The actor-writer gets candid about his character in the movie and the impact the film is likely to create
Manikandan in a still from the film
Tha Se Gnanavel's Jai Bhim, starring Suriya in the lead, is set for a premiere on November 2 on Amazon Prime Video. Tipped as a film which touches upon caste discrimination and the slew of struggles and identity crisis faced by the have-nots in the society, its story is based on a real incident which took place more than two decades ago.
Actor Manikandan, who plays an underprivileged who belongs to the Irular community (a Dravidian ethnic group) in the movie, says he was glad to have received an opportunity to portray a meaty role. In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, Mani who is also a writer, opens up on the impact the film is likely to create post its release, the USP of the movie, the excitement of having essayed an interesting character and more...
Going by the trailer and promo videos, the film looks like a socio-political drama which deals with a sensitive topic. What can the audience look forward to?
We often come across unjust incidents in society and feel bad that we couldn't do anything to avoid it. This film will create an awareness among people that each one of us should raise our voice when injustice happens around us. That is my hope.
Your character is a first-of-its-kind experience for you. How challenging was it to emote a role which you seldom come across?
I was initially approached by the director to join him for the script work. When I was about to leave, he said that I have a role to play in the film. I was so happy to have landed an important character. Rajakannu is so unique - he is a simple, hardworking man who loves to keep others happy - he aspires to uplift his family, but his class and caste come across as huge barriers. We had many discussions on how the emotions associated with the character can be elevated.
Since you had an idea about the script even before you were told that you have a role to play in it, was it relatively easy for you to adopt to the requirements of the role?
To be honest, the role wasn't quite challenging for me. But I was concerned about portraying it with all my heart. The director knew what he wanted from me which made my job easier. Moreover, shooting with people from Irular community made me comfortable. I was glad that they accepted me as one among them. It helped me to transform into my character.
During our interaction with Suriya, he said that the film will create a big impact post its release. What kind of impact do you think the movie will leave?
Most of us don't respond when injustice happens thinking that one voice do not have the power to change anything. I believe that the movie will help change this mindset. We will be glad if people realize that one voice is more than enough to create a change.
Of late there are quite a few movies which talk about caste oppression. And they have been garnering good response, too. Do you think this is the right time to come up with films which handle such relevant topics?
There are many around us who still ask 'Do people bother about caste these days?'. The fact is, they are living away from the reality. Till recently, we have come across the struggles of oppressed community only through news articles or books. Now, their issues are receiving attention through mainstream films. It's a welcoming change.
The movie has veterans like Suriya, Prakash Raj and Rao Ramesh among others. Tell us about your co-stars in the film...
I have no combination scenes with the three of them. My scenes are with Lijomol Jose and Rajisha Vijayan. Both of them are quite talented and fantastic actors. It was a good experience working with such thorough professional actors.
Do you think a film which deals with a sensitive topic would have received more attention had it been a theatre release?
We would have been happy if it was a theatre release. But with a platform like Amazon Prime Video, we are getting more or less the same attention from the viewers. What finally matters is the wider reach of the movie and we are happy that it is possible through this OTT platform.
Apart from the struggles of the oppressed, what according to you is the highlight of the movie?
I think the way certain sequences have been executed will receive applause from movie lovers. The story is set in 1995. It was such a challenge to recreate a time period which existed more than two decades ago. From the roads to buses to the way people wear their dress and the properties used in each frames, we took such strenuous efforts to transport people to the 90s. Also, the way Madras High Court has been made is likely to garner praise from critics and viewers alike. More than just the set design, the manner in which the court proceedings have been depicted is authentic to the core.
Do you think the stardom of someone like Suriya is an advantage to the film?
Of course, yes. Had it been a small movie, there would be a limit with regard to its reach. With someone like Suriya sir headlining the project, the movie has garnered massive attention. It is now a mainstream film and movie buffs are quite eager to watch it.