Manasuku Nachindi: Mahesh Babu's sister Manjula on her directorial debut and working with her brother
All set to make a comeback in a new avatar as a director with this week’s Telugu release Manasuku Nachindi, Manjula revealed that direction has been in her mind for the longest time, in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
Manjula Swaroop was born into a very popular film family. As the daughter of veteran actor Krishna Ghattamaneni, Telugu cinema’s first superstar, she made her acting debut nearly two decades ago in the Malayalam film Summer in Bethlehem. She went on to star in films such as Show, Kavya’s Diary and Orange, never fully realising her potential as an actress. In between her acting assignments, she donned the producer’s hat and gave Telugu filmdom one of its biggest blockbusters, Pokkiri, which starred her brother Mahesh Babu. Her other films as producer include Naani and Ye Maaya Chesave.
All set to make a comeback in a new avatar as a director with this week’s Telugu release Manasuku Nachindi, Manjula revealed in an exclusive chat with Firstpost that direction has been in her mind for the longest time.
“As a kid, I’d get these story ideas which never made sense to me back them. These were random ideas with no head or tail. But I wanted to see these stories on screen someday. Even before I wanted to become an actor, I had the urge to become a director. However, I realised direction was very challenging and felt in order to direct, I need to experience life to recreate something on screen. Having grown up watching my father act, acting came naturally to me,” she said, adding that she never ever thought she could be a writer, “I had ideas in my head but I knew I wasn’t fluent in writing. I thought it’s very essential that one needs to have very strong command over language to write. I couldn’t write in Telugu and wasn’t sure if I could write in English.”
A break from her career in the form of motherhood gave Manjula the time to reflect upon her strengths. “Motherhood is a wonderful thing. When we had our daughter, I wanted to give her quality time. Children require lot of love and affection, especially when they’re very young. I didn’t want to miss out on giving her that attention. I did Kavya’s Diary and produced Ye Maaya Chesave when my daughter was three-years old. While I did both these projects, I felt I wasn’t spending enough time with her. Hence, I decided to take a long break,” she said.
While on her break, Manjula felt the need to express through storytelling: “I used the break to self-introspect and realised my heart lies in storytelling. I finally gathered courage to sit down and write and I was surprised I could finish my story in just two weeks. The language was falling in place. Writing is not about using fancy words; it’s about emotions. As I started writing, I began to enjoy the process even more. It was amazing to see my characters come to life and my story take shape. I rediscovered myself through the process of storytelling”
Manjula said her film is all about following one’s heart. The title, which roughly translates to - What Your Heart Desires - pretty much sums up her journey: “It’s a young love story. It’s about getting connected to your heart and following it. We are more than our body and mind. Despite coming from a very popular film family, my journey was a struggle. I’m not using struggle in a negative context, but the process was long and challenging.”
The film stars Sundeep Kishan, Amyra Dastur and Tridha Choudhury among others. Talking about her actors, she said: “I usually go with my gut and the vibe I get when I meet someone. Producer Gemini Kiran suggested I meet Sundeep. At the point, I hadn’t watched his films but when I met him I got a very good vibe about him. He could relate to my story and was willing to do something out of the commercial zone. When I met Amyra, I wasn’t sure if she could pull off the character. She was gorgeous but she didn’t know Telugu and that worried me. But when we did a week-long workshop with her, she floored me with her commitment to learn her lines.”
In fact, Manjula’s eleven-year old daughter Jaanvi has played an important role in the film, slated to hit the screens on Friday.
The first person to be excited for Manjula when she decided to take the directorial plunge was her father. “He was so proud that somebody believed in my story and was willing to produce my film. He’s always been very positive and encouraging," she revealed. Her brother Mahesh Babu, on the other hand, expressed shock initially: “He warned me that it’s a very challenging process. But when he sensed my enthusiasm and confidence, he backed my decision too.”
However, she isn’t sure if Mahesh will work in her direction. “I don’t think he’d ever take me seriously,” she laughs, adding, “I’ll be producing a film with him soon but I’m not sure if he’ll act in my direction. I can do an out-and-out commercial film and get him on board. But those are not the kind of films I want to do."
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