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Updated: December 14, 2013 17:34 IST

Act II

Malathi Rangarajan
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Model and dancer Manu is back on the big screen, playing the mother of quadruplets in Guru Ramesh’s Enna Saththam Indha Neram

When Manu debuted as heroine opposite Ajith in Kaadhal Mannan she was barely 16! The film, directed by Saran, was a hit and yet she preferred to move away to the world of Classical dance, an art she’s passionate about. Not everyone can follow the dictates of the heart as Manu has. And the best part is she doesn’t regret her decisions! “I felt acting wasn’t my cup of tea. Every evening I would wait for the pack-up call,” she laughs. She felt she couldn’t pursue it as a career, and despite innumerable opportunities knocking at her door, she stood her ground. But the intriguing aspect is she’s back after 15 years to don the greasepaint once again for Enna Saththam Indha Neram.

“I’ve been into modelling and dance theatre, performing all over the world under my banner Manu Artz. Most of them are for social causes. I want my journey in the world of classical art to be purposeful,” she says.

What is it about ESIN that made her change her mind? “The story and the fact that Rajnikanth wanted me to do the film.” Incidentally, her bonding with the superstar happened when he was in Singapore for treatment. “I spend a few months in a year in Singapore, because of my dance school. Now Rajnikanth is like a father figure to me.”

Unique casting

ESIN’s casting is unique enough to find a place in the Limca Book of Records as the first film that features quadruplets. Manu plays the mother of the four, and director ‘Jayam’ Raja, her husband. The cast is creating quite a buzz. When director Guru Ramesh approached Manu for the role, she made it very clear to him that she wasn’t interested. Meanwhile, Puravalan, who is a part of Manu Artz, a popular actor on Singapore’s Vasantham Central channel and a good friend of Rajnikanth, was roped in for a prominent role in the film. “It was in this context that the three of us went over to meet Rajnikanth. He wanted to be sure that Purava’s role was worthwhile.” After listening to the story Rajnikanth turned around to Manu and asked, “Aren’t you doing this film?” She replied in the negative and he at once said, “No Manu, I think you should.”

“I didn’t say anything more and so here I am,” she smiles. Rajni’s only concern was whether Manu should play a mother of four seven-year-olds. “‘But that isn’t an issue for me,’ I told him.”

Guru Ramesh has worked under Suresh Krissna. “I see a lot of K. Balachander’s nuanced touches in Guru. It was wonderful working with the unit and I’m glad I took it up. Raja is a successful director himself, yet he followed Guru’s instructions to a T. Such is his humility. Nor can I forget John Mahendran who helped me a lot on the sets, with my lines. Anoop, the producer, is also playing a prominent role and you will see Nitin Sathya doing a fabulous job.”

Sandip Dhuara, a surgeon and specialist in Cancer Care, is happy that his wife is doing ESIN. He has always been telling Manu that she should accept worthy offers. “‘Don’t keep saying ‘no’ without even listening to the narration,’ he would say. Like my father, Mrinal Sharma, said when Kaadhal Mannan was offered to me. ‘I don’t want to act,’ I told him later. ‘Then don’t,’ he said calmly.”

Sandip belongs to the royal family of Assam. Was it an arranged marriage? “Very much, my sister and I have married brothers. But I’m the only artist in the entire family that has more than 100 members.”

It was Padma Haragopal, from Kalakshetra, who introduced her to Bharatanatyam, in Assam. “I accompanied her to Chennai on a holiday, she took me to the Dhananjayans and one look at me and they said, ‘You shouldn’t go back.’ That was how Chennai became my home. I was ecstatic when Sandip took up work here.” Manu’s parents live in Puttaparthi.

So is it going to be another spell of hibernation after Enna Saththam Indha Neram? “I don’t know. If it’s a substantial role I’m game, but I don’t intend walking down the commercial alley,” is her emphatic reply.

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