By Abhigna Ghosh
The actress who won the hearts of all movie buffs with her bright smile in The Suitable Boy is all set to stun her fans in a brand new avatar. Whether it’s a period drama set in 1951 or a glimpse into a young, budding romance, Tanya Maniktala blends seamlessly into each character.
Her latest venture Chutzpah has hit the screens all over India through Sony Live. In a candid chat, Tanya Manikata talks about her on-screen character Shikha and much more!
If you had to describe your experience shooting for Chutzpah in one word, what would it be?
Tanya: Well, in one word I’ll say it was unique. Because the story itself is very unconventional. It offers a mix of different tales on a relevant topic- the internet, which has a huge influence on all our lives. On one side you will see a couple in a long-distance relationship and on the other side, you will see the typical playboys on the internet. It offers a beautiful blend of stories we see every day in real life and I had a blast shooting for it.
How did you get involved with this project?
Tanya: So after The Suitable Boy, I got a call from Shruti Mahajan for the role of Shikha. Simar Sir, the director of Chutzpah also contacted me. I have worked with him before for my first web series, FLAMES. Plus, he is also my super senior from my theatre circuit. So getting the opportunity to work with him again was very exciting. And when he narrated, I loved how different and relevant the concept was. So I have been on board since then.
Chutzpah wasn’t shot in the traditional way. How challenging was the new shoot format for you?
Tanya: It was very difficult. You know a large part of acting is reacting. So without a co-actor, I was mostly talking to a blank screen. Varun and I did a lot of zoom meetings to decide the reactions and pauses for every scene. I never really thought I’d ever be acting without a co-actor. But the experience was enriching and I got to explore a whole new different facet of acting.
All the characters you have previously portrayed are poles apart from each other. How do you blend so well into these different roles.?
Tanya: There is no particular methodology to it, it’s pure madness. You have to forget yourself and be someone else. It requires a collaborative effort, you need to understand the story, listen to the director, and see what’s best for the character. It’s not the actor’s job alone. The whole crew and the cast come together to bring the character to life.
Did you connect to your on-screen character Shikha at any level?
Tanya: The one thing on which I connected to her was that she is very selfless. When it comes to her loved ones, she doesn’t hold back. Now, I’m not that selfless (laughs) so I was also learning from her at the same time. You know she is this happy spirit who keeps things interesting. With her, you will always know you have someone reliable to fall back on.
What would you say is the most unforgettable scene for you from the show?
Tanya: Okay, so there is one scene where Shikha is on a video call with Vikash and she does something outrageous and unexpected. So during that scene, Tanya was somehow actively playing in Shikha, and I was going all red doing it. But Simar sir was there, guiding me and cueing me from behind the screen. So yeah we played around that scene a lot (laughs)
How did the love for acting blossom in your heart?
Tanya: I have been an avid reader since childhood and I love reading and imagining these characters. And growing up I would tag along with my siblings who are quite extroverted in literally every school event. Although initially, I had stage fright, I realized I need to overcome it. Because interacting with other people is something that I do enjoy. I love listening to other people’s stories. Acting is also pretty similar right, you get to know a character with the additional opportunity to actually play them. So I guess that’s how the love for acting came about. My sister does have an important role in this. She is my biggest supporter. For me, she was my Shikha (laughs)
What was that one decision that was a turning point in your career?
Tanya: Auditioning for The Suitable Boy. I didn’t tell my father about it because he was very protective of his little girl. They are not from the film background and they have heard how harsh the industry can be at that time. So they were naturally protective. But just auditioning for The Suitable Boy was a very big deal. I felt that even if I didn’t get the part, I would come out braver than I was.
What would you say is your dream genre or role that you want to explore?
Tanya: That’s a difficult question (laughs) every role I get is a dream come true for me. I think the whole concept of acting is very dreamy. You get to play someone you are not. But speaking of a genre I’d love to play, I want to explore more mystery dramas and maybe something in the sci-fi genre too.
Chutzpah has finally been released! How do you feel about the love and appreciation you are getting?
Tanya: I’m really thankful for all the love I have received for all my previous roles. And I hope the audience continues to receive Shikha too with an open heart and give the same love to her. I have tried something new here and I hope the audience likes it and if not I’d definitely like to get feedback (laughs). I want to grow as an actor and I’d be happy to receive anything that helps me with that.