INDIA. Veteran Indian actor Manish Chaudhari has established himself as a formidable character actor over the years. Other than his enormous body of work as a television actor, which includes the highly acclaimed Sony TV series ‘Powder’, he has delivered several memorable performances in films such as Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Jannat 2 (2012), Mickey Virus (2013), Bombay Velvet (2015), Satyameva Jayate (2018), and Batla House (2019). He plays a pivotal character in the recent web series ‘Aarya‘ alongside Sushmita Sen. The series is creating a lot of buzz among the netizens.
In an exclusive interview with Transcontinental Times, Chaudhari talks about ‘Aarya’, the growing supremacy of OTT platforms during COVID-19 times, his acting journey, the future of entertainment in India, and his upcoming projects.
Q1. How did you get associated with ‘Aarya’? Tell us about the series as well as your character in it.
A. I had met Ram Madhvani in 2001 when he was casting for his film ‘Lets Talk’. We did a reading together for the part that finally Boman Irani played. Although, I didn’t get the part, after watching that film I was very keen that I should work with Ram Madhvani some day. I loved his storytelling style. Watching ‘Neerja’ further strengthened this desire. Ram and I working together has been in the mix for close to two decades and it makes me very happy that with ‘Aarya’ it has now become a reality for everyone to watch and savor.
Aarya is based on the Dutch series ‘Penoza’. It has been adapted beautifully by Ram and Sandeep Modi to the Indian context. They have set it in a crime family of drug runners in Rajasthan. I play the character of Shekhawat who is a mafia don.
Q2. ‘Aarya’ has been receiving rave reviews. Also, your performance has been widely praised. How do success and failure of something you are associated with affect you as a performer?
A. I am ecstatic that the series has received such an overwhelming response from the audience. As an actor everything I do is for the entertainment of audiences. Acceptance by them is my greatest reward as an actor. Without audience appreciation I am nothing.
Q3. OTT platforms have become the last refuge for entertainment in the COVID-19 times. How do you see this change as an actor as well as a viewer? How has the lockdown affected you at a personal level?
A. Even before COVID-19 times, OTT platforms in our country and around the world were fast becoming the future of entertainment. This lockdown around the world has only hastened that process. Viewers get world class content at the flick of a button at very reasonable subscriptions. It’s a win-win situation for creators and audiences alike. I have personally missed going to the cinema as have countless others around the world over the last three months but as the situation demands alternate avenues of entertainment, OTT is the perfect answer. Since I was lucky enough to have finished almost all my shooting assignments just before the lockdown, a large chunk of this time has been a welcome break, though I am now raring to go back to work.
Q4. You were associated with the series ‘Powder’ which aired on Sony TV a decade back. It is widely believed that the show was ahead of its time. What has changed over the last 10 years or so? If it were to premiere in 2020 instead of 2010 how would the audiences respond to it?
A. For me ‘Powder’ is one of the major milestones in my career. It’s been 10 years since it aired on Sony TV. Then it got a new lease of life in 2017 on Netflix. Powder pushed the boundary of understanding of a television series in India. It had great writing, edgy production value and some memorable performances.
It has amazingly stayed relevant in the imagination of Indian audiences around the world. That is the victory of ‘Powder’. Usmaan Ali Malik and Naved Ansari are still, 10 years down the line, characters to reckon with. If ‘Powder’ was released today it would get an overwhelming response! I have no doubt about that.
Q5. You have been closely associated with film and television for a long period how do you see the two mediums? Where do you think the web fit in? As an actor how does your approach change with these mediums?
A. My job as an actor is to adapt and stay relevant in these fast changing times. It is a challenge that I love. Television, film and OTT are all mediums of entertainment and each requires the same amount of rigour and focus. Characters must come alive, no matter what the medium.
Q6. How did your acting journey start? Tell us about the early days and the kind of challenges you faced to establish yourself as a professional actor.
A. I went on stage as a 15 year old and fell in love with this wondrous medium of expression called acting. After a seven year stint in Delhi with theatre directors Faisal Alkazi and Barry John, I came to Mumbai. The hustle and bustle of the city was a real challenge. The crowds, the local trains and the never-sleeping character of Mumbai gave me a sense of energy to never give up on my dreams. Although, it took me a while to get my first film break with ‘Rules: Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula’, once my film journey began it has only grown leaps and bounds with the critically acclaimed ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ in 2009 becoming the milestone that all actors worth their salt crave for.
Q7. How do you look at the future of entertainment once the normalcy returns? Also tell us about your upcoming projects.
A. The future of entertainment is very bright with fantastic top notch content from around the world being available for viewers and they are only going to ask for more. This is going to push our industry into creating content which can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best from around the world. Our film makers and creators including the highly talented new breed are very much up to the task. Though I don’t believe that the magic of cinema and going to the theatre to watch a movie is ever going to go out of fashion.
My upcoming projects are a web series directed by Alankrita Srivastav of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ fame and a thriller on SonyLIV.