Manav Kaul, like many slow-burn stories, took a while to get where he is in his career. A steadfast performer and a risk-taker Kaul is appreciative of the digital medium. The actor, who has a varied body of work from shows including Ghoul, The Verdict – State vs Nanavati, and of course, The Fame Game (TFG) to the films Ajeeb Daastaans and Nailpolish (both 2021), feels it was all about “being at the right place at the right time”.
After a career spanning almost two decades, ask him if he feels like he has arrived finally and he smiles and replies, “Finally, things are working (for me). People realised I could deliver different kinds of roles and range of performances.”
Talking about the rise of the digital medium, he elaborates, “OTT is not just about the actors but about creative people, DOPs, directors and other technical crew that are now thriving and showing their potential. I feel, the first demand of OTT is to showcase something original and new. In theatre, people wanted to have good projects, which have been done or is a sure-shot success. There is less experiment on theatre unlike OTT. What makes me happier is that there are so many women writers, so many stories about women and so many women-led projects. I feel now men and women are getting equal opportunities as everyone has a chance to tell their stories.
The success and love his web shows TFG and Ajeeb Daastaans got was noticed by the industry. How has it been dealing with fan love? “I was surprised with the reception of Ajeeb Daastaans and later and TFG came after that. Though my role was different yet it was in the romantic space. People loved and accepted me. Even today, I get so many messages for both the roles. Being an actor, playing a superstar one is apprehensive. I wondered if I would be able to pull it off or not. The space was unlike what I had attempted before. Thank God, it worked. What helped was that I was working with Madhuri (Dixit, actor). She is so charming and humble and our pairing worked. People loved our chemistry and many even texted saying they want a prequel to explore the love story some more. I am thankful that the show and my character was loved,” he says.
Kaul admits that before OTT happened, he was doing parts in films but was choosy as there was limitation with regards to work. “There were not many platforms. Films had the burden of the box-office and didn’t give chance to youngsters. Not that I was a youngster, but I was a new actor in the industry, doing theatre and was part of many films. So, the ‘in-between actors’, like I call them, ones who are choosy, had limited work. It was difficult for many but due to OTT, makers now realise they need such actors to pull off 8 or 10 episode web series. By far, the film Nailpolish (2021) was one of the most difficult roles I have performed. It worked because the digital platform gave the freedom to the director and producer to follow their vision.”
His much-loved character that of superstar Manish Khanna in TFG, has got attention from fans across the world. Ask him what was most intriguing about playing him and he says, “What I loved about my character that he didn’t push the fact that he was a superstar. He was a normal person, who was a success story and the core of being was his lonliness. He was going through an illness and in India, many don’t understand what being bi-polar means. We don’t even disucss it. So, all of that was a unique combo of superstardom and depression. I knew I would have a lot of fun playing the character as I had some amazing scenes. I jumped at the opportunity as the character was so beautifully written. I would say I was lucky with a role like Manish Khanna!”