Interview With

Manjima Mohan

Manjima Mohan is doing the Queen remake in Malayalam titled Zam Zam. She will soon be seen in Devarattam in Tamil co-starring Gautham Karthik. In a quick chat with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, the Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada heroine discusses about her projects, her girl-next-door tag and the current MeToo movement.

What are your current projects and their status?

I just finished Mikael with Nivin Pauly. It is a Malayalam project and I am doing a Malayalam film after a while. I have a day of shoot for Zam Zam and a half day of dubbing for the film. I have two more days of work in Devarattam. These are the projects that I can talk about. There is one more project that I am doing but I am not allowed to talk about it.

How has Zam Zam shaped up?

When I went for dubbing for Zam Zam, I was happy with the way it has turned out. I told the director that I had never watched a movie so satisfied. None of us had tried to do what Kangana had done. We all have attempted the role in our own way. I have given my heart and soul into it. I hope it clicks with the people too.

How was it to work in a remake of a film that was appreciated by people? Was there a pressure on you?

There was a lot of pressure on me, because it is a remake of a cult classic. When the talks of Queen remake were doing the rounds, there were many who said that some remakes should not be done. I also agree with it. And then the next question was, will I be able to do it? There were a lot of challenges and pressure on me. But slowly things got settled down. People are certainly going to compare; some people may like it; some may try to put you down and some people won't like it. There will be mixed opinions for sure. You just have to give your 100%, wait for the results and accept the result whatever it may be. When I started thinking on those lines, the pressure started to ease out.

Have you seen Queen? If yes, what were your efforts to give it the 'Manjima' touch?

Yes, I have seen Queen in theatre when the film was released. After that I watched it a couple of times here and there. But once I signed the project, I made sure I did not watch it because my dad was very particular that if I watch it, I might imitate Kangana. He said, "You finish the shoot and then watch the film". So I finished the shoot and watched it to see what I have done and what Kangana has done, more specifically.

About Manjima touches, we have changed the character to a Muslim woman in Zam Zam, so that was a challenge. There were certain restrictions; we could not do what the other three characters did in their respective films. We could not do many things that Kangana herself had done in the original. We had our restrictions and we had to respect that. Within those limitations, I had to play and that was a challenge.

For someone who has seen Queen, what kind of experience would Zam Zam give?

I don't know about that. I am sure it will look like a different movie to them. I don't want them to compare, basically. I would be happy if they love Zam Zam as another movie and appreciate our work. You have to wait and watch. Different people will have different experiences for sure.

There were four south Indian remakes of the film simultaneously being shot. Did you interact with the leads from other remakes, like Kajal or Tamannaah or Parul?

Though we had all stayed in the same hotel, we hardly met. We used to see each other when we had shoot in the same location. All of them are very sweet and professional. There was so much to learn from Kajal, Tamannaah or Parul. Parul is also the producer and there was so much on her shoulders. Tamannaah and Kajal are into the movie industry for so long but they are much grounded. These are the things you learn from them. Kajal was the only person who I went out with. Once both of us did not have shoot on the same day. We took a walk and went to a super market. It was just an hour but we had a good time.

About Devarattam/Director/Cast

I am grateful to Gnanavel sir and Muthaiah sir as I was not signing any Tamil project at that point. So when it came, I was very happy because of the production house, the director and the cast. It was definitely a good package for me. It was like a comeback for me. Devarattam is a commercial film with rural touches. It was great working with the entire cast. It was my second movie with Soori anna and there was a lot of comfort there. It was my first with Gautham Karthik. He is a very passionate and dedicated actor. It was fun working with the team. We never felt pressurized. I got along with the assistant directors more than anyone. I really missed the team when the shoot got over. I am looking forward to the release of the film.

About #MeToo. What is your take?

I am hearing a lot on it. I can't much say about it as I have not gone through such things. So far, it has been all good, touch wood! That said, hats off to the girls for coming out and talking about it. It needs a lot of guts. I feel bad for the girls who had to go through this. I think it started with Chinmayee talking about it. What she did was right. But it is sad when people talk about our industry and look down upon it. It's like degrading our job. There are so many good people in the industry. On the other hand, for girls who are entering the industry, these things will be a kind of eye opener and they will not fall prey to such dubious acts, fake words and false promises. And for those who want to try such things, it will be a deterrent.

Manjima has an image of girl-next-door in Tamil. How do you see that?

Although I love it and everybody can't get that tag, sometimes, it could be annoying. People relate to you more which is a very good thing. However, an artist cannot get stuck to one particular role. At times I feel it is too much. I am trying to come out and do something different and prove that I can do all kinds of roles and not just 'girl-next-door'. As I am getting only such scripts, there is a gap. Be it in Nivin's Mikael or Zam Zam, or Devarattam, it is only girl-next-door but they are all different shades of characters. I am trying to explore as much as I can. But it limits the offers that are coming to me.

All the best Manjima Mohan!

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