Today is a big day for debutante Manushi Chhillar. The former Miss World’s very first Bollywood film, Samrat Prithviraj, has released. In it, she’s seen opposite Akshay Kumar as princess Sanyogita. The Free Press Journal caught up with her for an exclusive chat. Excerpts:
Debuting with a massive historical film like Samrat Prithviraj is a responsibility. How are you feeling?
I was nervous since this was something new as I had never acted before. It was a bit of a challenge to start with a film like this. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t realise it. It is now hitting me that I have done a film. I hope people will like the film and my performance. There’s so much that has happened in the last five years, and I have learned so many new things. I won’t be surprised if I am thrown into something new. It is exciting, but I am feeling jittery.
In the past, Bollywood has seen several beauty queens owning the big screen. Do you feel pressured anytime?
Had I not been a Miss World, YRF wouldn’t have noticed me. I wouldn’t have been able to understand the industry otherwise. I had a protected kind of an approach since I had the Miss World team with me. I give a lot of credit to that platform, but it comes with the fact that people do have preconceived notions and certain expectations. It also pushes you to do better in a way. I hope I do as well as Priyanka Chopra Jonas or Lara Dutta did.
Samrat Prithviraj is an unconventional debut for any actor. Your thoughts?
It is definitely not the film with which many actors would debut. Since I am not someone who grew up in the film environment, I am not the person who knows how to strategise my debut. For me, Samrat Prithviraj was like a cafeteria choice. I am happy that I was able to convince them to play this role. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. I feel a story like this has a lot of relatability since we all have grown up reading about history. It is important for an actor to play two to three such characters that live with time.
Post the release of Samrat Prithviraj, will you have a strategy while signing a film?
We all like to plan and strategise, but the truth is nothing goes according to the plan. I feel lucky since I am not from a film background, but I have beautiful people guiding me. Whenever I am in doubt, I know I have an Adi sir (Aditya Chopra), Dr. saab (Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi) or an Akshay sir (Kumar) who will always give me their wisdom. I don’t have a strategy, but I want to grow as an actor. I would love to do a romantic and an action film.
Were you intimidated while shooting with Akshay on the sets?
It’s a big responsibility to perform opposite such a great actor, and you don’t want to become that one weak pillar. I am very Haryanvi in that way. I like to challenge myself. The entire cast of the film is so strong, but being a newcomer, I was like an adopted kid on the sets. I was very curious as I had a lot of questions for everyone, but all of them made it easy and comfortable.