There is a unique allure that a bold woman carries! To those who can look beyond being intimidated by the steely nerves such a woman shows, she can be the epitome of grace and grit and quite an inspiration! One such woman who doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinions on social issues as well as elegantly becomes the cynosure of all eyes wherever she is, is the bold and beautiful Lakshmi Manchu! Hailing from a filmy family, Lakshmi has over time proven herself to be self-made in her career with a degree in Theatre from the Oklahoma University and roles in a slew of American television series, apart from a number of movies in various languages, to her credit! We can only say that she is yet to unleash all her histrionic talent in Indian Cinema but that time should not be too far behind. The easy camaraderie Lakshmi brings to the celebrity guests she hosts on her talk shows, goes to show how down-to-earth she is. However, one thing you would not like to do is to cross this fiery lady, especially in ways that rub her no-nonsense attitude, the wrong way! We at Ritz, got to have an engrossing conversation with Lakshmi Manchu, which was made quite easy by her open nature! Read on to see what Lakshmi has to say about the COVID lockdown, fashion, nepotism, Rhea Chakraborty and a lot more…
How did you manage the lockdown, especially juggling all your different roles?
I think I’ve been the busiest in the lockdown. Not being able to travel had me freaking out a little as it is hard for me to stay in Hyderabad for more than 4 days in a row. I keep travelling to Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai or someplace else but to suddenly be told to stay in one place was very difficult. I’ve also always been a people person and there have always been people over at my place or I’ve gone over to theirs and I’ve enjoyed going out. I think this Pandemic put a lot of things in perspective for me and I want to do so much more!
Where do you get your style inspiration from? How do you make yourself look different?
I get bored very easily. Simplicity is nice but I can’t stand people who always wear the same kind of dresses. However, I think God has given us a platform to be whoever we are and we should embrace that. I love to experiment and I really like to look at who I am today for I am not just one kind of a person. I am many shades and I like my clothes to show that. I love fashion and clothes and make-up and in general love dressing up!
How were you when you were a teenager?
I would say I was a wild-child, parties and fashion and all of it and above all, without permission from my parents! I was curious to know all that was happening and I believe irrespective of the era, once we hit a certain age (like maybe 14, 15 or 16), we begin to become curious as to why people say no to certain things. Also, once that phase is over, most people grow out of it. Now, I prefer my friends coming over to my house where I can listen to whatever music I like and not what the DJ feels like playing. For me, now it is all about friends while back then it was all about growing up.
People have seen you voicing your opinions but is there still something that you find difficult to convey?
(Smiles mischievously). I am always with my guard on, like the Baahubali armour to protect me from whatever comes my way! When we have an opinion and a strong one at that, people are not happy. They want to put you down so that they can feel better about themselves. I had to learn that very quickly as I was feeling that despite doing all the right things people are picking on things that don’t even matter. I feel unapologetic about speaking out for what I feel is right. I have been given a platform with millions of people following me. To create and bring in a change, you have to let your voice out. If the women before me had not spoken out, I would not be the person I am today and would have had to put up with a lot of things. I am not starting anything new but just voicing out for what I believe in and hopefully creating a shoulder for women after me.
Is there any peak that you still feel has been left unscaled by you and you want to conquer now?
As hot as I look and as beautiful as I am, I would still like those flat abs! The moment I work hard and gain some semblance of it, I will immediately celebrate my success with biriyani! I always get so close but let go at the last minute. It’s not like I am showing people my belly and that’s why I want to do it. I want to do it for myself! Apart from that, I want to work in a Malayalam film and a Bengali film. These are two languages I really want to work in, in India! I want to be a part of more than 300 films and there’s a long way to go!
You came out in support of Rhea Chakraborty despite so much negativity surrounding the issue. We salute your courage and would like to know what made you do it?
First of all, thank you! That means a lot! I wasn’t able to sleep for two days before I put out my opinion. I know Rhea on a personal level. She is one of the most fun, most living-in-the-moment, most evolved people I know! When we talk about life it’s not about boys or girls but about realms and levitation or how we are going to become better. Those are the kind of conversations I’ve always had with her and to see her in this situation was difficult. I don’t know what is right and wrong and whether she is innocent or guilty but nobody has to go through what she had to. We have a wonderful judicial system with so many agencies involved. Let them do their job if she is guilty. Why are the others doing it. My heart went out to her and if I am not able to sleep over something, I have to act upon it. I think what I did is the right thing and I stand by it!
What have we become as humans? When one human takes his life for whatever reasons he might have had, first people go after nepotism and then they find another target because one TV channel decided to put the blame on this girl and they go after her. Where has your individual opinion gone?
What is your take on Nepotism?
Joke! It is a joke, seriously! I am a kind from a filmy background and if nepotism was true, I should be busy for 300 days a year or atleast 100 days a year with movie work. Why am I still coming out and telling people I know Tamil, Telugu and a little bit of Malayalam and looking out for chances? Why should I be doing all this? If people who believe in nepotism are right, work should be coming to us on a platter. For every example you give me of an actor or actress being in the industry because of nepotism, I can show you an example of a star’s kid who did not make it. All of us as kids are given a platform. A doctor’s kid has better access to doctors than I do. Most people don’t even understand the term nepotism! Only if the chance that was to go to somebody deserving was denied to them and instead snatched away from them and given to somebody else, is that an issue.
You have broken stereotypes in most places and we know you are very bold! Will we see you as a politician too sometime?
Why does everybody ask me this? Do I look like I have political ambitions? It is because of these things that I have to wear the armour all the time. I honestly don’t think I would be able to speak my mind if I come into politics. I would have to listen to what the party says and might have to say bad things about another party irrespective of whether I like it or not. I am trying to understand what that whole game is. As of now, I have so many stories to tell and so many roles to perform. Maybe, when the time is right I might think of politics but I don’t have any intention of pursuing it anytime soon! I feel whatever good I want to do, I will continue to do without being aligned to any party and I believe in it being like that. I do good for my satisfaction and not for publicity.
How is a typical day for you at home?
Nowadays, I am busy till 11:00 am and don’t give any appointments till then. Instead of reading a book to put my baby girl to sleep, I’ll wake up and read for her. So, I wake up at 6:45 and do that. Besides, she also likes that as there might be people at home in the evenings or she might want to sleep early. The problem with putting my children to sleep with a book is that, then I would fall asleep at 8:00 pm and would be up by 4:00 the next morning. Somehow, that wasn’t working at all. So, now when we wake up in the morning, my daughter and I spend a good 45 minutes in bed, talking about her dreams or what we want to do and such stuff. Then I workout from 8:30 to 9:30 or 10:00 and then with my meditation and getting ready, it becomes 11:00! So, my first appointment when I am home starts only then.
What do you think of our show – “All Tea No Shade”?
I would say, whichever show I am on, I cannot be anything but honest! We are too jailed about what’s right or wrong or what the social media thinks about us. I would say, turn it off for a few days, if it bothers you so much because I think the people who matter to you will be around you anyways!
Not many people talk about the LGBTQ Community. Even those who do, don’t always talk about the relevant things. What’s your take?
Transgender girls have it real bad! From what I’ve heard, once they choose to become a transgender girl, they have no other go but to go through abuse. I am a big supporter of the LGBTQ community! I bow my head and have to say kudos to those who are living their truth! It takes every bit of blood and sweat to come out and live on your terms and be honest and live for your own selves. What members of the Community do is amazing. It is truly sad that not very many people talk about it but I am with you and will be with you. I feel that only when there are no supporters should I step in and not when there are already more than enough people to support! It is more important to be there when there’s nobody else to support. Who am I to judge anybody! I will always support the LGBTQ community!
With the lockdown being lifted and unlock measures being brought in, what would you like to tell your fans and supporters?
Social distancing… Wear a mask. We are all in this together. The Pandemic hasn’t gone away and it has only gotten worse in India as we are one of the countries with the most number of infected cases. We have just become numb. Please do take care of yourself. I have been blessed to be sitting and talking here and am glad and grateful that I have so many things that most people find difficult to get in these tough times. I feel so much more gratitude for all that I have now.