Comedy is a serious business. And nobody knows it better than the painfully lithe Manobala, without whose presence, almost no Tamil film is made. And yet, if there’s one film that the 60-year-old actor is visibly excited about, it’s Superstar Rajinikanth’s Lingaa, in which he plays a small but significant part of a train driver. Manobala opens up in a characteristically funny chat about his decision to become a producer and his relationship with everyone from KB to Rajini...
Now that you’re a part of Lingaa, how does it feel?
It’s a great thing to be part of a Rajini film and I cannot describe what it’s like to act with him. I play a train driver in the film
You’ve directed the Superstar in Oorkavalan. Do you dream of doing it again?
Honestly? The kind of stature that Rajini has achieved now, I think it’s an achievement to be near him and act with him, let alone think of directing him
You’ve been doing films non-stop for the last five years
I don’t remember the number of films I have signed so far. I am not Santhanam, so I can’t be choosy. The number of films I do doesn’t matter, only the sustainability does. It also depends on whether or not I am in the good books of directors!
Would you want to do a full length comedy track?
I can only take up the roles that come by my way. You see, I don’t think about where a bus is going before getting on. I look at getting on to every bus that comes my way!
So comedy comes naturally to you?
To make the audience laugh is not easy. At the same time, I don’t want to hurt others’ sentiments. At times, some of my lines are situational, but everything is spontaneous. I don’t rehearse, so yes, comedy comes to me easily. Sometimes I think that I am the new Manivannan now, after he passed away
You’ve been in this industry for decades. Your thoughts
I was fortunate to have been around in the 80s when directors used me to break stereotypes. I was an assistant director to Bharathiraaja for over 16 films, and have directed more than 40 movies. K Balachander is my biggest inspiration. As a producer, I am awaiting Sadhuranga Vettai’s release. It’s a full-on black comedy like Soodhu Kavvum