Recently, the trailer for Ayushmann Khurrana's Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan opened with a conversation between two characters, Kartik (Ayushmann) and Chaman (Manu Rishi). The opening scene, that set the tone for the whole trailer, was hilarious and woke at the same time.
But what struck me the most was Manu Rishi's deadpan tone and expressions that allowed him to convey a lot, in a matter of seconds. Then again, that's just one of the many things that sets him apart, when it comes to delivering a memorable performance.
Because over the last 17 years, ever since he first appeared on-screen with a small role in Raghu Romeo, Manu Rishi has been winning us over with his impeccable comic timing, expert dialogue delivery, and an innate ability to make each role his own.
Though he had appeared in minor roles in movies like Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, Mithya, etc. it was Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! where he first shot to fame for his role of Bangali.
While Abhay Deol's clever charm and antics immediately held our attention, Manu Rishi's performance was just as engrossing. His on-screen chemistry with Abhay Deol may not fit into the typical male friendship Bollywood panders to. And yet, it was impossible to take our eyes away from their fun banter.
More importantly, as Lucky's best friend and 'man-Friday', Bangali was the one helping him find new jobs, run from his mistakes, and of course, assisting him in his 'escapades'. And it was Manu Rishi who allowed Bangali to be a perfect example of both, cocky arrogance and scaredy-cat, as the situation demanded.
However, he wasn't just a pro in front of the camera. Because Manu Rishi also wrote the dialogues for the film and in fact, even won the Filmfare and IIFA Best Dialogues Awards.
Following his success as a dialogue writer with Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Manu Rishi also penned dialogues for movies like Aisha, Ekk Deewana Tha, short film Kirchiyaan and others. He was also one of the writers for the film Chance Pe Dance.
However, he also continued to deliver amazing performances, even with limited screen time, in movies like Phas Gaye Re Obama, Band Baaja Baraat, Ankhon Dekhi (which won the Screen Best Ensemble Cast Award), Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Rajma Chawal, etc.
The best thing about his on-screen presence is that his comedy is never unidimensional or comprised of only a handful of expressions/gestures. Rather, with each role and story setting, he develops a different persona that is both, hilarious and relatable.
Which explains how he landed the role of one of the leads in the underrated gem, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore. He also wrote its screenplay.
While Manu Rishi has definitely established his presence as an excellent source of comedic relief, he is just as good if not better in other roles. Something that he proved when he played the role of a conniving, crafty President of the Cricket Board in the film The Zoya Factor.
His machinations as a corrupt president toed the line to becoming outright evil. And even without a threatening background score or a 'token' action, he managed to creep the audience out. Simply put, his villainry did not fit the typical portrayal Bollywood is famous for, and yet, he had us hating on his character.
Perhaps it's his decade long experience with theater--which began with Arvind Gaur’s theatre group Asmita in Delhi--that allows him to master a range of emotions with apparent ease. Perhaps it is because of his thorough understanding of a character's contribution to the story. Or, as he shared with Indian Express, it is his ability to 'internalize real-life experiences' and draw on them for both, performances and writing
I firmly believe that you can pick up things from people you meet anywhere and they become your own. Nobody can stop you from learning
With Shubh Mangal Zyada Zaavdhan, he appears to be returning to his forte, comedy! And watching him in action is definitely one of the many reasons why we're rooting for the film. But then again, that is exactly what his contribution has been - he is one of the reasons that has us excited about a film, no matter how the end result may turn out to be.
Though he has been a part of the industry for over a decade, and outshone the lead in more than one movie, he is yet to receive the recognition he deserves. But, for fans of good cinema and great performances, like yours truly, he is a star!