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Never imagined life would flower into this phase: Manisha Koirala on cancer recovery, turning 50

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Mumbai, May 12 (PTI) Actor Manisha Koirala says she was still recovering from cancer when she was about to start shooting for "Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar", in which she plays one of the lead characters, an opportunity seldom offered to female artistes in their 50s.

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The 53-year-old actor is receiving good reviews for her role as the mercurial matriarch Mallikajaan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's debut web series "Heeramandi". It is streaming on Netflix.

In a lengthy note on Instagram, Koirala on Sunday chronicled her journey of resuming work after battling ovarian cancer, portraying an important character in the lavish period drama, and getting her due as a female actor thanks to streamers and evolving taste of the audience.

"I could never have imagined that after cancer and turning 50, my life would flower into this other phase," she wrote, as she went on to enumerate two reasons.

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Calling "Heeramandi" a significant milestone, Koirala said: "As a 53-year-old actor who has bagged an important role in a high- profile web series, I am overjoyed that I'm not stuck playing insignificant peripheral roles, thanks to OTT platforms and changing audience profiles." "Finally, female actors, technicians, and other professionals have started getting the long overdue and well-deserved good quality of work and respect in a professional environment. I am fortunate to be a part of this evolving era," she added.

Secondly, she recalled feeling plagued with "doubts and anxiety" ahead of beginning shooting for the series amid recovery from cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and was cancer free in 2014.

Since her return, the actor has starred in films such as "Dear Maya" (2017), "Sanju", "Lust Stories" (both 2018), and last year's "Shehzada".

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"Would my body be strong enough to deal with the intense shooting schedules, heavy costumes, and jewelry, and perform a role requiring so much nuance and effortless effort?" she wrote.

Koirala said a key scene in "Heeramandi", which required her to be immersed in a water fountain for over 12 hours, tested her resilience.

"The fountain sequence proved the most physically challenging... Even though Sanjay had thoughtfully ensured that the water was warm and clean, over the hours, the water turned muddy, (because my team members, the cinematographer, and the art director's team were getting into the water to work around the scene.)" Every single pore of her body was soaked in muddy water, she wrote.

"Even though I was beyond exhaustion by the end of the shoot, I felt a deep happiness within my heart. My body had taken the stress and remained resilient. I knew I had passed a critical physical test.

"To you, who think your time has come and gone, whether it’s due to age, illness or any setback, never give up! You never know what could be waiting for you around the bend! I'm deeply grateful for your love and generosity of spirit!" Koirala concluded her post. PTI ATR ATR RDS RDS

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