When considering the industries that America is known for, the ones that originate here and which have preeminence in the world, filmmaking is the most noteworthy. While numerous companies and industries are famous for their contributions, Hollywood has spent more than a century as the world’s leader in the art form. One needs only to stand for a minute at the corner of Hollywood & Highland, near the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater to witness the eclectic group of nationalities represented in the tourists that travel from all over the world to visit the city which has inspired dreamers and admirers of cinema. The films produced here inspire audience and other film industries across the planet. India is the number three ranked in volume of films produced each year (closely behind China and the US). The past decade has seen the inclusion of many more talented actors of this country than ever before in US productions. While these professionals are lauded household names in their own county, their aspirations to be part of the most established and most respected film production community in the world drives them to Hollywood. It’s an idea that has been in the mind of Indian actor Manoj Sakarapani. He has already starred in a number of Canadian productions (The Pill, Don’t Let Go, Show Cop, and others) but admits that Hollywood holds a special place in the hearts and minds of actor from every country. That statement carries a lot of weight when one considers that Sakarapani was in this year’s massively successful AP International (India) release Sivalinga. The actor delivered a riveting and emotional performance as the antagonist in this 2017 Horror film by legendary Indian Filmmaker P. Vasu.
Manoj plays Rahul in Sivalinga. The jealous boyfriend of leading lady Ritika Singh, Rahul discovers her talking to another man (Raheem) and approaches her father, who sends thugs to beat him up. Things go too far and the beating becomes a murder. The crux of the movie is when this murdered man returns as a ghost to haunt the other characters in the film. When police officer Shivalingesh is assigned to investigate the case, the ghost possesses the officer’s wife, leading him to the clues to crack the case.
Sakarapani was admittedly excited to be in this major feature film release, as well as being the film’s main villain. In his estimation, the primary “bad guy” in the film allows for a wider emotional palate as well as avoids the responsibility that comes with being the centerpiece of the story. For an actor who wants to act and be challenged while still avoiding the publicity game, it’s an ideal situation. Being the villain is something that Manoj is becoming somewhat known for and which he embraces. Rather than focusing on the title or categorization of the character, this actor prefers to find the character which he finds most exciting and interesting…which somehow lean towards the less amiable ones.
Vasu cast Sakarapani as Rahul based on the strength of his audition. Vasu has directed, written, and produced one hundred fourty-one motion pictures in India and worked with some of the biggest stars including Super Star Rajnikanth, K. Bhagyaraj, Sathyaraj, and others. All of this has honed his sense of charisma meets talent in an actor, which he applied to Manoj. Sivalinga saw Manoj working with some of the most established actors in the Indian film world, comparable to Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, etc. Because the character of Rahul was so integral to the story, the filmmaker and actor had intensive discussion about how he should be portrayed on film. Sakarapani explains, “Mr. P. Vasu didn’t want Rahul to be seen as a crazy villain, a brutal villain, or a notorious one. That was too dramatic and somewhat cartoonish. We discussed Rahul being a very normal type of person at first, one who doesn’t realize that he has the potential to do such harm. He is a college student and that’s where I meet my girl Satya whom I develop a crush on which turns into jealousy. Everything goes downhill from there. Rahul doesn’t see himself as murderous. I played him as an angry, mean, rude, and rich boyfriend who is immature and takes everything personal.”
Standing on set acting with the most acclaimed veteran actors of his country was intimidating for Manoj. He credits P. Vasu with assisting him in navigating the situation. At one point early in the filming, the director pulled him aside and informed him that he was very talented and this role was a blessing, he could choose to relax and perform with the talent he already possessed or allow the experience to overwhelm him. The actor recalls that the minute Vasu yelled “Action” he followed his instinct, finding himself going toe to toe with the actors and actresses he had grown up watching; it was truly an empowering and inspirational occurrence for him. Sivalinga’s co-director Krishnan states, “Manoj found himself in a very difficult situation for this film. Most of our cast members were highly recognized and celebrated actors while he was the ‘new face.’ This can be a very uncomfortable place for an actor to exist in and can lead to making a character too big. Manoj did none of this though. His portrayal of Rahul, the impetus for the tragedy in the film, was performed with great restraint. The performance Manoj gave belied his youth. Rather, he acted as a veteran, a complete and actualized professional. I couldn’t be happier with what he brought to our film; it truly made the story much more compelling and believable.”
Sivalinga was a huge success in India at the box office and with fans. While stating that the greatest benefit of his involvement was the chance to work closely with so many accomplished actors and use the knowledge of this experience in his approach towards other roles, he concedes that the attention he received from the public was both unexpected and something he had to learn to react to gracefully. He recalls, “Seeing this on the screen for the first time with the public was an odd situation. I was sweating and hiding my face because people started noticing me and pointing in my direction in the theatre. After the movie they came running to me saying, ‘Hey look, it’s Rahul! They came and took selfies and got autographs from me and wished me well. They told me even though I am a star now, I don’t act like one. They told me that I’m very down to earth like their next door neighbor.” It sounds like Manoj Sakarapani would fit into Hollywood very well.