Manju Mandavya’s career graph proves that he wears many hats -- as a story writer, dialogue writer, director, lyricist, actor and singer. He credits all this to his stint in theatre. The filmmaker, who has handled different departments in various films, is now showcasing all his talent in his upcoming film, Sri Bharatha Baahubali. “Apart from all that I have done before, my newfound experience was as a singer and handling production, which I did for the first time,” says Manju Mandavya. “It was during my college days that we had formed a theatre group, which we named GPIER and our team would get involved in directing stage plays. It got me involved in every department. The first tool that everyone who comes from a theatre background learns is to multitask,” he adds.
Manju entered the cinema industry to become an actor. However, he didn’t get the kind of opportunity that he was looking for, and he took to writing, which he thought was his major strength. “My guru has been TN Seetharam, who helped me get mature in my writing. I was a big fan of his serials like Mukhta Mukhta, Maya Mruga, and that gave me confidence as a dialogue writer, which is different from stage writing. I was initially trying to get some lessons from Upendra. However, at the time I couldn’t reach him,” he reveals.
Manju Mandavya’s association with the films like 7 o clock and Matta, wherein he was part of the dialogue-writing team, got him projects like Nanda Loves Nanditha and Raja Huli, Savari, and Prithvi, and he became a full-fledged writer. “This is where I wanted to give a break to writing and concentrate on something else in the film industry. That’s when Yash, who gauged my talent, said I should come out of my comfort zone. His support built my confidence to turn director with Masterpiece,” says Manju Mandavya.
Explaining what evoked his interest in also turning a full-fledged hero in Sri Bharatha Baahubali, he says, “My second directorial project was with Upendra, which could not take off because of demonetisation, and I waited for three years. That’s when I decided to do a small budget film, which gave rise to Sri Bharatha Baahubali. I realised that casting newcomers would not help me get producers to invest in the film. Since I had done character roles, I decided to turn a full-fledged hero, and decided to cast Chikkanna in the parallel lead. Our combination worked in Raja Huli, and he fit the bill,” explains Manju Mandavya.
It is interesting to know how Manju Mandavya conceived the story of Sri Bharatha Baahubali. “I have made a number of trips to Shravana Belagola, and the place, the statue and its history always evoked my interest. When I read about Baahubali, I wanted to bring it in a film script. I am popularly known by my character name, Bharatha, which I played in Raja Huli. All these factors prompted me to write the script of this film,” says Manju Mandavya, adding that he took reference from ‘sacrifice’ while writing the story, and that comes as an undercurrent in the film.
The film has three layers — Sri, Bharatha and Baahubali, played by Sarah Harish, Manju Mandavya and Chikkanna, respectively. “It is a comedy thriller set against a village backdrop. I went to shoot only after I had the bound script ready. Sri Bharatha Baahubali is a simple story that comes with an unusual screenplay and doesn’t come with a straight narrative,” he explains.
Sri Bharatha Baahuli is made under the banner of Aishvarya Productions and is produced by Shiva Prakash T. “People who watch our film also have an opportunity to win a bumper prize of `1 crore, for which they need to enter theatres,” he signs off.