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A beautiful fighter: Manisha Koirala

One of the most keenly followed stars in her hey days, Manisha Koirala's bond with the film fraternity may have grown tenuous in recent times, but the news of her sudden illness saw her old friends and family rally around the feisty star.
 
BY:Sarika Mehta


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42-year-old actress, who was once the favourite of A-list filmmakers and was one of the first heroines to work with all the three Khans is diagnosed with cancer.

One of the most keenly followed stars in her hey days, Manisha Koirala's bond with the film fraternity may have grown tenuous in recent times, but the news of her sudden illness saw her old friends and family rally around the feisty star.

Manisha who is recovering from a failed marriage,was admitted to Jaslok Hospital on Wednesday after she fell unconscious. Even as concerned friends and well-wishers kept waiting for an update on her condition.

Always seen as the quintessential independent woman, her health scare brought her family to her side. "Her brother was at the hospital all day. One of her family members will stay with her all night. She is weak but she is okay. She had four visitors today in her suite, all of them were her immediate family members," said a hospital source.

From the time she came to Mumbai from Nepal in 1991, every major filmmaker in Mumbai wanted to work with Manisha. Manisha had no idea how to tell a Mani Ratnam apart from an Indra Kumar. She just picked whatever came her way.

About her early-days in Bollywood Manisha said "I was immature. I was so young when I came into the film industry. I had hardly watched a handful of Hindi films in my life. I had no choice but to do what other people said. A lot of people told me playing the role of a growing children's mother in Mani Ratnam's Bombay would be suicidal to my career. I wouldn't name them, but a lot of my colleagues criticized me playing a mother, and that too in a South Indian film, blah blah blah. They were happy doing teenybopper roles. I didn't mind playing 'anything' as long as I had something substantial to do in the plot. Fortunately I got the chance to work with the best directors in the country from Shekhar Kapur and Mansoor Khan to Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Bhansali. I learnt a lot from them."

Her career began to flounder and there were many failed relationships. But Manisha could actually laugh about her mistakes. "Experience is the best teacher. I feel I've evolved as a person. I've never followed the rules. I've made my own rules by trial and error. I'm not Ms Perfect. I do make mistakes. But I'm not ashamed of them.I got major bad-press even back then when I was just starting out. 5 -6 years back I was an outspoken girl. Today my beliefs haven't changed. But I've learnt to keep my mouth shut."

After her dream innings as an actress her career began to fall apart and so do did her personal relationships. If doing the game-show Sawaal Dus Crore Ka was a blunder, so were some of the men in her life. Manisha turned down films with Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair and Shyam Benegal for the flimsiest of reasons.

When stories of her drinking became unbearable she come out and said "I do enjoy my drinks. But I'm not an alcoholic. I don't drink everyday. Most of my colleagues drink. Those who claim not to are the ones who probably drink the hardest."

Failed marriage and a floundering career lately gravitated Manisha towards spiritualism."All my life I've been a seeker. I've been trying to find inner peace through travel and books. The Oneness course solved all the questions on life and existence. I wanted to focus on other aspects of life. The Oneness course has changed my life completely. I've become so much calmer and more focused."

Like Manisha her friends are also optimistic "Woh manage kar legi biru," said one of her oldest pals, Jackie Shroff. "She is not a quitter. She has battled so much more in her life that a mere illness won't be able to defeat her." Manisha's neighbour and family friend actor Gulshan Grover said he was with her family in spirit. "She is a strong girl and I hope she will be able to win this battle just as she had won the others," he said.
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