a huge stage, I was alone and all the spotlights were on me and there was Prabhu telling me what to do and I got so nervous. My legs were shaking and I just couldn’t do it. I had to take some time off and Ajay helped me feel comfortable. But the first shot was so difficult because you are under so much pressure. That’s all and after that, it was so much fun. Also, it was my birthday, on the second day of the song, so the end of the shoot happened with the cake cutting. Actually, before shooting, Prabhu had told me: “Manasvi, this is the kind of role that has never been done in Bollywood, so just do it.”
Often, people say that winning a beauty pageant is an easy ticket to Bollywood. After winning the title of Miss India World, was it an easy journey for you to Action Jackson?
It used to be a ticket to Bollywood, but it was the Aishwarya Rai/ Priyanka Chopra time, 15 to 20 years back, because at that time, Miss India used to be the only glamorous contest. Now, there are so many reality shows and people are more acceptable. Now, they are not necessarily a ticket, but they do try to become actresses, however, it is not easy anymore. There is so much exposure now. If you have seen the last few years, the newcomers who have come in have not come from Miss India. In earlier days, Miss India was a way to enter the industry because of lack of exposure. Though it’s a part of the glamour industry, it doesn’t ensure your chance in Bollywood anymore.
What are your future prospects?
I haven’t planned anything. I am so overwhelmed by the response Action Jackson is getting that I don’t want to think about anything until it releases. I have two more films with the same producers. There are other films, but not anything interesting. My second movie will have even higher expectations. I wanted to do something eye-catching and now the pressure is even more. So I will be very careful about what I do next. – bollywoodhungma.com