[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Wearing many hats: actor, director, producer Lakshmi Manchu says life is about unlearning, relearning
In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we talk to actor, producer, and director Lakshmi Manchu, who talks about wearing multiple hats and running a business from different parts of the world.
Lakshmi Manchu has been working in films since she was four. However, her real acting journey began only after marriage. Today, Lakshmi has worked with the likes of the ace director Mani Ratnam; she has directed, produced, and acted in Perfect Lives, a short film that was showcased at the Wilshire Fine Arts Theatre as part of the La Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles; and now the famous talk series – Lakshmi Talk Show.
Talking to HerStory from Los Angeles, in a room that faces the ocean, Lakshmi says that having been born into a film family, she has seen the workings of the industry up close – script reading, music, and meeting sessions at home. It was part of everyday life.
Though she did take on those small roles during her childhood, Lakshmi says her work began much later in life.
Just a good laugh
“When I initially started, there was a lot about wanting to prove myself to be a good actor, as I got into the industry after my marriage. I wanted the hardest of roles that nobody could do etc. However, after a ton of awards, I realised I am done crying and tearing my heart apart. Right now I want to do fun things. During the pandemic, I have seen death in such close proximity that there is a lot of gratitude for everything that I have in my life. If someone tells me a role or a script is life-changing. I just tell them – I don’t want anything life-changing. I just want a good laugh,” Lakshmi quips.
She says the pandemic also taught her about the impermanence of things in life. Lakshmi explains when her father’s (Mohan Babu) film did well, people treated them differently, and when there were rough patches, you are treated differently.
“It is all in the impermanence of it that you learn. If you accept it, there is yearning. I am always ready for new experiences, though I am passionate in the moment and like to see things through. I also know all of life is undoing what you’ve learnt, and relearning, only then are you open to new experiences,” she explains.
Lakshmi says that if she’s asked to choose from being a host, actor, producer, or director, she adds it can never be one thing that she wants to do.
“Nobody can have a say in my life other than myself. But if there was one thing, it would be acting because I get to play so many different characters and people. And I come home and go to sleep. As a producer, there is no sleep. But in life, I simply love being a mother. My daughter has taught me how to relive life again,” adds Lakshmi.
Hard work is easy
Donning multiple hats, Lakshmi says being a boss, and a woman, in the industry has some zing to it. But she amends that even men have to go through the same challenges, as working on a set isn’t easy.
“But I did my schooling here in America, and I learnt very early on that there are no shortcuts in life and you have to work hard every time. When I realised I can put things together, it gave me an incredible amount of joy and satisfaction. I was able to put new ideas together and it is one of the most exciting things to do as a producer,” says Lakshmi.
Currently, Lakshmi is working on a script and a drama, which is exciting and keeps her creative juices going. She adds that despite the pandemic, people are getting things done. “As humans, we are very adaptable. And now, we need to create life as we want to,” adds Lakshmi.
She says that while she is into business, she isn’t necessarily great at it. Lakshmi says she knows what she wants but it is her team that gets it done. It is the team that matters the most.
Advising young girls, she says, “Do everything you are curious about. Today you can do multiple things. Don’t limit yourself. When I say stand up for yourself, I mean you should get all the benefits that a man or boy gets. You are eligible for that and more because of your efficiency. Don’t cut yourself short. You are everything you think you can be.
Believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. And coming from the country that we do, and cultural and traditional barriers, it is easier to nod our heads. But stand up, and say you are equal to the man, and one cannot do without the other.”
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Edited by Kanishk Singh