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Sharmiela Mandre: Maya from Mandala The UFO Incident is a lot like how I am as a person

Her character is career driven and obsessed about creating something, at the risk of ruining her personal relationships, something that Sharmiela has also come close to doing on occasion.

Sharmiela Mandre: Maya from Mandala The UFO Incident is a lot like how I am as a person
Sharmiela Mandre plays an astrophysicist in the Kannada sci-fi film
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 04.44 PM, Mar 07, 2023

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Sharmiela Mandre’s first love is acting, but as someone who hails from a family with a long history of making and distributing films, she knew that she also had a calling in that and turned producer a few years ago. Life, since then, has been hectic, she says, as being an actor and producer is about handling two jobs at the same time. She’s not complaining, though, and is loving the collaborations she is able to pull off through her home banner.

“We just announced Kaadhal Konjam Thookala with Balaji Mohan, Amala Paul and Kalidasan. There’s also a project with R Madhavan, directed by Mithran Jawahar of Thiruchitrambalam fame, which will go on floors in the next three months. The script work is going on at the moment. In Kannada, for starters, we need to change the title of Dasara, because the Telugu film with the same title is releasing at the end of the month. I am looking at having the teaser/trailer out by June and the film in theatres by August. My next collaboration is with the director of Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage, Sridhar Shikaripura,” she explains.


Amid all this, Sharmiela’s also got a film releasing in which she’s played a lead role. This Friday, Sharmiela’s film Mandala: The UFO Incident will be in theatres. The film, directed by techie-turned-filmmaker Ajay Sarpeshkar, is a hardcore sci-fi flick about UFOs, the possibility of the presence of alien life, and more. Sharmiela plays Maya, an aerospace engineer, who goes missing and is then presumed abducted by aliens. The narrative follows the mystery surrounding her absence and unravels what actually happened.

Sharmiela Mandre
Sharmiela Mandre

Sci-fi, though, is still a niche genre in Kannada cinema, so a film like Mandala is akin to treading in uncharted waters. Was Sharmiela ever apprehensive about audiences might react to a subject like this, or was she kicked about being a part of a project that was so refreshingly different? “When Ajay approached me for Mandala: The UFO Incident, he’d sent me a presentation that explained his vision, right from the synopsis to the screenplay, what my role entails and how he was looking at making the film. At the time, I had just watched Stranger Things and was totally obsessed with the show. I’d been wondering why we never make films/shows like this. As a producer, I understand that anyone who puts money into making a film is, first and foremost, looking at ensuring his/her investment is safe. We always want to stick with the safe genre, rather than doing something experimental, where it’s like walking into a dark tunnel. That’s why most producers prefer tried-and-tested subjects like rom-coms, thrillers, action, etc. With Mandala, I knew I wanted to be a part of it to satisfy the urge of doing something completely out-of-the-box. What also pushed me in its direction is the fact that I was only getting the silly, girl-next-door kind of roles. I was so bored of the routine stuff that was coming my way. I am so glad I did the film, even though it is extremely experimental and has me wondering how audiences will react to a subject like this. The role of an aerospace engineer fits in perfectly with Bengaluru, which is the hub of science, and has many women holding important positions in key organisation,” says Sharmiela.

The actress adds that her character, Maya, is hard-working and obsessed with her job. “In the pursuit of work, relationships get put in the backburner. That’s not what should happen, but she is so into her job and working round-the-clock. I could relate to it on some level because there are instances when we don’t spend enough time with family, even though we’d love to. So many times, I have missed important events and celebrations in the family because I had to prioritise work. Maya is like that – neglecting her personal life because she is trying to create something. I think I took up this film because she is close to how I am as a person,” explains Sharmiela.


Going by the trailer, though, it appears that a lot of the action does not involve her because she goes missing. “The narrative is about Maya going missing and the investigation/search to find out if I have really been abducted by aliens or if something else happened,” she says. Did she have aliens stick probes into her? Sharmiela laughs and says, “Well, you’ll have to see the film to find out.”

Sci-fi, though, is a genre that automatically puts Mandala: The UFO Incident in the ‘multiplex film’ category, which only attracts a niche crowd. “When I do a film as an actor, I always tell myself that what I can do is to put my best foot forward. But on that Friday, the fate of the film is left to the audience to decide if they want to see it or not. Today’s audience has changed, having lapped up so much content from across the globe on OTT platforms. They are heading out to theatres only for the ‘big’ films, or if there is a movie that is interesting and ‘content-based’. I am hoping Mandala falls into the second category and has an impact on audiences,” says Sharmiela.