Actor Manav Kaul is getting a lot of praise for his performance in courtroom drama Nail Polish. In the film, Manav plays Veer Singh, who is accused of rape and murder of children.
In a recent chat with indianexpress.com, Manav spoke about the freedom he was given to explore the complex and layered character, and how the Bugs Bhargava Krishna directorial was nothing less than a gamble for him.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
How are the reactions so far?
I never thought that I would get this kind of response. Since the release of the film, I have been getting many messages. People are tagging me on various platforms and describing how they liked what I have done in Nail Polish. So, it is a humbling experience. Also, the praises felt very personal. I think people connected well with Charu Raina.
So, can we say your New Year started on the right note?
Absolutely! Also, when you work hard on something, it is a sigh of relief to know that your hard work has paid off.
We have often heard that actors get into a zone to play an intense character such as Veer Singh. What was your process?
My first instinct was – no, I cannot do this. I was so glued when Bugs was narrating the script to me. But the moment he said that I have to perform Veer Singh, Charu Raina and Ranjeet as well, I got worried. I was like how am I going to perform a woman. I never even thought of something like this.
I am an actor who believes in living a character than pretending to be that part. So, I felt that I cannot do something that I don’t relate to. But Bugs did a lot of research. I also sat down with the writers for multiple readings and was continuously taking notes. At home, I tried so many techniques to get into the character but nothing worked. However, on the sets, when Bugs said ‘action’, the performance came out naturally. Before that, none of us had an idea about how will I pull it off. So, I think I took a leap of faith.
I must say, your nails are better than mine in the film!
(Laughs) I take that as a compliment but I have to add that there is something powerful about it. I would apply the red nail polish and look at my nails a lot. It worked like a trigger, I guess. It worked like a key to the door to enter the character. Honestly, I cannot put into words how I got into the character, but I think these small things helped.
When you internalise the character to justify it on screen, how difficult does it become to let it go?
I used to feel that it is not tough but it is. It (the character) took its own sweet time to get out of me. I remember, even after 10-15 days of completing the film, I used to touch my hair a lot. It wasn’t conscious. Deep down, Charu Raina is a very emotional character. So, it did take a toll. The experience is unexplainable but as an actor, I get drawn to such characters where you get to explore what you can do.
What was your first impression of Veer Singh?
I was in shock. I told Bugs that I would need help to perform this. However, he was confident that I can do it. He left the character to my interpretation, which is even more difficult to do because I did not have references. But because I get drawn to difficult things, I got attracted to the character for the challenges it possessed.
Bugs was very open to how I will say lines or present the body language. He allowed me to do everything the way I wanted. There were sequences when I took the liberty to cut the dialogues of Charu. So, I had a lot of freedom.
In the second half, your split personality comes across. That whole segment is the best courtroom sequence I have seen. How difficult was it? What sort of prep did you do for it?
I wasn’t trying to perform or convey something. Honestly, I don’t even like that kind of acting. I was living the character, the moment. I am a very instinctive person. Whatever was happening around me, I reacted to that. Everyone was very cooperative. For instance, whenever Arjun (Rampal) held me in the film, I felt protected. Now, that is not acting. It was intuitive. It wasn’t in the script.
In my head, I knew Charu wants to go home to her child or wants to go back to Kashmir. So, I tried to say or do things that Charu felt or would have done at that very moment. It was a very interesting process. Also, for me, acting is very therapeutic. It opens up avenues that you are not consciously aware of.
The film ends on a cliffhanger. So, can we expect a sequel?
I think so. I hope so. It is completely up to the director.
Do you think there should be a spin-off featuring Veer Singh?
I have no idea. However, I would love to explore the character more. Right now, even I have seen some glimpses of him. So, I want to dig deeper. People have been wanting to know what happened next (in the film). So, I am guessing we can expect a sequel.
Would you call Nail Polish your best, yet most challenging role so far?
I cannot say best because that is for the audience to decide. However, it is the most challenging role I have done till now. I couldn’t sleep for days. I remember that two days before the shoot of the Charu Raina sequence, late in the night, I texted Bugs that I am scared, which has not happened to me before.
You said you wait for the right script. With the digital medium, has the choice become easier for you?
When people used to cast me in the lead roles, I used to think, ‘Who is going to come to watch me on the big screen?’ I would feel guilt that the producers and directors are going to lose their money. The moment someone would offer me a lead role, I would ask them why they are not casting someone else. It is not about acting because I know I can pull off roles. But, there was this burden in my head with all the negative thoughts about myself. I think that guilt or burden was lifted because of OTT. Now, I am confident. Now, I can perform with no guilt. So, I am enjoying this phase.
Nail Polish, streaming on ZEE5, also stars Arjun Rampal and Anand Tiwari.