However, with films like The Sixth Sense and Signs in his kitty, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker has managed to carve a niche for himself in the West. Kicked about his upcoming Will Smith-starrer film, the Puducherry-born, Philadelphia-based Manoj chats exclusively from London with CS:
Producing a film is empowering. Writing helps me find my source of strength and whatever control I feel over my destiny comes from it too. Directing is how I interact with my colleagues and eventually with my audience. If I had to make a choice between the three, I’d be feeling empty.
Dealing with criticism
As artists, we are supposed to be true to ourselves and do what we feel is important. If I make a film that shines above my previous films, then it tells something about me as a filmmaker. Just like when we look at Picasso’s work today, we look at him in his totality - not just one painting. Perspectives change with time.
I’ve noticed that the sweet spot of the 1980s American films that was more about light comedy has shifted to a darker and more ambivalent space. So, filmmakers from the ’80s are finding edgier ways to tell stories. Accordingly, those filmmakers who were on the fringe are now finding themselves in the sweet spot. But, I have personally always wanted to do a comedy. It’s my secret wish.
I am not much into Bollywood yet. However, my wife (Bhavna Vaswani) watches a lot of Hindi movies, so someday I might direct one too. Speaking of India, I really want to be in India more often - especially since my kids are growing up an I would like them to be acquainted with their motherland in a better way.
Fighting the charm
All these guys who are superstars are so charming and they have so many ways to disarm us that we forget they are truly accomplished actors. When I’m working with stars like Will Smith, I like to strip away all these personalities as much as possible and try to get the simplest performance out of them. Will is such a great dramatic actor; I’d prefer to see him to do more dramas than action films or comedies.