Manisha Koirala defines success as the "luxury to say no", which the actor says she has attained over the years with films "1942: A Love Story", "Bombay" and "Company" proving to be turning points in her career.
Now, almost after two decades, Koirala said she is hopeful that Sanjay Leela Bhansali's upcoming series "Heeramandi" emerges as another milestone for her.
"What I call success is the freedom to do what I want to do and at what time. I feel I am pretty successful today because I have the luxury to say no... The undying love for this profession keeps me going. I love the field of acting and cinema," the actor told PTI in an interview here.
Koirala said the idea of being successful in the 1990s was having a busy schedule.
"Earlier when I started my career it was about filling your date diary. I was told if the actors are busy for the next three years, they are happening and rocking actors, so my focus was that."
After 32 years in showbiz, her focus has shifted.
"I would rather have a lot of free time, where I can travel, do gardening, trekking, write a book, binge watch, spend time with family... Do things that interest me rather than do mediocre projects," she added.
The 52-year-old reunites with her "Khamoshi: The Musical" director Bhansali for Netflix's "Heeramandi", which marks the filmmaker's foray into digital medium.
"The turning points for me have been ‘Saudagar’, ‘1942: A Love Story’, ‘Bombay’ and after a long gap I did ‘Company’. Now, I feel ‘Heeramandi’ could be my turning point. I'm keeping my fingers crossed," she added.
Calling Bhansali a "maestro", Koirala said it was a pleasure to work with the filmmaker after over 25 years.
"Sanjay is somebody with whom I worked in ‘Khamoshi’ and there was a long gap but we stayed in touch. We have a deep friendship bond, which is not limited to work. I have a deep-rooted respect for him because he is one filmmaker, who has improved with every film and it is because of his work ethics, which nobody can match," the actor said.
The much-anticipated period drama explores the cultural reality of ‘Heeramandi’, a dazzling district, through the stories of courtesans and their patrons set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s.
The ensemble also features Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal, and Sanjeeda Sheikh.
Koirala said she was thrilled when the "Gangubai Kathiawadi" director offered her the show. "He is a simple person. He is very much rooted. It is a pleasure to be working with him."
Bhansali is one of those few directors whose women-fronted stories emerge as major box office hits, the actor said.
"It is a male-dominated society and films are also made like that. One has come to make peace with it. Within the limited scope we all try to do our best.
"Being a female actor we have always somehow been ok with having a second place to the male actors. It is a male dominated industry… And there are very few filmmakers like Sanjay, in whose films females are the main protagonists and they are mega successes at the box office," she added.
Koirala, who in the last five years has starred in films such as "Lust Stories", "Sanju", and "Shehzada", said she is "keen" to develop a new fan base and reconnect with her admirers.
"I am extremely keen to have the love and affection of newer audiences as well as to keep the memory alive of my fans, who have seen my past work of 20 or 30 years... They are my inspiration to do better work," she said.