Joined: 10 April 2005
DRESSED IN A DAZZLING BLUE EMBELLISHED SARI, WITH DAINTY MEHENDI PATTERNS ADORNING HER PALMS, AND LOOKING EVERY BIT THE DEMURE INDIAN BRIDE, MANAVA NAIK, WHEN I CATCH UP WITH HER, IS BUSY REHEARSING FOR HER PRE-MARRIAGE SEQUENCE ON THE SETS OF HER SERIAL BAA BAHU AUR BABY. A PREPOSSESSING PERSONA, COMPLEMENTED WITH AN EQUALLY RATIONAL MIND, MANAVA EPITOMISES THOSE NEW AGE ACTORS, WHO JUST DON'T RATTLE OFF PAGES OF SCRIPTS AND DIALOGUES IMPRUDENTLY, BUT RATHER BELIEVE IN CHARMING THE AUDIENCES WITH THEIR SUBTLE AND UNDERSTATED PERFORMANCES.
ST: Acting happened by chance or it was a conscious decision on your part?
MN: Both my parents come from Marathi theatre, so as a child I have been watching a lot of plays. My mother, Meena Naik, is an actor; my dad has translated Shakespeare in Marathi and my uncle is a linguist, who teaches at the Mumbai and Pune Universities in the Drama department. I have been related to theatre and drama right from my childhood, that's how it all started. I began acting in plays at the inter-school, inter-collegiate levels and then went on to do Marathi television. Eventually I landed up doing Hindi serials.
ST: Why did not you choose marathi theatre or marathi serials?
MN: I got an offer for a television show, which happened to be in Hindi. There was never any conscious decision of shifting from Marathi to Hindi serials. It just happened that way.
ST: why did you quit the successful serial Teen Bahuraniyan?
MN: There were a couple of things that led to my exit from the serial. First of all, my contract which was of one year, had expired. Legally if you see, my contract was over, so technically, I had the choice of leaving or staying back on the show. Secondly, my track, what it was supposed to be, was not blossoming. I was promised a lead role, but it turned out to be different.
Every show has TRPs and other factors one has to look at. Taking into consideration these various issues, I realized my track was not happening the way it was guaranteed. I was not keen on doing a role where I was not actively participating. Ending up playing a part of furniture is not what I was looking at.
It was very good in the beginning but eventually it changed. So I spoke to both the channel and the production house and they both agreed that they were not able to keep up to their promises.
ST: As per the rumours surrounding her exit from the serial, are there any resentments or bitter feelings between the production house and her?
MN: Not at all. In fact I finished my character properly. I didn't 'walk out' as you feel. So to finish my character, I had to die in the serial. If there was any problem, then they would have replaced me. Technically there are no bitter feelings. I share a good rapport with the channel (Zee) as I did my first serial with them, when I was in school. I have no bitter feelings with the production house, the channel or even with the people on the sets. In fact they gave me a very beautiful farewell, with gifts and cakes.
Speaking about sharing a good rapport with the 'people on the sets', according to the grapevine, it's no secret that another reason for Manava leaving the serial was Indian television's most loved bahu, Smriti Irani, who happens to play the part of Vrinda maasi in Teen Bahuraniyan. After Smriti's entry in the show, the sagging TRPs of the show increased considerably, as her role of Vrinda maasi was immensely liked by the audiences. Naturally, to keep the TRPs soaring, all the focus was shifted on Irani, who in any case was one of the biggest stars on the show. It seems Manjeet's character not getting her due in the serial wasn't the only reason for Manava quitting the show. Rumours are rife that Manava was displeased with Smriti's entry into the show, as the entire spotlight was on her character, leaving others like her to just twiddle their thumbs.
ST: Not too long ago, there were similar rumours on the sets of Virruddh, where Smriti's interference was a cause of much worry to her fellow actors. So was Smriti the reason that forced Manava into leaving Teen…? Didn't she accuse the channel of sidetracking her character after Smriti's entry in the show?
MN: See, Virruddh and Teen Bahuraniyan are two completely different stories. Virruddh was her (Smriti's) own production house whereas Teen… is not her production house. So if it's her own production, as a producer, she has a say in the show. But in Teen… she was merely an actor, yet I must say, she was very professional and she never interfered in anything.
Smriti Irani is the biggest name on television. It's even stupid for an actor like me to compare myself to her because she is a legend. Neither does she fall in my age group nor in my category. There is no way I would want to compete with her. Personally speaking, I have not tried to even compete with Kadambari, Amrapalli or Benaf (her co-actresses). In any case, I don't need other people to be my benchmark.
ST: What about all the attention being shifted on Smriti when she entered the show? Didn't it bother her?
MN: The track focused on her much later in December whereas I had already spoken to the production house in October itself, about my track not working. You may have people speculating a lot of things but it's not necessary that all of it is true.
ST: How was the working with your co stars on the sets?
MN: It's been an amazing experience to work on the sets of Teen… Kadambari and Amrapalli became my very close friends. There was no competition between us. In fact people were surprised to see so much of bonding between the three of us. We got along very well and we still keep calling each other. There was a period in between, where we used to keep buying things for one another and the three of us would buy the same things!
ST: What about your other serial, Baa Bahu Aur Baby, your first soap, in which you have been working for the past three years.
MN: To work in Baa… is wonderful because there are veterans here. Sarita Joshi, Deven Bhojani or Aatish Kapadia… these people are an institution by themselves when it comes to acting. So it's like coming to school and learning over here. I have learnt Gujarathi on the set. There is a different flavour - a comedy flavour. That I get to see and learn over here. I am very comfortable in this set up. It's like home.
ST: Unlike Teen…, Manava doesn't feel her track in Baa Bahu Aur Baby has come to a standstill.
MN: In three years, I haven't reached a saturation point. I don't overshoot here. I shoot with them for 10 days a month. So I have ample time to do other things. When the work is interesting and happening, you don't get bored. You are discovering all the time.
ST: What about your experience in Ashutosh's film Jodha Akbar?
MN: I had done a print commercial, where the photographer happened to be Avinash Gowarikar, who's a cousin of Ashutosh (Gowarikar). At that time Ashutosh was looking for someone to play Neelakshi's role. They were running out of time, so Avinash called me and requested me to go and meet them. So I went and met Sunita (Ashutosh's wife) and I auditioned for the character. The next day I got a call to say that I was selected. The same evening I flew to Jaipur to start shooting. So it all happened really fast.
It was the first time I was working on such a magnificent scale. It is one of the biggest films and the biggest canvases till date. I was working with the best; the best actors, music directors, writers. It was like going back to school, learning and taking training in the professional sense.
ST: Never mind even if it was a miniscule role in an equally extensive film, Manava seems to have no qualms doing such roles.
MN: More than for the role, I did Jodhaa Akbar for the experience. It is a dream of every actor to work with a director of Ashutosh's caliber. Secondly, I wasn't doing anything much at that time. I wasn't doing Teen… and was also not shooting much for Baa…, so I had time. So I thought I might as well invest it in something which is exciting. And in a film, you tend to shoot more and then scenes get cut, so it happened here also.
ST: After Jodhaa… Manava has been getting a lot of film offers and after her exit from Teen… the television offers are also increasing.
MN: I have been getting a lot of offers, of television as well as films, but I haven't taken up anything as such. I am waiting for something nice to happen.
ST: While everything is going great guns on the professional front, on the personal front, Manava is rumoured to be dating her co-star Amit Verma.
MN: There have been rumours of everybody dating everybody. You have heard about Amit, but people have asked me about Gautam (Rode) also. You see actors with co-actors and tongues start wagging.
ST: For quite some time, Manava has been spotted with Amit at parties, social functions and malls, further supporting the rumours of them being a couple.
MN: I have a number of friends, but apparently you have spotted me with him, I can't help it. What happens is, you know him; there are 20 other friends present there, but since you know him, you will only talk about him. You don't realise that there are other people also, whom you haven't noticed. That has happened with us. We have been colleagues for quite a while, so you tend to hang out with people you know well. Amit and I have done two pilots together and he has also been a part of Baa… that's how we know each other.
In the television industry, I don't know too many people. I have done just three serials, so I know only people from three serials. I was never and am not dating him. I am not dating anyone at the moment because unfortunately, I don't have the time. The only love interest in my life is my dog Kanoji. I love him the most!
ST: So Manava is looking forward to do some good work. Mediocre roles and substandard projects are definitely not what she aspires to do?
MN: Definitely good characters, good work, good roles and working in good projects is what I am looking for. I want to continue acting though I have an inclination towards direction. I have assisted my mother on her documentaries, so maybe at some point of time; I would want to pursue that. But if you are talking of immediate plans, I am looking forward for a good vacation somewhere abroad. It's been a while, I haven't traveled.
Joined: 07 November 2005
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