One of the most talented actors in Tollywood, Lakshmi Manchu also happens to be quite care-free and relaxed, and her avant-garde looks had Hollywood humming. Despite coming from an affluent family, she’s always been motivated by the pursuit of excellence. In the business ever since she was four, Lakshmi’s career is only getting busier and better. In this interview, the actress talks about her latest project – Memu Saitham – dealing with failure and much more.
From actor to producer and, now, television host: What made you switch from one role to the other?
I’m an entertainer, a filmmaker. So it never mattered whether I was an actor, producer, television host or anything else. I just want to create good content for films or shows. Being a woman in the industry, you often get stereotyped and I didn’t want that; so I took whatever role I was offered. Opportunities arose and I took the plunge. None of it was planned.
Your show Memu Saitham is currently the highest TRP-rated show on television. What’s the concept?
Memu Saitham is based on the show Mission Sapne. Through the show we raise money for families that are in need. Fortunately it has garnered a lot of respect and appreciation from audiences and celebrities alike. Every episode features a celebrity who plays the role of a taxi driver, vegetable seller, salesman, and so on to earn money for the family in need. So every celebrity who comes on the show is made to extend their comfort zone in order to raise money. Rana Daggubati was a coolie, Regina Cassandra was a salesgirl at a store, Rakul Preet Singh was a vegetable seller. It’s a fun experience with a cause.
Unlike most other saas-bahu sagas, this show actually gives solutions to people’s problems to help give them a better life. What you see on television, though, is only 10% of what is actually happening out there. I’m personally in touch with every family that comes on the show. Apart from this, we’re also building an old-age home, helping Sparsh Hospice and other such organisations.
Were there any situations during the show when the crowd made the celebrities uncomfortable?
Never. In fact, when we informed the crowd about the show and how a family would go back with something concrete, people were ready to give money. And they gave whole-heartedly.
What kind of response are you receiving?
It’s such a different concept that you want to get associated with it. From the production house to the celebrities, everyone received such stupendous response for displaying extraordinary passion and commitment towards the common man. As a matter of fact, Rana told me how he had received the same amount of calls when Baahubali was released. The best part of the show is how it encourages social awareness and ensures that at least one person gets his/her dreams fulfilled. The entire experience is so human.
What do you feel is your most noteworthy achievement? Something where you can say, “Well, this is something remarkable that I did”?
To be honest, acting is something I have done against my grain, and it is true that it has worked wonderfully for me. But I have never thought that I have done anything yet which is remarkable. I think my biggest achievement or, rather, the most satisfying thing – apart from surviving in this industry for so long – is how I worked with some amazing actors like James Lesure and Sylvester Stallone right at the beginning of my career, then bagging Filmfares and Nandi awards for my work – all of which were small steps towards big dreams.
We’re sure you’ve faced failure in life, some of your movies have done well and others not so much. How do you cope with that?
Like everyone does; I cry, howl my heart out and lock myself in a room. But failure is a fantastic teacher, too. Accept it gracefully and it will only make you realise that you need to work harder.
How comfortable is the industry around you? Do you worry about all this ending one day?
I think when you are in the industry for as long as I’ve been, you are untouched by any fear that all this will end one day. Over the years, I have created a niche for myself, and now I’m content and protected with my work. Sure I want to achieve more, but I have no issues as an actor.
Your next film’s titled Lakshmi Bomb, and it’s a comedy thriller. Your last movie (Dongaata) was a comedy as well, so how difficult or easy is it for an actor to reinvent herself for a comedy?
First of all, I think making people laugh is extremely difficult. You know…action, emotional or a romantic scene is easy compared to comedy, also it is different.
That’s one of the reasons I want to do a rib-tickling comedy film, something like Andaz Apna Apna, which requires spontaneity and energy.
What does Diwali mean to you?
Diwali is an occasion to visit my family and close friends, spend some quality time with them and exchange gifts. It’s a festival of togetherness. The other best part about Diwali is all the clothes, lights, food and the general festivity in the air.
What can be better than that? If not an actor, what would you have been?
A teacher, since I graduated with a Bachelor’s in theatre and completed my minor in education. Or a receptionist because of my voice (laughs).
Which director would you like to work with?
What have you always wanted to do but never done?
I want to climb Machu Picchu, although I’m certain I won’t ever do it.