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OTTplay Exclusive! Manu Rishi Chadha: Working with Ronit Roy was like sharing screen with Rajkummar Rao

The writer and actor calls them both 'stars'; he will be seen alongside Ronit Roy and Richa Chadha in Candy that will release on Voot on September 8.

Shaheen Irani
Sep 07, 2021
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Manu Rishi Chadha in Candy.

Writer-actor Manu Rishi Chadha is back on screen after nearly two years. Candy will be his first project since the COVID-19 pandemic. In the web series, Manu collaborates with Richa Chadha once again while working with Ronit Roy for the first time. However, the actor calls Ronit a 'tiger' and states that working with the Adaalat actor was more like sharing a screen with Rajkummar Rao.

While talking to OTTplay, Manu also shared why he stopped writing dialogues and focuses on scripts, and especially makers now. He revealed passing on projects to Pankaj Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The actor also mentioned how he feels Candy is different from Sanjay Kapoor's The Last Hour.

Excerpts from the interview...

You will be completing two decades in the industry soon. How would you describe your overall journey?

I had no work for eight-nine years. I was only doing theatre in Mumbai (laughs) with Rajat Kapoor. I would get small offers to write. My journey slowly began with Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Even though I was appreciated for my acting in that film, I enjoyed writing more. So I continued doing that. I'm just happy to be a part of the journey as an actor too.

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Manu Rishi Chadha in Candy.

Very recently, we saw Sanjay Kapoor's The Last Hour. Candy takes us back to that series because of the spiritual connection and murders. How would you say the two are different?

This is a mystery. The subject of suspense is only such that you can portray it in more than a lakh ways too. I have not seen the series (The Last Hour). However, I had seen the trailer and that's how I know that they are two different projects. We have focused on the backstories of each character. The story will connect you on a human level. This is a fictional show so you won't feel like the story is about someone. OTTs have a different way of working. If the makers feel that a certain subject is explored, then they drop the idea. The time gap between the two shows also proves that they are different. Candy has much more than murder too. I play the role of a politician who feels that his child does not complement his image. However, they are connected emotionally. My character has a shade, just like the other characters. Now, if we say that Mirzapur is a gangster series and another gangster series is the same, then that won't hold true, right? I think people will be able to judge after watching the content.

We see three different sides of you in the Candy trailer - intense, scary and jolly. Give us some more insights into your character.

That was the point actually. I wanted the laughter to stand out. I have a very intense side. There is dark humour too. I have come back to acting with this project. I had taken a break and wrote many scripts but that became boring too. When I took a break, the pandemic also happened so I made up my mind to not only write but also act in different projects.

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Candy: Unwrap The Sin

You are a dialogue writer. However, with the Candy trailer, we only come across your expressions and actions. So would you say expressions are more impactful than dialogues, especially in today's time when people want to see actors in more than just commercial films?

I started with writing dialogues but then felt that it was nothing. You have to work hard on the screenplay also sometimes. Then, you start working closely with the directors. At least I thought that I wanted to work and learn from the directors. I had penned the dialogues for Rajma Chawal and before that, Tubelight. Now, I feel that I should tell my own stories. I'm writing with a very interesting director and my own production house.

Expressions are a part of communication. They are also dialogues, especially in a silent film. It creates a bridge between the two. Dialogues and expressions are co-dependent.

What you saw in the promo, was a way of editing. The makers wanted to portray my character's image through it. I wanted to hear that I'm doing something different, which is what people are saying now.

Your question is very interesting for writers. I would like to say that only expressions can also be better. I learnt something interesting from one of my directors. He told me that if something can be communicated without dialogue, then don't use dialogues (laughs). He told me that and I follow it even as an actor. I could get a page full of dialogues, which I would love to say on-screen too, but there needs to be a thought behind it. This question should actually reach the writers (giggles).

You collaborated with Richa after Inside Edge and now, you both are waiting for Candy and Inside Edge 2. So what were the discussions like on sets?

Richa and I have been friends since Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. We were even neighbours at one point in time. Her roommate is also my friend. I know Ali well too. We visit each other's homes. Friendship always helps in acting. If at times I am unable to give my 100% on sets, Richa can always tell me and vice-versa because we have an understanding. By the time we worked on Inside Edge, our process became very simple. We both aren't melodramatic and belong to a school that believes in approaching a character realistically, be it with dialogues or acting.

Ronit Roy, on the other hand, is one of the biggest names on TV, a medium that you are yet to explore. So how did you two break the ice?

With Ronit, I had a little hesitation, knowing that he has been through a beautiful journey. But I am thankful to him for the way he made me comfortable. I was trying to get to know him and was getting nervous about it all, but he made me comfortable and not to the extent that we started feeding each other, but to be able to discuss the characters. We even got intense while talking about our characters but often gave space to each other as an actor. We used to understand and respect each other as actors and then leave everything to the director. That is how we made the project more interesting. We played badminton. He played the bansuri. Richa would narrate poetry. We even heard songs together.

Ronit and I actually knew each other from before. Coincidentally we even wore similar clothes on the first day of the shoot and had fun over that.

Some actors like to keep their space, which is their process. With Ronit, though, I thought like I was working with Rajkummar Rao. For me, they both are stars.

Ronit Roy is a 'tiger' who has the power to think. He may not be satisfied as an actor but he definitely is happy as a human. He called me a 'brave actor' for not hiding my age. He makes you feel blessed.

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Manu Rishi Chadha in Candy.

Since you are a scriptwriter too, is there a single element you can narrow down to, which makes the script, the star of the show?

The script is always the star. It's a very philosophical thing but one needs to be honest to the idea and the philosophy behind it - why you want to tell a story and what exactly you want to tell in it. I observe a lot. Based on that observation, I write a line and base a character around it. The rest is technical work. Honesty to the character and the storyline is very important. Many people get stuck when it comes to the climax. However, if you follow your instinct, then you will be correct. It is what grips, engages and bridges the understanding and communication between the characters and the audiences.

You have been part of films that are considered a gem today - like Oye Lucky, Ankhon Dekhi or Door Ke Darshan. What is your thought process while picking a project? Do you look at the filmmaker, character or overall story?

I try to understand the script. I now feel that I should try to understand the makers too. A good script needs a good maker too.

I'll tell you an interesting story that happened to me. A few people approached me for a very small-budget film. The budget wasn't my problem but when they narrated the script and told me about their process, I asked them to make the film with Pankaj Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. I told them that selling the project with my face on it will be difficult. With that, two films fell into place. For me, content is great but making and releasing the film is more important to me today. If I'm convinced with a project, then I'll definitely do it. We should see some changes, thanks to OTT. The platforms have become quite useful in terms of releasing content. My job is to understand the role but it isn't enough, hence I've turned more practical.

Lockdown has taken quite a toll on filmmakers but there are things for you to look up to, in terms of projects that are releasing. Where do we expect to see Manu Rishi Chadha in the next few months or a year?

I'm happy doing my work. I started working after the first wave. I told people about my choice and got work. I did cameos and full-fledged roles. I'm thankful to OTT. Since a lot of actors are working here, these platforms should remain. Hindi films have always been star-oriented. Producers also depended on them for the next film and to earn their money back. Right now, I'm worried about cinema halls but equally happy about the kind of freedom OTT is giving. We are in the correct zone and direction. We are going somewhere but need to create the right content.

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