He shares his date of birth with none other than Amitabh Bachchan. Southern sensation Nivin Pauly meets Manju Ramanan in Dubai where he has come to attend a cricket match. His sister lives in Abu Dhabi and his wife and son have joined him, so it is a bit of a holiday for him. Excerpts from the conversation…
Are you passionate about cricket?
Yes I am. Cricket and cinema are two modes of entertainment in India and I have the same passions. We had started the C 3 in India and several of us Malayalam film stars used to play together. Then CCL happened and Indrajeet ( the actor) asked me to join them and I did. I am a left handed batsman and for two seasons I was the only left-handed batsman in the team till others came in.
Was your family supportive about your acting?
Not really but they learnt to accept it. I graduated with BTech in Information Technology from the Federal Institute of Science And Technology, Kochi in 2006 and got a job with Infosys, Bangalore. A job I quit because it wasn’t my calling. I was keen on acting. On the third day of my training, I told my father that I was bored. The training that took place in Mysore was like class room activity that extended from morning till evening and some programming thrown in. I hated it but dad reminded me that it was recession time and jobs weren’t that easily available. I stuck around for two years and was posted in Bangalore when I quit.
Did you always want to act?
It was there inside me all the time. When I saw movies, I always felt like enacting the scenes my way. I was never part of theatre workshops or drama workshops since I had stage fright. Friends did encourage me to take up acting but nothing was coming my way.
You were finally spotted by actor Vineeth?
I wanted to be an actor and learnt that actor Vineeth Sreenvisan was looking out for actors my age. I had broken my foot around that time after an accident and had grown a moustache and a beard. I sent my photos and was chosen for the role in Malarvadi Arts Club (2010). That led me to Thattathin Marayathu (2012) that was also his film but I did a few small roles in the middle in films such as The Metro and Sevenes, Traffic and Spanish Masala and a popular music video titled ‘Nenjodu Cherthu’ from the album Yuvvh.
How do u see Malayalam cinema today?
The new generation movies have started happening. Film-making style today has changed. Earlier people looked at foreign films and wanted to make cinema like that. Today the same technology is being used in our kind of cinema.
What kind of actor would you want to be remembered as?
I have watched and studied the careers of several actors. Many of them have put in 10- 15 years of work and yet you can count about 5-6 of their films that are known. I don’t want to wait that long to create my body of work. I want to be part of good cinema that is successful too as well as fulfilling.
Apart from acting, what is the other thing that attracts you about the film world?
Direction is something I would like to do soon. But I need experience as an actor to be a director. That is why the director is called the captain of the ship. It is easier to be an actor but a director needs a lot of management capabilities.
You have been part of cinema that has been women-oriented. Did you have any qualms about it?
No not at all. I try and do cinema that is not repetitive and not like a previous role I have done. I get pretty bored myself to see an actor doing similar roles in successive films. For instance I wouldn’t like to see the same actor do nearly similar romantic roles in three films or see him play a police inspector in five films together. So I try and do films that aren’t like each other. So if one film had me romance the heroine, the other one had the heroine seek my love. I am doing a film Mili that is being directed by Rajesh Pillai, with actress Amala Paul in the lead role. The actress will be seen playing the title character in Mili, a woman who is very strong and independent by nature. Just like the director’s previous hit Traffic, this movie will also convey a message at the end.
Tell us your experience with bilinguals?
The first ten days of the bilingual film Neram I did was great. It was shot simultaneously in Tamil and Malayalam. If you know these two languages, you would know that they are pretty different to each other and their social mileus are different too. I was common to both films but some actors I had to work with were from the respective film industry. Believe me, it is the toughest thing to do. To emote the same scene in two different languages with two different veteran actors. For instance the Malayalam version had Manoj K Jain and the Tamil version had Naser sir – both actors have different intensities and I learnt a lot during the shoot.
Do you see yourself in a Hindi film?
I got an offer for a bilingual to be shot in Tamil and Hindi (laughs). I am a big fan of Dhanush and I had the chance of meeting him in Dubai for a South Indian award ceremony. Dhanush broke the barrier with Raanjhana that South Indian stars don’t shine in a North Indian space. I like the way he uses the space that his roles are set in. I feel that he chooses his films based on scope of his roles – that is what he told me when I met him.
As a new comer what was the valuable advice you received from your veterans?
Sathyan Anthikad, film director, screenwriter, and lyricist who I call Satyan sir gave me valuable advice on cinema. He is so accomplished but is a simple man and a great human being. I told him I wanted to be rich in life and he laughed and explained that we should have savings, look after our children, have some property in our name and we need some money as well but cinema is above that. He warned me to not get money-oriented but focus on being cinema-oriented and treat the members of the film set and fraternity like a family. An advice that has stayed with me.
Do you watch Hindi cinema and are there any favourites?
A Wednesday is something I hugely liked. Recently I watched Highway and found it to be a great film. It inspired me no end. I cannot sum it up in one line. It is totally the film maker’s film. It could have got lost during the narration bit but the director took the film to another level. Usually in a film, the first 20 minutes are crucial since it captures your attention. In the first 15 minutes you do not understand the film then the film is lost to the audience conventionally. But Imtiaz Ali challenged that stereotype. The love story in the film lands in the 2nd half post interval. That is the first time Randeep Hooda’s character smiles in the film and acknowledges love. Imagine a film that takes an hour and a half to establish the love story and is a huge hit too. It is an unusual film and is totally the director’s vision. In that way it is not a mainstream film but will be declared a classic of this era for sure
Rapid Fire Round
I am inspired by the book The Secret. It has worked for me. I had wished that my first film should win an award. I won an award for best debut. It happened.
In cricket – I am a left handed batsman
Dubai is home to me because .. my sister lives is in Abu Dhabi
A recent Hindi film that blew my mind.. was Highway