She is debuting in a Prabhudheva film opposite Ajay Devgn and has wowed all of us with her wicked work in Gangster Baby. Formerly known as the former Miss India 2010, Manaswi Mamgai has come beyond the platform that first made her big. In an interview with Koimoi, Manaswi talks to us about her big Bollywood break, her thrill and fear of working with Ajay Devgn and Prabhudheva, her love for dance, action moves and whether casting couch is a reality for Bollywood.
Q) Walk us through how you landed this role?
I think I landed this film by luck mostly. Technically, the producers were casting. I met them during that time. Then, I met Prabhu Sir. He found me very thin. I did a screen test for them because I look very different on screen. Everything went perfectly from the dance, to the acting, to the look. I had to do some weight training to get muscles. People transform on screen, he realized I look good on screen. It was just a very lucky day.
Q) Was it intimidating working with stalwarts who know every tinge of their craft inside out?
I was very nervous in the starting. Much of my portions were shot abroad. I came down for the India schedule to know how they work and how it feels. I have seen Ajay Sir since I was a child. Prabhu Sir is an icon for the ones who love dancing. I went on the set to hangout. If I had gone on set and just start shooting, I wouldn’t be able to perform. But they made me very comfortable. Ajay Sir is a sweetheart. He gave me a lot of technical tips while shooting. My focus has always been acting well and performing well but he taught me how to catch the light right. Face the camera properly. Prabhu Sir is very strict. He is a taskmaster. He is a perfectionist. He wants people to be best! He doesn’t say much or scold. He will keep staring till you have got it right. No wonder he is the highest paid director.
Q) How intimidated were you by Ajay Devgn?
On Camera I get the confidence to perform. But off camera I was a little intimidated by Ajay.
Q) You are sharing screen space with Sonakshi and Yami. Any cat fights to report?
(Laughs) No, not at all. The actresses with me were all cool. Sonakshi is very bindaas. I bonded with Yami Gautam over Chandigarh, because I have studied there. We had a great chemistry on sets. I am fortunate that I was given Gangster Baby. It is almost the chartbuster song. I think everything is luck.
Q) You have this bold persona on screen. Was it a challenge?
Boldness and exposing can be quite challenging. But nowadays, everyone is bold. But what next? Everyone has done it. When it comes to exposing persay, even the top actresses have done it. I have done calender shoots, been on calendar as a model. Wearing short clothes and bikini is not the question anymore. I don’t keep such limitations. My only inhibition comes to people who shoot it should be aesthetic, and not be tacky. The backless shot was done with a stick on so it was not very difficult. It wasn’t uncomfortable.
Q) You could have easily got a solo female lead. Then why do a three actress film where you risk being overshadowed?
If I had got a solo role, I wouldn’t have got a role as great as this. It’s a great role. Right now you are only seeing the glamorous part but once the dialogues are out you’ll realize my role is the film’s base point. My character drives the film. It is a powerful role. Initially even they stopped to think if they should give a new girl such an important role. It was the central character. All three of us have different tracks and no one is overshadowing anyone.
Q) Do you fear being typecast into this sensational bold avatar?
Yes, people could typecast me. But people might also notice me as an actor. The glamour is only on the exterior. But this is a different role. No role like this has come in Bollywood. Hopefully they will appreciate my performance. Indian film industry is so great right now that people from the smallest roles have been picked up to do big films.
Q) You are also doing a lot of action in the film. How did you train yourself?
Yes, I do have action in the film. I trained in action. I went to Pondicherry to train in Kalaripayattu, that is a South Indian form of martial art. Shifu Sir, Ajay Sir’s trainer taught me some commando training.
Q) They often say ‘Models Can’t Be Actors’. Does that perturb you that you’ll find it hard to get substantial work?
All lead actresses have been model. Haven’t Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma proved everyone wrong? When you are coming from modelling, you need to very patient. I had offers but I had to wait for something this big. It is the patience that was tested. It wasn’t a very tough struggle.
Q) What are the kind of films you’ll be interested in doing next?
I love Homi Adajania and Vinyl Mathhew also Raj and D.K. Lot of quirky things are happening and I am looking forward to some of that. But I am not sure what am I looking at. I choose projects on instinct. It must appeal me as I have no fundas.
Q) Have you ever faced casting couch? Is it as big a problem in Bollywood as it is made out to be?
Casting Couch is everywhere. Since our industry is in the limelight, it comes quick to notice. Pointing fingers when you are in glamour is very easy. It is just very individual opinion. If someone wishes and willingly gives into it, it is okay. I always think there is another way of going by making a mark.