"I can't explain what Ashokji meant to me. I am what I am because of him," said the actress who played the lead role in Mehta's directorial debut "Moksha".
Manisha attributes all the right moves in her career to Mehta, who died Aug 15 after battling lung cancer. He was 65.
"He did the cinematography of my first film 'Saudagar'. From then on Ashokji was my guide mentor and philosopher. I have to say he contributed a lot to my career.
"I was clueless about the film industry. So, when Mani Ratnam had asked me to come to Chennai to do a screen-test for 'Bombay', I refused. Yes, I didn't know much about Mani Ratnam except that he had made a film called 'Roja'. If it wasn't for Ashokji I wouldn't have done 'Bombay'," she said.
"I was like, 'Why should I do a look test? Why should I play a mother to twin boys? And why should I work for so little money?'
"So many people advised me not to do it. Ashokji fired the hell out of me. He told me about Mani's greatness and literally packed me off to Chennai.
"He taught me, 'Beta, zindagi main paise hi sab kuch nahin hote hain.' I did good films because he guided me... Ashokji held my hand and guided me. No wonder I feel bereft," added Manisha, who turned 42 Aug 16.
She organised a bash to celebrated the ocassion, but cancelled the party after hearing the news of Mehta's demise.
When Mehta directed his first feature film "Moksha", Manisha was the natural choice for the lead.
Manisha and Mehta were collaborating on a film on the life of Gautam Buddha.
"When I got the offer to direct a film on Gautam Buddha from Sri Lanka, the first thing I did was contact Ashokji. I didn't even know that he was already diagnosed with cancer. He was so full of life.
"We got Samir Chanda as art director and Bhanu Athaiya for costumes. The entire day we'd be together doing sketches for the Buddha project, deciding on locations, etc. Not once did I get any inkling he was unwell.
"Four months back I got to know he was in hospital. I rushed to see him. I felt terrible. I had spent so much time with him and I didn't know. He was a very brave man. He didn't want anyone to know of his condition."
Manisha met Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra at Mehta's house.
"One month back Rakeysh had gone and given Ashokji a narration. Work was the only way to get Ashokji back. For a work-oriented man not being able to work was like death. I'll always remember him as man of great spirit," she said.
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