IN PURSUIT OF ‘OTHERNESS'
Man's World|September 2021
Decoding Manav Kaul — an actor, a playwright, a published author, a poet, a traveller, a charmer, and the sapiosexual dreamboat for the millennials
Ananya Ghosh

Main bahot pehle thokar khaa kar gir chuka tha...Jo baad mein uthkar bhaaga woh main nahi tha (I had stumbled and fallen down long back, The one who got up and ran after, wasn’t me) — Reads Manav Kaul’s instagram bio. His ‘other’ instagram bio. In fact, it seems the actor is more interesting in his otherness. He thrives on discovering his other selves in the characters he plays on screen, and it is the ‘other’ folder on his computer that has turned him into a published author, Yes, for the uninitiated, Manav Kaul has so far gotten seven books to his credit, has judiciously used the lockdowns to write two novels, and has just published his first book of poetry Karta Na Karm Se.

“I was doing a lot of theatre at that point, and it was the only medium I understood then. So, I started writing plays.

But while I was writing those, I would have brief periods when I would get stuck as a writer. And that would happen a lot as I was also experimenting with the form. During those phases, to divert my mind a bit, I would write something else. I would have a folder on my laptop, which was (very innovatively) called the ‘Other Folder’, where I would dump these ‘something else’,” he laughs.

According to him, he started writing out of boredom. “There was a phase in my life, it lasted for a good 12 to 13 years, when I had stopped acting, I was bored of it, I was bored of everything. I was in Mumbai, living with my friends, and not doing anything worthwhile. I was reading a lot of fiction, and then I started writing. I realised that I can create the world I want to be in, in my fiction. I used to do theatre, so I started writing plays. In retrospect, I realise how much hunger I had in me to churn out stories, to write,” says Kaul, who is today considered one of the most interesting playwrights of contemporary experimental Hindi theatre, and is the founder of Aranya theatre group.

And it is this pursuit of ‘other’ that is also the driving force behind Manav Kaul, the actor. You might not find Kaul in Bittu Joshi (Kai Po Che!), Ashok Dubey (Tumhari Sulu), Babloo Pandey (Jai Gangaajal) and Kabir (Ajeeb Daastaans), but these are all manifestations of his ‘otherness’. “I love living as someone else. If I am playing a character that is very close to me or is known to me, it becomes boring. Kabir was, in a way, someone I never thought I could be. He is a happy, loving, charming, forgiving guy. But, to my surprise, Kabir was somewhere there within me. I love the idea of discovering someone within me that was not there before,” says the dapper actor known for his range and versatility, which, the actor insists, is only because there is no fun playing ‘Manav’ on screen.

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