'My film with Upendra failed to take off due to demonetisation'
...says filmmaker Manju Mandavya, who is coming up with a new film, Sri Bharatha Baahubali, starring himself in the lead alongside Chikkanna and Sarah Harish
Manju Mandavya is a man with multiple talents. He is a story writer, dialogue writer, director, lyricist, actor, and singer. He credits all this to his stint in theatre. The filmmaker, who has handled different departments in various films, is now showcasing all his talents in his upcoming film, Sri Bharatha Baahubali.
“Apart from all that I have done before, my newfound experience was as a singer and handling production, both of which I did for the first time,” says Manju. “During my college days we formed a theatre group, which we named GPIER, and our team would get involved in directing stage plays. It got me involved in every department. The first thing that everyone learns in the theatre is to multitask,” he adds.
Manju entered the cinema industry to become an actor. However, he did not get the kind of opportunity that he was looking for, and he took to writing, which he thought was his major strength. “My guru has been TN Seetharam, and he helped my writing mature. I was a big fan of his serials like Mukhta Mukhta, Maya Mruga, and that gave me confidence as a dialogue writer. This was different from stage writing. I was initially trying to get some lessons from Upendra. However, at the time I couldn’t reach him,” he reveals.
Films like 7 o clock and Matta, wherein he was part of the dialogue-writing team, got Manju projects like Nanda Loves Nanditha, Raja Huli, Savari, and Prithvi, and he became a full-fledged writer. “After this, I wanted to give a break to writing and concentrate on something else in the film industry. That’s when Yash, who gauged my talent, said I should come out of my comfort zone. His support built my confidence to turn director with Masterpiece,” says Manju Mandavya.
Explaining what evoked his interest in also turning a full-fledged hero in Sri Bharatha Baahubali, he says, “My second directorial project was with Upendra, which could not take off because of demonetisation, and I waited for three years. That’s when I decided to do a small budget film, which gave rise to Sri Bharatha Baahubali. I realised that casting newcomers would not help me get producers to invest in the film. Since I had done character roles, I decided to turn full-fledged hero and cast Chikkanna as the parallel lead. Our combination worked in Raja Huli, and he fit the bill.”
Driving an Ambassador once owned by Dr Rajkumar
Sri Bharatha Baahubali has a scene of legendary actor Dr Rajkumar, for which Manju was looking for a car from that period. “It is a scene where Dr Rajkumar is coming to a theatre. I happened to rent an Ambassador car. While shooting for the scene, the owner revealed that the car was owned by Annavaru (Dr Rajkumar) himself. I didn’t believe it until he showed me the documents and proof. Shooting this episode gave me a different thrill,” he says.
It is interesting to know how Manju conceived the story of Sri Bharatha Baahubali. “I have made a number of trips to Shravana Belagola, and the place, the statue, and its history always evoked my interest. When I read about Baahubali, I wanted to use it in a film script. I am popularly known by my character name, Bharatha, which I played in Raja Huli. All these factors prompted me to write the script of this film,” says Manju, adding that the underlying theme of the film is sacrifice.
The film has three leads characters — Sri, Bharatha and Baahubali, played by Sarah Harish, Manju Mandavya and Chikkanna, respectively. “It is a comedy thriller set against a village backdrop. I went to shoot only after I had the bound script. Sri Bharatha Baahubali is a simple story that comes with an unusual screenplay rather than a straight narrative,” Manju explains.
Sri Bharatha Baahubali is made under the banner of Aishvarya Productions and is produced by Shiva Prakash T. “People who watch our film in the theatre also have an opportunity to win a bumper prize of Rs 1 crore,” says the director.