Survival in Bollywood sans PR: An actor-writer opens up

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Manu Rishi Chadha (Photo: filmipop.com)

By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi– PR or “pyaar” — Manurishi Chadha’s mind space keeps oscillating between what’s more gratifying — getting recognition through the charted public relations route or the pure love that he gets for his acting and writing credentials from the audience once in a while walking the streets like any other common man.

“Main toh bina PR ke zinda hun (I’m surviving in the industry without PR)” is how Chadha responded to an interview request by IANS.

Manu Rishi Chadha (Photo: filmipop.com)

It’s a tightrope to walk on. More so at a time when PR managers are trying to decide, drive, curb and control any word that goes out about a film and its talent.

“I came to Mumbai with a wish to do good work, to build an identity and gain popularity. Quite a lot of work is happening, but the popularity is a little less. People say do PR… But the heart and mind are not in sync about what is this PR? How does it happen? To what extent does it happen? How much does it cost?

“I don’t get the right answers, and PR gets left behind… Then suddenly, I come across people who express heartfelt praise. I feel content and forget about PR. This has been going on since ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!”,” Chadha, 47, said.

To many Bollywood buffs, Chadha can be best remembered for his role as the hilarious Bengali from “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!” or Anni from “Phas Gaye Re Obama”. But there’s a lot more to his oeuvre.

He worked in the Delhi theatre circuit before shifting to Mumbai to pursue his Bollywood dreams back in 1999. Initially, he assisted actor-director Rajat Kapoor and waited to get good roles.

In the meantime, he started writing songs for TV shows and even worked as a third dialogue writer. But an introduction to Dibaker Banerjee, who helmed “Oye Lucky…” changed life for Chadha.

Apart from roles in “Mithya”, “Ek Chalis Ki Last Local”, “Mixed Doubles”, “Band Baaja Baaraat”, “Ankhon Dekhi”, “Happy Bhag Jayegi”, “Phas Gaye Re Obama” and the latest “Nanu Ki Jaanu” — which he has also written — Chadha has put his writing talent to use for “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!”, “Aisha”, “Yeh Saali Zindagi”, “Kya Dilli Kya Lahore” and “Tubelight”. His upcoming films include Rishi Kapoor’s “Rajma Chawal” and Govinda’s “Fryday”.

When “Phas Gaye Re Obama” came in 2000, it was after 10 years of working in Mumbai that Chadha found himself featured on a movie poster.

“There are people who say ‘Work will take you where you want to reach’. So I concentrate on work and realise that I am surviving without PR whether it is with good, bad, hit, flop films, at least I am working.

“I work with new directors, and I also write dialogues for filmmakers like Kabir Khan and Leena Yadav.”

Chadha may seem ignorant about PR, but he admits it hurts when filmmakers are made to shell out oodles of money on publicity, and still as a writer and actor, he is not given visibility.

“When you ask, the answer hurts. They respond politely that we sent in your name to publications, channels and online portals, but the media doesn’t want the writer or supporting actor. I quietly assimilate this bitter truth and return to work. My work is my habit, and popularity is a desire… I believe desire must not exceed your habit.

“When I see that actor-writers who are notches better than me also just doing their work, it gives me strength.”

Filmmakers in India keep cribbing about a dearth of good writers. Is that true or is there just a dearth of opportunities for new talent?

“Filmmakers crib when they don’t get good stories. The truth is there are good stories, there’s talent but there’s a lack of platforms where new writers can take their fresh approach and treatment to a script and present it to good filmmakers.

“Secondly, I feel mostly people don’t crib because if a star says ‘yes’ to a script, there’s hardly a need for a story (hahaha). So, it’s tough to decide whether there’s a lack of opportunity for new talent of filmmakers are not ready only to tell new stories. But I know there are truly hungry talented people waiting for one good producer, one good director and good writer to meet each other.” (IANS)

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