Manushi Chhillar: The Journey After The Crown
At the age of 20, Manushi Chhillar was representing India…
At the age of 20, Manushi Chhillar was representing India at Miss World 2017. The final question asked to her at the stage of this prestigious pageantry was: “Which profession should receive the highest salary in the world?” To which she replied, “Since I am very close to my mother, I think that a mother deserves the highest respect. When you talk about salary, I don’t think it’s just about cash, but the love and respect that you give to someone. My mother has been the biggest inspiration in my life. All mothers, they just sacrifice so much for their kids. So, I believe the profession which deserves the highest salary, respect, and love should be of a mother.” And this made her the most deserving winner of the pageant.
After many tours, country visits, commercials, and ramp walks, Chhillar is finally making her debut with the Akshay Kumar-starrer Prithviraj. She will essay the role of Princess Sanyogita, Prithviraj’s beloved wife. She delves into details about the film, her future plans, and her fitness routine.
You will be making your debut soon. How did the role come to you? Why was a period drama your first choice?
My journey with the film started much before I knew I was doing Prithviraj. I remember auditioning at Yash Raj Films. I was still figuring out whether acting is my calling or not. And eventually, this period film came to me. I said yes to it because I have loved watching fantasy fiction, period films, and not just what we make in the Hindi film industry. I loved watching Lords of the Rings and those kinds of movies growing up. And I wanted to pick up something exciting. Acting was not something I was very passionate about when I liked the idea of Prithviraj. I have seen the shows growing up, and the whole story of Prithviraj and Sanyogita has always been exciting. Also, I was getting to work with YRF, Dr Sahab and Akshay (Kumar) sir. It was a great opportunity for me to learn, and also a great launch.
To be cast beside Akshay Kumar in your first movie is huge. Was he a strong reason behind saying yes to the film?
Much before I knew he would be part of the film, I was already told that I was being considered for this film. Obviously, when I came to know, it was good because he is a senior actor and the biggest star in the country right now. One great thing about working with him was that he has worked with so many newcomers, so he understands the kind of challenges you are facing on the sets. I got to learn a lot from him. It would be a cliché to say this but his professionalism is something I would take away from this journey. He told me one thing that I feel is very important: “The more stress you take with plenty of work, the sooner you will burn out. Make sure you are having fun while working.” I think it is very true.
Being on the sets for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. What are your favourite memories from the first day of the shoot?
We started shooting with the heavy scenes instead of light ones right from the first day. My director, Chandraprakash Dwivedi, believed that I would be able to do it. It was great. There are so many more elements on that day, but since I was shooting with Ashutosh Rana sir and Sakshi Tanwar ma’am, they made sure I was comfortable.
Miss World changed a lot of things for you. What made you enter the competition? What was the one major change you saw after you won the title?
Growing up, I have always liked the idea of beauty pageants. I remember watching Miss World 2013 on the television and that’s how my interest piqued in the pageantry. I liked the idea of what it was about. For that one year, you get to travel, you get to represent your country, and I thought this kind of exposure was great. I used to watch the show with my mother, and a lot of encouragement came from her end as well. The one big change that happened was the fact that my world became much bigger. The more I travelled, I realised that I have seen so little.
Which country did you have the most fun in?
I travelled all over the world, and it was both fun and work. The work part I enjoyed the most was when I travelled to Brazil. I was put under the limelight for the first time after winning the pageant. I was doing all kinds of work from writing letters to the governor to speaking at the Parliament. I connected with the people as well. The last day when I was flying out, they gave me a newspaper. The headline in the newspaper read, “Manushi Chhillar is not just the beauty queen, but our queen,” and that was sweet.
When you won the title, you were only 20. How did you manage the pressure that came with the title?
I was more excited to be a part of the journey. I felt a little pressure during the initial Miss India days because I had no idea what I was doing. I was questioning everything. But when I realised that I have won the title and I will be representing India at the Miss World pageantry, it boosted my confidence. I just knew that I will work hard and try to win this. There is a kind of pressure on you, and I used to joke around that this is tougher than studying medicine, but everything worked out in the end.
Beauty pageants have been looked down upon in recent times for objectifying women. What is your take on it?
I absolutely disagree. These kinds of arguments have come from people who are half-informed. Beauty pageants are not a certificate of whether you are beautiful or not. Pageantry has evolved with time. Today it is more about giving young women a platform to voice their opinion and be heard, and pursue their careers ahead. Women don’t need certification from beauty pageants or any kind of validation. It doesn’t matter. These are competitions and they should be treated that way.
What are the three must-have beauty products that you always carry with you?
Mascara (I cannot do without it), blush and probably a concealer.
Fitness is a key part of your lifestyle. What kind of workouts do you enjoy the most? What is your fitness routine like?
I like to mix up things. I am very moody with my workouts. I enjoy weight training a lot; I love lifting weights. I also enjoy Pilates. And I dance. I dance a lot since it helps me cope with the stress.
Mental health is an important topic and with the pandemic, things have gotten pretty tough for all of us. How do you keep yourself calm?
It has been a tough time for everyone. I was just lucky that I was with my family. I utilized my time. I started painting during the first lockdown. Not letting your mind get completely free all the time helps. Meditation and making sure you are not on social media or not too involved in the virtual world helped. The most important thing is maintaining your routine.
What’s next for you?
I am waiting for the release of Prithviraj. I am hopeful that I will be able to speak about my next project very soon as well. I did shoot for another film during the lockdown. It will hopefully be ready soon after the release of Prithviraj.
Three things on your plate on a cheat day?
Aloo paratha, chole bhature and cake
One director and actor you wish to work with?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali because I love drama; and Ayushmann Khurrana.
Top 3 fashion designers on your list?
I am obsessed with shoes, so Amina Muaddi. Then, Dolce & Gabbana, Falguni Shane Peacock.
Your idol in Bollywood?
Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
What are you currently binge-watching online?
Attack on Titan