Diganth Manchale, lovingly called as ‘Doodh Peda‘ because of his fair skin, is one of the most sought after actors in the Kannada industry. Diganth who is making his debut in Hindi movies with Wedding Pulav starring Anushka Ranjan (daughter of Anu and Shashi Ranjan) took some time off his promotional schedule and met me over a cup of Chai. Here are some excerpts from our fun-filled conversation;
You are one of the most successful stars of Kannada industry. However, not many people know that you started off with a not so happening movie Miss California in 2006. How did your journey as an actor start?
Yes that’s correct. I did start out with Miss California which was a big disaster (laughs) and after that I had to struggle a lot. I didn’t know what to do next. I did a lot of print ads, modelling, TV commercials, walked the ramp for few shows before I signed my next movie which was three years after my first one. The movie was Mungaru Male.
Yes I have seen that (smiles)
It was one of the biggest hits and you can say it was the DDLJ of Kannada industry. Although, I had a very small role but I got noticed by people and the director Yograj Bhatt saw a lot of potential in me and offered me his next movie…
Yes (smiles)… you know a lot about me huh?
Of course, I keep track of all my guests who get featured in my series (winks).
(Laughs) I was one amongst the three main leads of the movie, and again Gaalipatta was a big hit. Then the director Yograj Bhatt once again repeated me in his next movie Manasaare which I would like to call my first movie technically because I was the solo lead and it catapulted me to the top league after it became a huge success (smiles). I would say from the year 2009 onward I became one of the established actors in Kannada industry.
Nice (smiles). Let me tell you, although I am not a huge Kannada movie buff, I did watch Mungaru Male and I just loved the movie. I still remember the last scene where your character is getting married to Pooja Gandhi’s character and I was surprised to see such a good-looking actor for the first time in a Kannada movie….
Yeah (laughs) I have heard that quite often. Initially, people didn’t accept me as they felt I am not a Kannadiga. My North Indian features made them think I was one of those north Indian guys who knows the language as I would have born and raised in Karnataka (laughs). In fact when I was giving interviews in Kannada during Gaalipatta, that time they came to know that I am a Kannadiga and forget Bangalore, I was from a small village near Sagara in Karnataka. After that I was accepted and considered as one among them. In Karnataka people want their heroes to be from their own motherland and actors mainly male get less acceptance if they are from outside Karnataka.
I think, the only actor from the North who actually made some mark in Kannada movies is Dhyan, right?
But then even he also fizzled out.
Ya… he is not in the league anymore.
Correct… Diganth tell me how did a boy from a small village with no filmi connections made it so far? Can you share anything about your family, your growing up days etc.?
I am from a small town called Tirthahalli in Shimoga district, Karnataka few kilometres away from Sagara city, where I was born and raised. My father was a professor and he always wanted me to study further and never wanted me to be a part of the showbiz (laughs). However, my elder brother and mother were in total favour of me joining the industry and therefore they encouraged me a lot. Soon after college I met this director Kudlu Ramkrishna who is also from Tirthahalli. Mr. Ramakrishna was looking for a fresh face and wanted to launch someone from Tirthahalli and after meeting me, he was impressed with me and put me in his acting school before he launched me in Miss California and that’s how my journey started with the movie industry (smiles).
Hmm… Tell me after Miss California flopped miserably there was a point in time when things were not happening for you. Did you ever think of packing you bags and quitting the industry for good?
Well I did think of doing that however, I felt if I have jumped into the ocean then it would be better for me to struggle and swim out of it. During that time someone suggested me that I should go for modelling. Till that time I felt modelling was only for girls (laughs).
Yeah (continues laughing) I was that naïve. Then I went for my first TV commercial audition and surprisingly I got selected (smiles). Soon I was doing a lot of print modelling and also walked the ramp for various designers at Lakme Fashion week etc… until I got Mungaru Male.
I see that you are a regular in every Yograj Bhat movie. How did you meet Mr. Bhat? Tell me the story of you bagging the role in Mungaru Male (excitedly)?
I was shooting for a TV commercial with Rajeev Menon when the production controller there one day told me that Yograj Bhat is looking for a good-looking actor who had model like features and can speak in Kannada. I was not very excited about the offer as the hero of the movie – Ganesh, was a newcomer while I had done a movie already and I didn’t want to play a small part. I was looking at doing something bigger and not just do timepass roles. The production guys of Mungaru Male kept on calling me as they had liked me and wanted someone who was better looking than the hero to make a real impact in the climax scenes. After a lot of coaxing I met Yograj Bhat and rest is history. Today when I look back I feel I would have really regretted if I wouldn’t have done Mungaru Male (smiles).
Did you always aspired to become a Bollywood hero someday?
Oh yes! In fact since childhood I watched a lot of Hindi movies and I was well versed with Hindi as I learnt the language in school. I always wanted to act in Hindi movies than Kannada and today by God’s grace I am doing Hindi movies (smiles).
Do you have an accent while speaking Hindi?
I do have a slight accent however it is not very strong and therefore am fluent with my dialogues apart from dubbing my own lines (smiles). In short, I had prepared myself for Bollywood since long time.
Most of the superstars from south especially men, couldn’t make it big in Hindi movies case in point Kamal Hasan, Rajnikant, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi etc. What do you think could be the reason?
I don’t know (frowns). Maybe back then the acceptance was low however, now the geographical barriers are slowly diminishing. With movies like Robot and Baahubali doing well, I think ‘NOW’ is the right time for actors from the south to make a mark in Hindi movies. The audience is accepting and I am sure soon there will be more actors from the south making their presence felt in Bollywood.
Now that you are debuting in Bollywood, don’t you think you will have to struggle all over again to make a mark here?
Yes and I am ready for it. I love challenges and I am sure I will make my mark. I am in a comfortable zone in Kannada movies with lot many projects in hand. However, starting all over in Bollywood is something I have prepared myself for.
Great (smiles)…. So how did Wedding Pulav happen?
There is nice story behind it. Couple of technicians from the Kannada industry told me that Binod Pradhan was making his debut movie and was looking out for a leading man. They asked me to try my luck. I had never heard of Binod Pradhan but when I came to know about the movies he had done like Parinda, Mission Kashmir, Bhag Milka Bhag, Rang De Basanti etc. I wanted to be a part of his movie. I tried to source his number from all my contacts and the number I got was his old number. Whenever I tried that number it was always switched off. Then I had to leave for Romania for fifteen days for a Kannada movie shoot and I had kept my phone switched off. When I came back I got a message from Binod Pradhan asking me to contact him asap. I immediately called him and the next moment I was on a flight to Mumbai and soon signed the movie. Maybe I was destined to do it (smiles).
(Smiles) How was it working with the Ranjans’?
Ranjans’ (smiles) working with them was a great experience. They took care of me and treated me like I was one of them. Especially Anushka who is a nice person, a nice co-star, she is very confident for a newcomer.
Wedding Pulav is Anushka’s debut movie produced under her home banner, so did her character get more footage and importance compared to yours?
Not really. If you look at the trailer we have been given equal footage. If you see the movie you will again see that we both have equal roles and Shashiji saw to it that there was no partiality done.
How was your experience working in Bollywood?
Very good (laughs). I found it professional, in a corporate way. Would love to do more films here (smiles).
What are you future projects?
I have a Hindi movie called Ticket To Bollywood with Amyra Dastur which is 70% complete. In Kannada I have two movies up for release Sharpshooter and Prapancha with Yograj Bhat, and two more in the making.
Okay in my series I have a section where I ask few questions that you have to reply in one word preferably (smiles).
Shall I shoot?
Which is your favorite food item?
Not Wedding Pulav please (winks)
(Laughs) Anything and everything in vegetarian food.
One item please
Aah! That’s a toughie…
Okay… I will let it pass… but the next one is a killer and you cannot escape (winks)
Your wildest fantasy?
(Laughs) This is a bomb of a question… so I cannot pass it?
Nope (nodding my head)
Wildest fantasy (thinks)…. A kissing scene with Deepika (laughs) the Bangalore connection you see…(winks)
I do (laughs)…. Bollywood or Sandalwood?
That was fast… Favorite director?
Barfi… Ranbir’s role in Barfi
In Kannada Aindrita Ray and in Bollywood Deepika Padukone
Nidhi Subbaiah in Kannada and Anushka Ranjan in Bollywood.
Yash in Kannada and Varun Dhawan in Bollywood (laughs).
Here’s a googly… One night stand or committed relationship?
(Laughs) I am a person who loves to be in a committed relationship… so no One Night Stands for me (continues laughing).
(Laughs) Okay… Last not the least, what is your message to your fans?
Please watch my movie Wedding Pulav and also support me the way you have supported all this while.
Thank you Diganth for taking some time from your busy promotional schedule and chatting with me. I wish you all the best in your new innings in Bollywood.
Thank you. Likewise (smiles).