Delhi has long been regarded as a cultural hub, nurturing countless talents and fostering the growth of the performing arts. One such artiste who honed his skills amidst the vibrant theatre scene of the city is Manohar Pandey, who was recently seen as Bali Putra Angad in Adipurush. “Saif Ali Khan helped me a lot in Adipurush, he was always there to guide and push me,” says the actor, who has also worked in Super 30 and Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Pandey’s acting journey commenced in the realm of theatre. Having moved to Delhi in 2007, he embarked on a quest to find a theatre group that would allow him to pursue his passion. After an arduous search, he stumbled upon Pierrot’s Troupe, a theatre collective based in Mandi House. Reflecting on his initial encounter, Pandey fondly recalls, “When I started theatre in Delhi, the people I met, the company I had, and the people I spent most of my time with were all very nice to me.
This helped me become a better person and become a better actor.” Theatre proved to be an invaluable training ground, shaping Pandey both personally and professionally. Working with Pierrot’s Troupe exposed him to the nuances of language and accent, a challenge he adeptly overcame. “It helped me tune my language... acting is somewhere a profession where you have to be flexible yet neutral with one’s language.” The company’s focus on Urdu plays further enhanced his linguistic repertoire, instilling in him a profound appreciation for the beauty of the language.
During his time with Pierrot’s Troupe, Pandey engaged in numerous productions, each leaving an indelible mark on his artistic journey. The collaborative efforts and camaraderie within the group enabled him to thrive as an actor. Recounting those memorable moments, he says, “Going back to Pierrot’s Troupe, they used to do a lot of Urdu plays, which suddenly introduced me to Urdu. M Sayeed Alam, the director of the group, used to chide us to improve our delivery.
This honestly fine-tuned my language.” Pandey’s pursuit continued at the Shri Ram Centre Repertory in New Delhi, where he further refined his craft under the guidance of accomplished directors. Immersed in different production processes, he gained invaluable insights and new-found confidence in his abilities. Describing his experience, he says, “After coming here, I got to work with different directors, which exposed me to different methods of production. After all of this, I got admission to the National School of Drama (NSD) in 2014.”
The NSD served as the pinnacle of Pandey’s formal training. The institution offered him an unparalleled platform to nurture his acting skills, free from the burdens of daily life. Here, he seized every opportunity to enhance his understanding and proficiency. “The three years at NSD... it’s like whatever you can and want to learn is in your capacity. You don’t have to think about food, shelter, or any other basic struggle as everything is arranged.”
His collaborations with directors like Vikas Bahl and Sanjay Leela Bhansali has provided invaluable learning experiences, allowing him to grow as an artiste As Pandey’s acting repertoire continues to expand, he has recently embarked on a new venture in the Malayalam film industry. His forthcoming project, Kannur Squad, sees him starring alongside the legendary Mammootty. While details about the film are still unfolding, Pandey’s excitement is palpable. He only shares glimpses of his character, Pawan Bhaiyya, a Hindi-speaking villager whose vital information becomes the focal point of an investigative thriller, and says the rest will unfold with time.
Actor Manohar Pandey, recently seen in Adipurush as Bali Putra Angad, speaks to Ryan Thomas about his transition into the film industry, his collaboration with industry stalwarts and the impact of his training in Delhi