Manju Warrier on Marakkar: Working on a Mohanlal-Priyadarshan film is a dream for any actor
Manju Warrier in this interview shares she did not mind the short duration of her role in Marakkar as she believes, "It's what the character does to the story that matters"
It's a good time to be a Manju Warrier fan. The actor is going through one of her career's most prolific, exciting phases. Like last year, she has more surprises in store this year too. The effervescent manner in which she interacts tells you that she is firing on all cylinders. And as someone who has been following Manju's career closely since her debut in Sallapam, it feels nice to know where she is standing right now.
Manju's choices of late reflect her wish to try "something new and exciting", in both cinema and life. Even being part of a prestigious project like Marakkar was driven by that urge. Unlike her fans, her relatively short screentime in the film -- compared to the other big names in it -- doesn't bother her. "When Lal sir and Priyan sir had called me, I didn't ask a second question because being part of any of their projects is a dream for any actor," she says, adding that she believes the duration of the role or the screentime doesn't decide the impact of a character. "It's what the character does to the story that matters, and when I looked at this character, she felt important. After Marakkar came out, I got many messages from people telling me they felt angry at my character. Working on such a big-scale film made by such an iconic team like Priyadarshan-Mohanlal is something I would treasure for life."
Like us, even Manju wondered at one point why it took so long for Priyadarshan to work with her. She says the versatile filmmaker did think of her once, for 1997's Chandralekha -- a fact that she came to know while shooting Marakkar. But Manju can't pinpoint the exact reason why they couldn't collaborate back then. "Having grown up watching the work of Priyadarshan, acting in one of his films was at the top of my wish list. His films made my childhood and adolescence colourful. The songs, romance, comedy, and performances in his films... they have knowingly or unknowingly influenced me throughout my life," she says.
Asked if she ever wished she could've played a part that someone, especially a legendary female actor, did, Manju replies that she didn't. "I just watch and enjoy those performances. Whoever has done those iconic roles is irreplaceable. I don't imagine myself playing them. Nobody else could've done what they did."
Recently, Manju turned co-producer with Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's experimental feature A'hr (a.k.a Kayattam), aside from a horror-thriller Chathurmukham and her brother Madhu Warrier's directorial debut, Lalitham Sundaram. The latter, she shares, is a family entertainer featuring her and Biju Menon in the lead roles. It would also mark her first direct-to-OTT release. She feels that it's a film perfectly ideal for viewing with family members.
A'hr, on the other hand, is an offbeat experiment. But that, too, is something Manju found exciting as an actor and producer. Looking back at the film's risky shoot -- the team was in the news when they got stuck in their location when heavy rainfalls and floods hit the area in the middle of filming -- Manju recalls it as a scary ordeal. "Maybe 'scary' is not the right word. The entire film is basically a trek, with the characters trekking for real. There were no roads, good network, or rooms, so we had to stay in portable tents. But as it was a small film, I thought, why not give it a try?"
Since Manju is part of the same circle as Geetu Mohandas and Anjali Menon, I ask if she ever got tempted to take up directing. She feels she isn't skilled enough to do that right now. "All my decisions so far have been spontaneous. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow. As of now, I have no plans."
But if she ever considered doing that, what genre would it be? She laughs. "Well, my taste keeps changing. Even now, when new scripts come to me, I look for love stories because I'm keen on doing that. Because of the strong female-oriented films I've done in the past, people assume I would always gravitate towards stories of a woman struggling against society or something like that. That has all been done so many times."
She observes this is also the case with offers from other languages, especially after her much-acclaimed performance in director Vetrimaaran's Asuran. "Post-Asuran, I've been getting more films with the same background or similar pattern. I felt I should do something above Asuran if not equal to it," she shares. "I'm still waiting for the right scrips. There are some under discussion, and I'm looking forward to them, but I'm not yet ready to announce."
Manju is also making her Hindi debut with Amriki Pandit, co-starring R Madhavan. She shares the film was put on hold after completing 50% of the shoot due to multiple factors. "We had to halt shoot by April after Maddy (Madhavan) caught Covid. After that, we couldn't resume because I was busy with my films and Maddy was not in the country. But we hope to resume by January."
As for her current acting assignment, Manju is in the middle of Vellarikka Pattanam, a political satire co-starring Soubin Shahir. "It's been a long time since we have seen something of this sort. The setting is evocative of something like Sandesham," she concludes.