He bowled audiences over with his vulnerable looks and acting prowess as Natha in the hit movie "Peepli Live", but actor Omkar Das Manikpuri is much happier covering the Bihar elections as a journalist. He does have one regret - not being able to meet youth icon Rahul Gandhi.
"I always wanted to be a journalist or at least play it once in reel or real. And now I am working as one for Live India's 'Patna Live' show and I am really enjoying it. The channel offered it to me and I really liked it and took it," Manikpuri told IANS on telephone during his Bihar sojourn.
"It feels good to play yourself and that too when you are on the job. Since people have seen my film, wherever I go I tell them beforehand that I am approaching them as a journalist and not as an actor. I ask about their worries, demands etc and people treat me like a journalist now," added the Chhattisgarh-based theatre actor.
Manikpuri started his Bihar journey from Patna Oct 22 and has been travelling since then - the assembly polls are on from Oct 21-Nov 20. He has visited places like Hajipur, Mahua and Motihari. "I met politicians like Arun Jaitley, Lalu Prasad and even Shatrughan Sinha.
"I couldn't meet Rahul Gandhi when I visited Majhi village due to excess security. I wanted to meet him," said Manikpuri.
He dresses in a kurta, jacket and teams it up with either jeans or a trouser for his new role and describes his wardrobe as a "journalist's costume"!
Life changed for the 39-year-old when he featured as Natha in Anusha Rizvi's directorial debut "Peepli Live". Produced by Aamir Khan, it's a satire on farmer suicides where Manikpuri played the main character and the subsequent response from the media and political parties made him the talk of the town.
"The media was after me in the movie, so I thought let's try and be one and find out how much fun it is to be a journalist. And trust me, it is loads of fun," quipped the actor-turned-scribe, a native of Brindanagar in Bhilai.
Any particular style he is adhering to as a journo?
"No. I am just approaching the masses as a normal journalist and as their representative. There is no script or anything involved. I take their questions and queries to politicians and ask them the same."
He has no qualms about the amount of running around involved in his new vocation. "That's ok because in every line you have to struggle hard."
Asked if the Natha image has overshadowed his real self, he said: "No. There is nothing like that because people used to love me earlier and now they love me more. And Natha is just a character. There has been no difference in their appreciation for me. People still love me the same."
Manikpuri is going to trudge different paths in the state, "however, I will try if I can get a day or two as leave for Diwali".
He started his career as a performer in the local form of folk theatre called Nacha. Performing often in makeshift and open air stages, he honed his skills as a singer, dancer, mimic and a stand-up comic before joining Habib Tanvir's Naya Theatre as an actor.
With them he performed on timeless classics such as as "Agra Bazaar", "Charandas Chor" and "Sadak" before getting his big break in films.
As far as future projects are concerned, he is "open to doing everything, whether it is films or TV".
"If I am wanted as a journalist then I'd love to do that too. I have a film too with a working title called 'Alap'," said the actor while adding emphatically that he would "never leave theatre".