Dream Debut

Manushi Chhillar on the pathway to becoming the most desired actress of 2022 with the release of ‘Samrat Prithviraj’

Miss World changed her world forever as the question of her being a doctor hung in limbo as she travelled the world. Still, things became clearer for Manushi Chhillar when Yash Raj Films came to this beauty queen to star in their latest venture, ‘Prithviraj’, starring opposite Akshay Kumar, an opportunity that is worthy for any newcomer.

The ethereally gorgeous Manushi Chhillar is playing the role of Samrat Prithviraj’s beloved Princess Sanyogita, and her debut is definitely one of the most awaited launches of 2022!

We at G’day India and the Indian Weekly couldn’t be more excited to speak to her about her new role as an actor and all things Samrat Prithviraj.

From medicine to Miss World in 2017 and now your debut with Samrat Prithviraj, tell us how life has changed for you?

Life has taken a total 360 on me; if I were to look at the last five years of my life, it is as if someone is pushing me into a new world in one or two years. I was in medical college to prepare as a doctor, and I happened to compete in Miss India and from there to compete in Miss World and fortunately won Miss world, and life changed after that night.

A number of opportunities came after that night, the platform allowed me to travel the world and meet incredible people.

The world became a gateway. I was in two minds about going back to studies or pursuing a career in films. When a project like Prithviraj came into my life, there was no looking back, and today I think I am glad I made that decision as I enjoyed the filmmaking process, love acting, and had so much learning during the filming Samrat Prithviraj.

You refused a lot of offers for films. What was so special about Samrat Prithviraj that you decided to act?

Well! I think that there are two aspects to it. Winning Miss world, I was clear that I wanted to go back to becoming a doctor, so I did not consider film becoming an actor and hence would not encourage any conversations regarding films and politely decline it. Somewhere in the middle of Miss World year, I started thinking about acting as an option, and I guess that’s when Yash Raj films came into my life, and that’s how the conversation started.

I was auditioning for Yash Raj and still was not entirely sure, to be very honest, if this was the path for me.

Of course, a project like this is a dream debut, and I had a lot of support from my family, college professors, and Miss World Team to look at things from a different perspective and not be so stubborn. They would always say life has changed for me, and so can my plans.

What training did you take to fulfil this role?

It was a demanding role saying that being a historical character and going on a lot building up a character like that, saying that acting is new to me, so I had to go back to the basics, doing introductory workshops. I had eight to nine months of preparation before we started filming.

I had to learn Kathak and semi-classical, and then I had to understand filmmaking’s technicalities and the nuances required to make a film. I mostly appreciate Sanyogita, the character, not only a feeling that the director has imagined her. There is a reference point used to break away from Prithviraj’s life, and people’s perception of how she was and to match that was a challenge for me and summarises my prep.

What was it like working with director Dr Chandra Prakash Dwivedi on this period drama Samrat Prithviraj?

I think I couldn’t have asked for a better debut; the first thing for Dr Dwivedi is that he is a medical doctor, and we would always call each other doctor sahib onset; that was the familiarity with him. The unique thing about him is that he is so well-read, and his research is his care, that he knows so much about every character and lived with the scripts for eighteen years. For eighteen years, he has been building the script, adding, and understanding the characters, and he did half the homework we needed with the character. His working method is evident, and the film’s made on facts. He knew what he wanted from each actor, and he had a goal. The remarkable thing about him is that his research was so strong.

Any unforgettable moment during the making of the film?

The wedding sequence in the film was the most elaborate shot as 25 people comprising costume, jewellery, hair, makeup, tailors, etc dressed me in tandem for three straight hours! “So, the makeup would take 20 mins max because my director wanted to portray Princess Sanyogita as natural as possible, and hair and costume would take hours. I would be the first one to enter the set, it would still be dark! For the wedding sequence, though it is a short one, it took a really long time for me to get ready! There was an army of people working on me to get me ready and look the way I do on screen!”

What I loved about the costumes is that they kept it very authentic. But they were heavy, the jewellery was very heavy. There was a dupatta for my Swayamvar which went on my head. It was really heavy, and I had a proper head, neck and upper back issue. I couldn’t keep my head straight. So, every time we would stop shooting for a scene two people would come and lift the dupatta so that the weight is not all on my head.

Besides, I think the whole process of the filming is very unforgettable. It was my first film, a new challenge, and I discovered myself every day as a new actor. Every day, I made sure I was able to do an excellent job. Every day was a new day, memorable with new challenges and stress and equally fun whether a song, action or just one moment will not stand out as the whole experience has been just an unforgettable moment.

Were you happier when you were crowned Miss World 2017 OR when you signed by YRF for Prithviraj opposite the Great Akshay Kumar?

Honestly, in life, we always feel things will make us happy if we achieve this or if we achieve that. One thing that I have realised is that it’s nice when things happen. I am so glad whether it is Miss India or Miss World or the film, there is a lot of hard work that goes into it. It definitely made me happy, but one thinks that life is full of change. Everything will become unicorns and rainbows after, but that point never comes, especially emotionally that never comes.

If I had to look back, I would say the turning point in my life was when I was crowned Miss India. Genuinely I was equally happy whether it was Miss India or Miss World stage or signing for Prithviraj with YashRaj films working opposite Akshay sir. I have been similarly relieved and comfortable in all of these.

Any pranks played on you during the filming of the movie by Akshay?

He likes to play pranks with everyone, but he was more pleasant and easy on me, thinking it was my first film. I do remember harmless betting with food while playing Ludo and solving puzzles.

Any actress that inspires you the most?

There are so many beautiful, incredible women actors that inspire me, but I always enjoyed watching Madhuri Dixit on screen. But the storytelling and life journey Of Aishwariya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra not only had been Miss Worlds both achieving heights in their career, but they have never been intimidated by anything.

We not only wish this ex-Miss World a roaring success for her debut, to the entire production of Yash Raj Films but also to the entire team of Mind Blowing Films a huge success.

By GDI Team

(Interview courtesy Mind Blowing Films. www.mindblowingfilms.com)