With a more promising start than his brother Vishnu, Manchu Manoj had the makings of a star. But the failure of his second film Sree, got this youngster to take a break before returning to the screen with a bang. With his latest film Raju Bhai ready for release on May 18th, a slim looking Manoj talks about the film in a chat with Ragalahari.
Q: So what is Raju Bhai all about?
A: Raju Bhai is a story of an orphan who falls into the clutches of the mafia and how he finds his true love. It is a realistically made yet stylish movie. The credit for which goes to cameraman Prasad Murella. Everything has a natural look in the film. We even did not use any cable work for the action sequences.
Q: Raju Bhai is the remake of the Tamil film Chitiram Pesuthadi right? Do you prefer remakes to originals as two of your three films are remakes?
A: Nothing of that sort. It is just coincidental. Not that I have much choice right now. Let’s see once this film succeeds I can start experimenting.
Q: Who suggested this remake?
A: Director Surya Kiran. He saw it at Chennai and told us about it. After watching the movie I just loved the lead character and thought the film was unique and interesting. But by then a producer was already dubbing it in Telugu. So my father and I requested him to give us the remake rights and we bought it.
Q: Is the film true to its original Tamil version?
A: No. not exactly. The first half of the Tamil version is quite serious and dark but we picturised the Telugu version in a much lighter vein. Post interval the film has scenes similar to the Tamil version.
Q: What about the songs?
A: Only one original song was retained that too it was picturised on Sunil. The remaining songs are originals.
Q: Is it true that you took part in the music making sessions?
A: Yes. Director Surya Kiran told me that I had a good music sense and that I should sit with Yuvan while composing the tunes. And Yuvan Shankar is more like my brother. So everyday after completing the shooting in the morning I would take a flight to Chennai and sit through the music sessions. We also concentrated on the re recording aspect.
Q: Are you game for multi starrers?
A: Yes. I will even audition for a multi starrer if necessary. There is more talent out there than one can find in the industry and that is why I wouldn’t mind working with other actors. In fact a friend of mine is being introduced in this film.
Q: So when can we expect a film with your father and brother?
A: Not in the near future. A really good and convincing script is required if we have to make that combination work. Since everybody knows our relation it would require a really good script that would make the audiences accept us in the roles that we are donning. See what happened with Vishnu’s Game. Knowing that they are father and son it was difficult for the public to accept them as rivals in the film.
Q: Your voice is quite similar to your father’s.
A: Yes it is. But I try very hard not to sound like my father. And my voice actually does not even match my age and built. So I have tried to maintain variations in my dialogue delivery through modulation.
Q: Did you lose weight for the film?
A: No exactly. After Sree I went on a strict diet and worked out real hard. Even ran for several miles everyday. But at the end of it all rumors began floating that I had liposuction done in the US. So during my sister’s wedding I put on weight again and then lost weight again staying here.
Q: Why go through all that trouble?
A: I believe in adapting my body to the character that I am portraying. I learned that when I was staying in the US. One of my friends in LA was a trainer for Hollywood stars. He worked for the film Planet of Apes. During the making of that film he asked the actors to run along the footprints made by real apes which were made to run on the sand just before the shoot. Even big actors over there do not fuss over issues like these. That was when I decided to rehearse my characters before beginning to shoot for them. My character in Raju Bhai required me to lose weight so I did it.
Q: You seem to have a fascination for Jackie Chan.
A: Yes. I have always loved his films and it was dream to meet him personally. When I was staying in US and was working at the Donor Service I saved up my earnings so that I can buy a gift for Jackie Chan. This was before I realized that he must be receiving such gifts from fans all over the world and that my gift would hardly be noticed. Once I even went all the way to Hong Kong when I came to know that he was shooting there for Rush Hour 2. But after reaching there I was very disappointed to know that he was actually shooting in LA. Then I got to meet him when he came to India to shoot at Humpi for The Myth. I went along with Vishnu to meet him. I almost had tears in my eyes when he received us so nicely.
Q: What is your next film?
A: My next film will be produced by 24 Frame Factory which is a new part of our home banner Sri Lakshmi Prasanna Pictures. It is more of an experimental film and will be directed by a new comer. It is still in the discussions stage.
Q: What kind of roles would you like to do? Which is your dream role?
A: I love to act in films that have a realistic approach. I don’t mind doing even negative roles as along as the characterization satisfies me. Like my father. He is my inspiration. He began his career with negative roles then shifted to comedy then the main lead. He has portrayed all kinds of characters. And if required I can shift from comedy to villain roles. My dream role is that of Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
Q: Who is your favorite actor?
A: Rajendra Prasad. When I was staying in Tirupathi I actually used to put up his banners. He is great with comedy. Then there is Kantha Rao. I also like him.
Q: And favorite actress?
A: Favorite actress keeps changing. Right now it is Rani Mukherji.