Feminism has become a business but needs to be backed by substance: Actor Maanvi Gagroo on what’s missing in showbiz

From Disney Channel’s Dhoom Machao Dhoom to a more demure role in Aamras, and now as a protagonist in the Indian web series, Four More Shots Please, actor Maanvi Gagroo has had a less than traditional journey to stardom

Maanvi Gagroo never aspired to be an actor. A Delhi girl at heart – who now speaks fondly about Mumbai – Maanvi was a student of psychology at Delhi’s Gargi College. But as one thing led to another, the actor found herself in the spotlight, grabbing attention with her larger-than-life personality and cheerful on-screen presence. In the industry, however, these are the very characteristics that could even get an artist typecast.

Maanvi Gagroo

In her own words, “I was getting a lot of bubbly parts, and it was just getting very mundane for me to keep doing the same thing.”

Thankfully for Maanvi, TVF Pitchers happened around this time – a show that would not only catapult her into fame, but also make way for meatier and more substantial roles in the future, like a Siddhi Patel in Amazon Prime’s Four More Shots Please, or Shalmalee in ZEE5’s 377 AbNormal, and more recently as Chanchal in TVF Tripling. While Maanvi is not really a new face in this space, it’s safe to say that after a few trials and tribulations, the actor is finally enjoying some much-deserved attention.

In conversation with YSWeekender, the actor gets candid, sharing tidbits from her childhood, her love for both Delhi and Mumbai, the transition to web, and a ‘never-say-never’ attitude that has gotten her thus far. 

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YSWeekender: Do you relate to the character of Chanchal in the show, TVF Tripling? Does her assuming more power in this season indicate a sense of maturity for the character?

Maanvi Gagroo: The character has evolved over the last two years. Things have happened, there were circumstances in her life that have pushed her into making certain choices. What she does with those choices is what we have to look forward to.  

A still from the web series, TVF Tripling

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In terms of relating to the character… every character has to be a mix of who you are as a person and what the character is. I often say you bring the character a little close to you and you go a little closer to the character; it’s like a marriage between the two. There are certain aspects which I just don’t relate to – like Chanchal is very reserved and she doesn’t voice all her problems out of concern for others. Being a middle child, she learns to keep it to herself. While I am also a little emotionally reserved, my reasons are different from Chanchal’s.     

YSW: What is Maanvi like in real life – is she an introvert or a big people’s person?

MG: Because I studied psychology in college, I took the introversion-extroversion test, and I thought I would score really high on extroversion. I am really an extrovert, I love talking, I love meeting people… leave me in a room full of strangers and I will come out with at least two friends.

Surprisingly on the scale, I had scored somewhere in the middle, which even I was taken aback by. Habitually, I am used to being around people and I enjoy people’s company. At the same time, in terms of expression of my emotions, and my deep-rooted feelings and thoughts, those are things that I find tough articulating. 

YSW: Which was that one moment when you realised you have caught the acting bug?

MG: I have never studied acting. That realisation – that maybe I should try acting out – was after I had done a few projects. Disney’s Dhoom Machao Dhoom and my first film, Aamras, I did them on a whim. In fact, most things in my life I have realised have happened on a whim. It was only after the response (which was absolutely positive) and after I finished college, I thought that I should give acting an actual try. That’s when I moved to Mumbai.

YSW: Taking up acting also meant moving base from Delhi to Mumbai. Do you miss Delhi?

MG: Initially, I missed Delhi a lot. Now I feel Mumbai is home, and I am waiting to get back to my life here. Homesickness happens for Mumbai now, more than it happens for Delhi.

But from time to time I do miss Delhi. My home is there, my family is there, I feel attached to that, like ghar ka khana. Also, I love Delhi’s weather, I like the fact that you can call them seasons as opposed to Bombay, which has just two – there’s hot and then there’s monsoon. And I miss street shopping in Delhi! 

YSW: Let’s rewind a bit. Walk us through your childhood. What was your parents’ reaction when you said you wanted to be an actor?

MG: My parents never had a problem with me joining the industry. They were however in shock initially as they didn’t see it coming at all. Although they are not remotely associated with Bollywood, movies were always a big part of our lives. My sister actually wanted to be an actor and I keep teasing her now that I didn’t even want to become an actor and I just landed the job.

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YSW: Do you find showbiz daunting? Have you ever felt like ‘it’s getting too much’?

MG: I don’t think I ever wanted to give up. I knew I didn’t want to go back to Delhi, and I knew I like Mumbai and that I wanted to be here, in this field. So, I knew that even if I do switch gears, it would be within this universe. Like maybe get into acting, or get into direction, become an assistant director and then work my way up. So, all these questions were there but I really liked the vibe of this industry and everything that it had to offer. A privilege that I had was the support of a lot of people. I knew it would never come to a point where I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. My parents were supporting me for the longest time initially, when I was making just enough money to pay the rent. However, one tiny desire that I have is that I want to do my Master’s in psychology.   


YSW: How did the switch to web series happen?

Maanvi at the launch of Tripling Season 2

MG: Very organically. I knew the TVF guys very well, it was like a second home. When they were doing Pitchers, Nidhi Bisht was cast and she had called me for this other part. So, when Nidhi called me, I was like ‘why are you calling me for this part, you know I don’t want to do these kinds of roles. And then she said ‘why don’t you come and try out a few variations.

So, I went there and we were in the process of trying different things when Amit Gulani (the director of TVF Pitchers) walked in and he suggested, ‘Why don’t we try you for Shreya’. And then we tried it… and it was pretty much what they needed for the character of Shreya.   

YSW: You played the role of Siddhi Patel in Four More Shots Please. Which character in the show was your personal favourite of the four?

MG: I have really come to like Siddhi. When I read the script, I felt that Siddhi had the meatiest role– you see her journey, you see her arc, you see her changing as a person and that makes her very interesting.

But in terms of relating to a character, I related the most with Damini (played by Sayani Gupta). In real life, I am Damini, in the sense of being righteous, being very independent, and vocal about my opinions. Even sexually, very progressive and not judging people.

YSW: Do you feel women-centric storylines are finally enjoying their time in the sun? What’s still missing?

Maanvi believes there should be more female oriented narratives in showbiz

MG: World over, the conversation is changing. Even our living room discussion has moved from what maybe we were discussing ten years ago. And that is reflected in media and entertainment as well. But I feel it’s important to have different narratives as well – we need to have more female-oriented narratives, more LGBTQ narratives, more caste-based narratives, and more narratives based in regional languages.

There has to be a variety, it will only make things more interesting. What I do think is missing is... right now feminism has become a business and a lot of people are trying to cash in on that, and that’s fine but it has to be backed by substance. 

YSW: Any director/writer you would love to work with next?

MG: I would love to work with the people that I have already worked with, like Amit Gulani, who is one of my favourite directors, Sameer Saxena, who has directed Tripling, Faruk Kabir with whom I did 377 AbNormal. And of course, then there is Imtiaz Ali, Dibakar Banerjee, and Anurag Kashyap.  

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