Manoj Bharathiraja: I know that I am not hero material
Actor Manoj Bharathiraja, who is making his directorial debut with Margazhi Thingal, talks about his film, why he chose to cast debutants and his plans to remake his father's film Sigappu Rojakkal
Manoj Bharathiraja ventured into acting with Taj Mahal, helmed by his father and legendary director Bharathiraja in 1999. 18 films and 24 years later, Manoj is once again getting ready to debut, this time as a director with Margazhi Thingal. The rural romance, starring Bharathiraja, Director Susienthiran, Shyam Shelvan and Rakshana, will hit the screens on October 20.
The actor who has worked in films like Samudhiram (2001), Alli Arjuna (2002) and Annakodi (2013), says that a chance to direct came to him during an unexpected time. "A phone call that changed everything," shares Manoj, "Susi sir wanted to meet me and he told me a one-line of a film he was about to make. I instantly loved it. As I was wondering about my role in the film, he surprised me by saying that I would be directing it."
Apart from writing the story, director Susienthiran has also produced and acted in the film. Manoj has earlier worked under his direction in Champion (2019) and Eeswaran (2021). "Whenever we meet, we talk a lot about cinema and share several storylines. I don't know when he decided that I would be a good director," he says.
Interestingly, life had come full circle for Manoj as his father Bharathiraja plays a lead in his debut directorial. “Whenever appa signs a film as an actor, he never interferes with the creative process. So, directing didn't feel any different from others.
Manoj sees himself as a character artist rather than a hero. “I am not a hero material. When a role is written considering my physical appearance and looks I believe I can do justice to it. I see the hero phase to be quite a short-lived one in my life," he shares.
Speaking on casting debutants Shyam Selvan and Rakshana in lead roles for Margazhi Thingal, he says, “I took it up as a challenge to cast new faces. Moreover, the story also required newcomers who had fresh faces.”
Manoj feels that a strong story is the backbone of any film. “When I heard the story of Margazhi Thingal for the first time I felt a spark. I am hopeful that the story will have a good reach. Ilayaraaja appa saw the film and told me that I have made it well.”
Manoj feels that he has always had the pressure to deliver being the son of Bharathiraja. “More than pressure, it is a burden and I have to shoulder it fully, but I hope I have done a good job,” he says, assuring that this film will be distinct from his father’s style of filmmaking. “Margazhi Thingal will be a film based on my perspective alone. You will not spot traces of my father’s style anywhere here.”
For more than a decade, it was reported that Manoj was set to remake his father’s 1978 film Sigappu Rojakkal, but he clarifies that it is currently not in the pipeline. “Whenever I took it up, it felt like someone had cursed the project. It didn’t work out for me. The script was written 13 years back but it is still fresh. The reason I didn’t take it up was because I got frustrated with it. I don’t want to touch it again,” he says. “If I have to take it up again, the star cast needs to cooperate. My father will also be acting in that, so his health also needs to be taken into consideration. So the chances are very thin at the moment,” he adds.
Manoj Bharathiraja has plans to be both in front of the camera and behind it. “I have acted in an upcoming web series for Amazon Prime Video. It was in between that I directed this film. Direction is my passion, but I will not leave acting either,” he says and signs off.