Maanvi Gagroo of Four More Shots Please says she didn’t like her role until a girl cried in her arms at a cafe
Maanvi Gagroo, who plays Siddhi on Amazon Prime Videos’ Four More Shots Please was not so sure about her character even after the show’s successful debut last year. But it all changed when she met a young fan at a mall.
In this interview, Maanvi talks about the show’s fast-approaching second season, her chemistry with her co-stars, the way the role changed her personally and more.
The change in Siddhi from season 1 to season 2 seems to be quite drastic. While she was once seeking validations in adult chatrooms, she is now getting a lot of action, she has become a stand up comic. Has playing the character also brought any changes or self-realisation for you?
When we started season 2, I had a few hangups. I remember I told Nupur, our director that this is something Siddhi would not do or say. But her point was that the idea is to show that while she is the same person, there has been a major shift in her personality and outlook towards life. As the season goes on, you understand the reason for her being like that; it’s like a knee-jerk reaction to things.
But there are other things also that come into play and towards the second half of season two, she sort of stabilises. When something drastic happens, we react in the most extreme ways possible and then we come back to normalcy.
Now with regards to me, I’ve kind of grown with Siddhi. Like I used to not wear short dresses before season 1 because I would feel conscious of my thighs and legs. But in season 1, Siddhi has only worn short dresses. And it so happened, very subconsciously , that post season 1, I started wearing those kind of dresses. I remember Anu (Menon, director of season 1) told me ‘You realise you have started dressing up like Siddhi?’ So I was like ‘Oh, haan!’
In the last season, we saw Siddhi almost get mentally tortured by her mother, played by Simone Singh. However, she has a complete change of heart when she realises what her daughter has just been through. Will we get a more thorough explanation this season about why the mother turned around so suddenly? A backstory?
In season 1 we had already touched upon Simone’s character’s backstory. That she was engaged to somebody and that guy broke up the engagement last minute, she lost faith in the society and people started ridiculing her for that. For the lack of a better word, she is a victim of the society that she inhabits.
Now you saw in season 1 finale that the mother has a change of heart and I loved that so much because it happens with me. When I was child, if I did something wrong and got caught, people that I thought would yell at me or disown me were actually the people who stood by me. People who I thought would stand by me, weren’t really there. You get love and affection from quarters you least expect it from. Especially when it comes to family and parents.
But in season 2, we will explain why the mother had this change of heart.
What was it like to have this shift in the tone of your relationship with Simone this season? Was it something new to play such different chemistries with the same person on the same show?
Thankfully, Simone isn’t like her character in real life. She is warm, friendly and in season 1 we would fool around and hang around a lot, outside the sets also. She is also very maternal. I remember there was one time when I had the flu—abhi toh darr lagta hai bolne mein—and Simone found out. She sent her driver, she got me medicines, told me put this in your chai. I thought as a gesture, it was so sweet. I did not ask for it, I didn’t know that she knew I was sick. Even between the seasons when we weren’t shooting, I would get a text from her saying ‘Hey babe, how are you doing? All okay?’ She knows I live alone so she keeps checking in on me.
In season two, even when their relationship changed, they were still the same characters but saying different things. If you have a comfort level with your co-actor then anything is okay, it doesn’t matter.
A lot of people do go to these chatrooms and to seek validation from strangers for their bodies or the way they are. They are also the first ones to get blamed when they fall victim to blackmailing or cyber crimes—like women whose nudes get leaked online. Did playing this role bring more clarity or a new perspective on this issue for you?
Not so much in terms of going on a site or going on social media and seeking external validation. I mean that was something I was anyway aware of. I am the generation that saw social media come in, it was a huge, huge part of my life anyway.
But I didn’t realise just the level that people would relate to the character. I met this girl—until that point I wasn’t really happy with my character, this was after the show released—and she was like ‘Siddhi right?’ and I said ‘Yeah’. She was trembling and saying ‘Oh my god you were so good, I related to your character so much’. I looked at her and she was very skinny and tiny. I said, ‘If I may ask, how did you relate to the character?’ And she started crying in the middle of Starbucks. So she had acne or acne scars on her face and she was like ‘I have had acne on my face since I was a kid and I don’t know what to do. I have tried everything, gone to different doctors but every body tells me no one is going to marry you, nobody will love you, just look at your face. People are saying go for plastic surgery.’ She just kept crying and I just hugged her.
Later I thought that in Siddhi’s case it is about the weight, but in the larger sense of the word, it is about people being judged on their looks like acne scars, which is something so normal. In some people’s cases it’t their skin colour, height, weight, body, hair. And that, honestly, changed my perspective on Siddhi. Suddenly I felt this huge burden of responsibility— that this character stands for all that.
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