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An Interview WithTanya Maniktala



An Interview WithTanya Maniktala 12

Tanya  Maniktala who plays  the heroine Lata in  Mira Nair’s  affectionate  and adroit adaptation  of Vikram Seth’s  vast epic novel A Suitable Boy,talks To Subhash  K Jha.

What was it about  Vikram Seth’s A Suitable  Boy that  attracted  you the  most?

Everything. Ranging from the charm of the period to the appeal of the characters, all of it just drew me  in towards the adaptation, and then obviously the opportunity of working with the legend Mira Nair.  Her passion and love for the stories that she narrates definitely translates on screen and is apparent in  her work, and the allure to be able to be a part of that story and portray this immensely intricate and  layered character on screen! There was no second thought given to not wanting to be a part of this  project. I started reading the book when I began my auditioning process. 

Lata is the  pivotal  character in this , arguably the longest  novel I’ve read.  What according  to  you  makes Lata attractive to three suitors?

 Lata’s charm lies in her self-confidence. With her rawness and the fresh perspective that she brings to  the table, it’s almost impossible for anybody to not fall in love with her. She has this excitement to  experience life and the poise and elegance with which she carries herself without ever putting a thought  into it,  or consciously trying for it. 

What do think attracts three  eligible  suitors to Lata?

Lata’s mind and her intelligence and just the passion that she embodies – she  is like a spark that draws her suitors in. Her old-world charm, her curiosity and the ease with which she is  completely and authentically herself, I think all of it gives you an understanding of who Lata really is  which is why I don’t think Lata went with the safest choice, but with whom she saw that she could grow.

Yes, I wonder why she chose whom she  did?

Lata has a strong sense of self and her relationship with the three different suitors gave her an insight  into what she truly wanted. She valued that sense of self and with the suitor that she ultimately goes  with, she sees that even he would be identify with it and could always sort of balance and ground each  other. They both had in their past experienced the feeling of being in love and also the heartbreak that  came with it, which I feel definitely brought Lata closer to him and understand that he wasn’t really  different from her and who would understand what she’s been through. He brought a calmness to their  relationship that Lata felt was missing with the other two suitors, and the possibility of potentially falling  in love and growing together was more valuable to her than anything else. 

Match-making and arranged  marriages  form the  backbone  of  the plot. In real life  would  you  consider  an arranged  marriage? How  practical is it in today’s  day and age?

When it comes to choosing your partner I think none of us would be opposed to the idea of meeting  people and now if that happens through your parents or an online dating site or just any other way, I  don’t think it would matter as long as the end result is the same. We have shown arranged marriages in  a certain light that now the mindset is such that we associate arranged marriages with a lack of love,  which is not true. It is a very practical way to meet people because you know the other person is also  coming into it with the same expectations. It is just another prospect for meeting people and in no way  means that you have to go with the first person that comes your way, like any other platform. You  explore your options and take your time with your decision. 

Mira  Nair  auditioned innumerable  known and unknown  actors for Lata’s role. What  was  it like to be the chosen one?

Haha, it is funny now that I think about it, because I never really thought that I had a shot at getting this  role. But like it’s said – the best things in life happen when you least expect them. I am so incredibly  grateful for this opportunity and that she saw in me the potential to be able to play one of the most  beautifully written characters who is the heart of this book that has worldwide acclaim and who will  now in the tv series adaptation of it would be the face of a major BBC show. I had never in my wildest  dreams imagined that this could happen to me, and all I feel is gratitude. With such a great role though  came a lot of pressure as well of the expectations with this character, but Mira di always reminded me  that you have to learn to let go of those expectations and play the character with the truth and honesty that’s within you, and that has been my biggest takeaway – to learn to dissociate yourself from the  expectations around you and speak your own truth. 

Your co-stars are a fabulous ensemble  of  skilled actors.  Who were  your favourites and  whom  did  you  bond with  the  best?

I couldn’t have asked for a better team! It was such a joy to work with each one of them! Not just the  cast, but the entire crew as well. We had people on the team who had been working with Mira di for  more than 30 years and that speaks volumes about the kind of person she is. She brings together such a great bunch of people and acts as this binding force, and you all just fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  There is always a harmony on set and a shared ‘mission’ to be part of something that is much bigger  than any of us and to do it to the best of your abilities. It was a flow of positive energy and good vibes  and supporting each other in a way to bring to the table your A game. I have taken from this show  people who I know I can rely on and go to anytime when I need help and with whom I know the  pathway to communication is always open. 

What  preparations did   you make to play Lata?  Did  you  read up on  the  era?  Listen  to the songs  of  that  period?

I had this marathon of a novel to constantly go back to whenever I needed help with understanding my  characters frame of a mind in that particular situation. So, definitely when you have this ‘holy book’ to refer to and seek help from, the job gets much easier. Another very important point that Mira di always  insisted on the fact that she did not want any of her actors to be “playing the period” and rather just  focusing on the character. According to her when you start ‘playing’ something it becomes untrue and  we wanted our characters and our portrayal of them as authentic as possible. So, my focus was  constantly to bring to the forefront the truth of my character rather than anything else and the rest of it  happened along the way. Obviously the spectacular costumers by our head of costumes – Arjun Bhasin,  the incredible locations and set designing by Stephanie Carrol did most of our job for us to transport us  back into that era and we never had to consciously work on it. And yes, I would watch documentaries to  understand the way people talked and kind of bring that into my speech. 

Is acting your chosen  vocation  for  keeps ?  Are you working on something else

Haha I would definitely want to keep working on my craft, and this is just the beginning of it all. I want to  explore myself and experiment with the kind of roles I do in the future and just implore my own  potential. I am currently reading for different projects, so hopefully something exciting will happen very  soon. 

Would you like to  work in Bollywood?Who are on your wishlist?

I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, be it Bollywood or any other outlet as long as the content that is  bring created excites me. I would love to work with Konkana Sen Sharma, both as an actor and also her  directing me. Vidya Balan, Kalki, Rajkumar Rao, Anurag Kashyap, Shoojit Sircar, Imtiaz Ali .Haha the list is  long.

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