Before his debut film Tajmahal happened, Manoj learned a few things in direction. ‘Had always aspired to become a director. As an assistant to Mani Ratnam in Mumbai, it was a fascinating experience. That instilled the belief and confidence in me. My day will be made when I direct a film. Have long-term goals but will like to spell it out later.’
Branded as a jinx man post a string of failures - Alli Arjuna, Kadal Pookal were box-office disasters, Manoj had to rise like a phoenix every time. Determined he is that things will fall in place - ‘Failures have chased me all along. All I need is just one hit to bring in the turnaround.’
Of his debut film, Manoj said, ‘It was too much of a fantasy. I left my mark in the Ichambazham song - A R Rahman convincing me to that number. My father put in so much of effort, even re-shooting some of the unconvincing portions. It was a satisfactory role from my end but the general feeling was that the end product fell flat.’ Manoj had pinned great hopes on Alli Arjuna in a negative character. ‘I freaked out as a spoilt-brat with not a care in the world. With Charan at the helm, so much of conviction we could bring together. It was a huge disappointment when the viewers cold-shouldered it.’
Not able to throw his weight in the offbeat film Kadal Pookal,’ Manoj did his mite in the cameo Samudiram. ‘I owe it to director K S Ravikumar for the way he shaped it up. At a time when I was doing the running to get roles, it was a magnanimous gesture on his part to come with the offer.’
By his own admission, Manoj is no more than a bathroom singer. But he could play the piano and beat the drums with equal felicity. ‘It makes sense to identify your strength and make a career in that. My breath is in films. Just biding my time to hit it big.’
Manoj has two films under his belt now. Playing a terrorist his hands are full in a Sai Mohan project, a bilingual. ‘It is a heavy role based on a real life incident. Some extensive portions are being shot in Nepal. Have given it my best shot.’ The other one is a much lighter one, playing the ardent fan of actor Sathyaraj, in the title role (Mahanadigan). An interesting experience to share the frames with Sathyaraj. On the face of it may sound an easy one, but it was some task to bring in the conviction.’
The failures at every turn has only made Manoj that much richer in experience. As a parting shot, he assures you that he is all set to explore the facet of direction.
The announcement is round the corner. Manoj could do with some luck, this time round.