There were days when Manisha Koirala wouldn’t feel very well. The constant chemotherapy was taking a toll on her health. The perennially cloudy New York skies wouldn’t help her either. But Manisha Koirala declared on Facebook that she has refused to bow down to the disease.
“You just don’t know what Manya is made of. If you think that she is weeping because she is flying away to the US then you are so wrong. She is so high on life that she just doesn’t need anybody around her to rejuvenate her. She is such a person that she can find her own company uplifting,” the words still echo in my ears. Because they were spoken by Rituparno Ghosh. Ritu was counted among Manisha’s closest pals. She like a handful of Manisha’s closest pals called her Manya.
I had dialled Ritu’s number to get a ‘reaction’ when Manisha was leaving for the US to get treated for ovarian cancer. The phone kept on ringing and I left a text message saying why I wanted to speak to her. Ritu had called me back in five minutes.
Ritu always laid an emphasis on the word ‘N’ while saying ‘Manya’ which made the pet name sound a lot different.
Like a prophesy, Ritu’s words came true but sadly, Ritu was not around to see Manya’s return to the city. Exactly as she had predicted, a battery of chemotherapy for six months, a broken marriage and life away from all her pals didn’t dampen Manisha’s spirit one bit.
When I finally spoke with her, I discovered that Manisha was speaking a little louder than usual. There was a strange confidence in her voice which Ritu had mentioned.
We were doing an interview and in the course of that, I mentioned very timidly that I would require her photograph. I was just doing my job and asked about the photograph because I was supposed to mention about it once before ending the interview.
Till October last year, I had a cancer patient in my family so I know the difficult times that one goes through while undergoing chemotherapy. I was convinced that Manisha won’t approve of the request. I never fancied getting a photograph from her and I understood that I shouldn’t be pestering her for it.
When you go through chemotherapy, the first thing that goes is the hair on your head, then your eye-lashes and eye-brows. It changes the way you look and coming to terms with the changed look requires tremendous self-belief and courage.
This ‘side-effect’ of cancer therapy is well documented. When cancer patients look into the mirror after a bout of chemotherapy, they usually suffer from depression when they see their hair falling off. Most cancer patients are advised to go for a ‘chemo-cut’ which means shaving off their pate.
Over the world, cancer patients suffer from a withdrawal syndrome that sometimes last for years.
It wouldn’t have been unnatural if Manisha suffered from a withdrawal syndrome too. She is after all a Bollywood actress and her USP (unique selling point) is always her face value.
When she landed in Mumbai, I asked her loyal manager Subrato Ghosh on how she is looking after all the chemo-therapies. He said that Manisha is as beautiful as ever.
“She is looking gorgeous. Her face as radiant as before and she will start working soon. She has battled cancer head on and she is a winner. You need to see her to believe it. There is not a speck of depression on her face,” Subrato told me in a thick East Bangladeshi accent.
I had no doubt it that she is as beautiful as she is. But I had no reason to believe Subrato. Star managers are known to lie about the stars they handle and that would be the usual answer to my question.
But that day (it’s been two weeks now) when I was speaking to Manisha, she shocked me.
“Please don’t use an old photograph. I don’t look the same anymore. Use my latest picture with my interview,” she shot back on the phone.
I wondered, “But hasn’t she got a chemo-cut too. How will she send a photograph to me? Will she wear a wig before clicking the picture?”
I saw her twitter photographs and figured out that she must be talking about those photographs where she is wearing a head-gear. Fair enough. I decided that if ever I use a photograph on my blog, I will use one of those.
I knew that she would be having a havan at her place and I could have invited myself if I was too keen. But I thought it’s best that I don’t see her. I told myself that will see her again when her lustrous locks grow back.
Manisha is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and more so, because I was in school when I first saw her on the big screen. I told myself again and again that its best that I don’t see how she looks now.
Seven days back, I woke up to see a mail from Manisha in my mail-box and there was this picture as an attachment. In the mail she asked to use this picture and it appeared that she had asked a friend to click the picture for her. The picture showed a beautiful and bald Manisha wearing glasses and smiling at the camera. She has lost a lot of weight which is again a known side-effect of chemotherapy.
As my mind was replacing the images that I had of Manisha at a super-sonic speed, I realised that she still looks as beautiful as before. But there was something else that baffled me.
How could she send that picture to me?
For an actress who ruled the silver screen for close to 10 years, it is not easy to release a post-chemotherapy picture to the media.
Then the realisation dawned on me: She is still the same Manisha Koirala no doubt. But this is Manisha Koirala version 0.1 who is more courageous and confident of what she is.
Manisha has now posted the same picture on her twitter account but I am posting the original, high-resolution file which I got in my mail-box.
For all cancer patients out there, please allow me to draw your attention. If an actress like Manisha Koirala can proudly come out in the open with all the effects of chemotherapy visible on her face, there’s no reason why you cannot do it.
The battle with cancer doesn’t make you ugly, it only makes you more beautiful. It only makes you more admirable. It only makes you an example for countless other patients who will be going through chemotherapy.
Manisha Koirala and Rituparno did a Bengali film together, called Khela, where Manisha gave one of her best performances. Unfortunately, this movie is not regarded as one of Ritu’s best films but that doesn’t take away the credit of a brilliant performance by Manisha.
I got a you-tube video of the full film but sadly, I couldn’t find one with English subtitles. May be, one of my readers can help me with that.
Manisha is there right from the first scene of the film. I urge you to watch a few scenes of the film before you navigate off the page. Just to help you with the plot of the film since it is shot in Bengali — Bengali actor Prasenjit Chatterjee and Manisha play a couple who decide to separate after a tiff.
They both struggle to live separate lives and stumble at every point. The memories when they were together play havoc with their minds. The first scene shows a distraught Manisha Koirala landing up at her friend’s (Roopa Ganguly) place after a the tiff with her husband.
PS: At one point of my career, I used to work in the same organisation where Rituparno Ghosh worked. I have referred to Ritu as ‘She’. It is not an oversight but a mark of respect to the departed soul.
Short-link of the post -> http://wp.me/p3x1zT-mJ