Mansi Multani on playing Kalapori in Pari: I represent darkness
For many, Pari changed the way Bollywood looks at the horror genre, and the face of fear in this Anushka Sharma starrer – Mansi Multani, who plays Kalapori, is just happy being a part of it. “I thought it had a very interesting story. It was very Indian. They were not trying to ape a western idea. It had this mythological side to it as well, with the devil being formless. And, the idea of the devil’s lineage moving forward. Also, you end up feeling for a character who is almost like a vampire. Anushka played it with so much vulnerability,” said Mansi in a freewheeling chat with indianexpress.com.
In her ‘real’ pictures, Mansi will come across as a pretty young girl, much unlike the part she played in Pari. A popular name in the theatre fraternity, Mansi had no inhibitions about taking up a role which required her to turn dark and evil. She remarked, “I represent darkness in the film and Ifrit’s women.”
So what background did the makers explained to her about Kalapori? “The briefing I got was that these women are the devil’s counterparts and their purpose is to continue the lineage forward. They are cursed. They can’t have children. So they ensure that these women come to Ifrit,” she explained, since not much of her backstory was shown in the film.
Behind the thick prosthetic laden Kalapori, we saw glimpses of Mansi in some scenes. The actor shot for 6 days and it took nearly three hours each day to get into her look. She said, “The make-up was a two-pronged situation. The pro was that it helped me get into the skin of it because it was such a detailed and invested process of three hours. When you are in it, and since my background is theatre, so there are a lot of improvisational thoughts. I wanted to play with my voice in different ways because I didn’t want her to look like a caricature of anything. But the con was of course that it was really difficult. It’s the hardest part I have done. I am 29-year-old and I am never going to get a chance to do this again, so early in my career.”
When Pari’s posters released, all eyes were on Anushka’s bruised appearance with blood-shot eyes. But the presence of an evil lady in the background also grabbed eyeballs. Until the makers released a small making video, barely did we realise that Mansi was the face behind Kalapori. The actor shares how people reacted to her first look from the film.
The horror genre in Bollywood has remained the most under-explored. Leaving aside a handful of films like Bhoot, Raat and Raaz, most of the remaining ones are either not convincingly scary or are hard sold on skin-show with some raunchy songs. Agreeing on how horror is a far cry in Bollywood, Mansi believes Pari might be the game-changer. “We have never really pushed the boundary beyond skin show and beyond the kind of tantalising perspective on horror. Indian horror is already a very tricky genre. There is such a thin line where it can just cross over to being ridiculous. But I was so impressed when I saw the film,” she shared.
When I asked Mansi about her experience of working with Anushka both as a co-star and a producer, pat came the reply, “Anushka is such a smart cookie with the films she makes because she picks up scripts that others won’t, that might be low budget, but she tells stories that she finds to be away from the run of the mill. Personally, I feel this is her best performance till date. Also she is incredibly easy to talk to. On the sets, I never felt I am sitting next to such a big star. When we were doing the promotions, she came to me, gave me a really big hug and said ‘you are so good in the film’. I think for a producer or a co-actor, it takes generosity to do that. I was really moved.”
“I’m really inspired by Anushka. She is carving out a niche for herself and looking at her career very differently from her contemporaries. She is putting her money into her passion, which is to make films and to tell stories which other actresses might not want to tell. So as a co-actor and a producer both, she is incredibly grounded, incredibly humane and very generous,” added Mansi.
Delhi born Mansi is trained in Hindustani vocals too. Her brush with limelight came when she played the character of Queen Olivia in Atul Kumar’s popular play Piya Behrupiya – a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night which opened at The Global Theatre in London and has travelled across the world nearing 200 shows. Her other works include productions like Raja Kapoor’s Hamlet: The Clown Prince and What is Done is Done, Sunil Shanbag’s Stories in a Song and Bernd Lutzeler’s Camera Threat. She made her film debut in Jo Hum Chahein (2011) and appeared in Kram (2012) and Court (2014) too. She was also the casting director for Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City (2015) and acted in a web series for Voot titled Timeout.
Mansi has also done the TV show Har Mard ka Dard, and worked with AIB in its sketches titled ‘Honest Indian Flights’ and ‘Creep Qawaali’. Six years in theatre and over 550 stage shows down, Mansi is currently waiting for the release of her next film Kadak. “The most exciting thing that happened last year is again with Rajat (Kapoor). We shot for a film called Kadak, which is his next and I play the lead protagonist. That is something I’m very excited about. It is in its post-production and should release soon. Until then my theater projects are keeping me busy. And since it (films) is a new medium for me, I’m really excited to explore it more,” said the actor.