Manchu Manoj is every bit as flamboyant and animated in real life as he is on-screen. No wonder, the actor has built a reputation of being a firecracker on the sets and admits that he's been like that since childhood. "I wasn't academically inclined and I kept changing schools. As I adjusted to new schools, it brought me closer to people from different backgrounds, and in a way, it helped me mingle with everyone. I make sure everyone around me is in high spirits. But work is something else; I take it quite seriously," says Manoj, confessing that this attitude has often put him in a spot.
The actor, who is known to choreograph his own action sequences, reveals that he was a step away from death, while shooting a stunt sequence for his latest film Current Teega, which is slated for release on October 31. "It was by far the riskiest and stupidest thing I've done in my life. There's a scene for which I had to run, get onboard a moving train and jump out of it. It was the last day of the shoot and I knew that we won't get more dates of my co-stars. It was getting dark and we didn't have permission to shoot. I blanked out because I had taken the onus of completing the shoot on time. I completed the entire sequence in one take and after I jumped on to the other side, I hit a wall and bounced back. The scary part was that there was just a hairline gap between the train and me. It's scary to even think about how I managed to do all that," Manoj recounts the incident in a breathless narrative.
We wonder if it's really necessary to take such a risk, and he says, "Not everything goes as planned on a film set, and you've to be ready to work under pressure. I suppose that's become my biggest strength and weakness. People outside the industry might not understand the ordeal we go through to make a film, but it all boils down to the right choice in that split second. Besides, for this film, I was also looking into the production aspect since my brother, Vishnu, entrusted me with all the responsibility."
Produced by Vishnu Manchu under 24 Frames Factory banner, the film also stars Rakul Preet Singh, Sunny Leone and Jagapathi Babu. Manoj terms the film as a series of beautiful moments of life, strung together, with a good message in the end. "I had never done a village-based film and when I saw the original version in Tamil (Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam), I loved the humour and romance element in the story. It was perfect for me. Thankfully, we had wonderful actors onboard and the entire shoot was a breeze," he says. Manoj adds, "I'm glad that I worked with director Nageswara Reddy on this film. We share such a good rapport that I feel like I've known him for nearly 10 years now. He brings a great amount of passion and knowledge to the table."
Isn't Current Teega too close to his livewire self in real life? "I guess every character I play is a natural extension of my personality. The only film where I struggled to get into the character was Prayanam. I had to maintain a particular expression on my face all through the film," says Manoj who has carved a niche for himself with out-of-the-box films. The actor agrees that he has been consciously working on 'doing off best films' right through his career.
Apparently he "wanted to debut with a Tamil film," but his dad Mohan Babu convinced him to change his mind. "I don't want to be known just as Mohan Babu's son. I want to create my own identity and every step I've taken so far is in that direction. I'll always be indebted to my father for teaching me a lot about life," Manoj confesses. -TOI