Manjima Mohan: Attending award functions doesn’t fetch films
Manjima, whose latest film, Kalathil Santhippom, has opened to positive reviews, talks about dealing with the pandemic, maintaining a presence, being part of commercial films, and more
Manjima Mohan used the lockdown to begin an online initiative called One in a Million that sought to promote new talent. “Those months were a reality check for many. I realised that there are so many talented people without a platform to put themselves out there. My friends recommended that we start an Instagram page. Now that we have more time, we hope to make the initiative bigger,” says Manjima, who plays the female lead in Kalathil Santhippom (KS). Here, she discusses the film, her take on women-centric cinema and more...
The pandemic ended up offering an unplanned break to many artists. How did you deal with it?
I'm a secure actor and quite relaxed when it comes to my work. We can never predict the release dates of the films we work on. Kalathil Santhippom, as well as other two films of mine, would have come out long ago, had it not been for the pandemic. As actors, we need to be confident and go with the flow.
Considering you are establishing yourself as an actor, isn't there pressure to put yourself out there often?
You are right. There's always that pressure. Someone once told me that I needed to attend award functions and do more photoshoots. But why should I? Such functions happen because we have films in hand. They are not going to fetch us new films. Only talent and love from the audience will get us new work.
KS came across as a feel-good drama. What did you think of it when it came to you?
It's my first commercial film. I had not done a multi-starrer either, so it was a different experience. It was so much fun to be with so many artistes. This is also the first time I am doing humour and I realised how hard it can be. It made me realise the value of comedians.
Commercial films are challenging. Everyone thinks they are easy, what with their fights and songs, but people don’t realise it demands perfection too. These days, you can't fool the audience because they now spot even the minor details.
Most of your films have been set in the rural milieu.
This is not planned at all. I did Devarattam because I wanted to work with Muthaiah sir. I was supposed to work with him on a different film, but I was not in a position to commit to that. In KS, I play a college girl who is not too traditional. When shooting in a Karaikudi college, I noticed how sophisticated the girls there are. Despite so many rural films, I hope to do a proper rural character.
In an interview a couple of years back, you mentioned that you are thought to be a ‘choosy’ actor because you tend to get attached to certain projects which causes you to reject others. Do you think you are seen differently now?
It is the same. I am careful about choosing projects, but sometimes, I want to dedicate time to one particular project. Zam Zam was one such film. I wanted to give my 100 per cent to it, as I am not one for multitasking. So, I had to let go of other films; this, however, was taken in the wrong sense. I don't like to suffocate myself with too many projects. When I was doing this film along with Tughlaq Durbar and FIR, I had to shoot both films simultaneously and I did not enjoy that at all. I have also rejected films because though some characters are well-written, they may not be suitable for me
You seem to have a promising line-up of films now.
This year has been quite lucky for me; all of them are quite different from each other. There is a good chance that Tughlaq Durbar and FIR could get released at the same time. I know FIR's director Manu Anand from my AYM days. I used to tell him then that I should be his first film's female lead. This has come true! It's a beautiful character. In Tughlaq Durbar, I play Vijay Sethupathi's sister, a role I haven't played before. Everyone was surprised that I took up this role, but I really liked that character.
As someone who is doing films across the South languages, is it hard to establish a firm footing in one?
You give me films… the language doesn't matter. I simply want to work (laughs). I want to do more films in Malayalam as I am from Kerala. I don't think I am ready for Hindi yet, though I have got some opportunities. I wasn't even ready to do auditions as I'm comfortable with South cinema. Initially, I tried to plan my schedule carefully to ensure that I was doing films across languages, but then, I realised that nothing goes according to plan. So, here I am, just going with the flow.