The Kaul of talent

Theatre and film actor-director Manav Kaul talks to Bhumika K about writing, death, reprising famous roles, and why actors need universities

CREATIVE Manav Kaul

A storehouse of talent, Manav Kaul seems made for today’s world that thrives on multiple creative capabilities. Playwright, theatre and film director and actor, now even producer, author of books… he’s juggling several roles and immersing himself in several processes. After the commercial success of Tumhari Sulu in 2017, Manav is back with a bang on the big screen with Badla this year, along with another recent release Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?, which tips its hat to the classic from almost four decades ago. He teams up for the second time with director Soumitra Ranade, in whose film Jajantaram Mamantaram, Manav made his film acting debut. Manav, who is known for his theatre group Aranya and his plays like Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane, is making his second venture on the web with the Netflix film The Music Teacher. Excerpts from an interview:

Why did you do this film? And why has it taken so long to be released (it took a couple of years to make)?

When you do a small budget film, and it’s produced and written by the director himself, it has some journey to go through. And if you have made a good film, it will eventually come out. We had immense belief in the film, we needed help in post-production. We were on Wishberry also (crowdfunding platform) to raise funds. We did our bit for it. It’s expensive to make a film. Eventually, it all came together and the film is releasing, and we are all happy about it.

You were not weary or apprehensive of reprising a role famously played by Naseeruddin Shah?

I’m from theatre and we don’t shy away from reprising roles that have been done before. If I have to do Tughlaq or any other play, there are great actors who have performed these plays. But when we do it, we interpret it in our own way. This is my Albert Pinto. This has nothing to do with what you have seen before.

As a creative person who is living in today’s world where everyone is talking about curtailing of freedom of expression, are you also angry with what is happening around you?

I feel angry mostly about one thing ­— how society sees any art form as a hobby and not a profession. It’s a social problem. We don’t take it seriously, where we need to explore, experiment and entertain people. We need universities for actors; not privately-owned acting institutes. A professional approach to any art form is not there. 

This year you are doing two films —’Badla’ is out and ‘The Music Teacher’ released on Netflix on April 19. You’re doing more films this year… any particular reason? Did you choose to do ‘The Music Teacher because it was for a web-based platform?

I guess for the first time things have started working for me! Badla is a hit and I’m happy. I read the script of The Music Teacher five years ago through a friend and found it really marvellous and it is an award-winning script — it’s a Sundance winner script. When Sarthak (director Sarthak Dasgupta) came to me with the script, I said, “We need to make it”. It’s such a stunning story. We all came together. And thank god, Netflix picked it.

Are you directing any film now?

After Hansa, the second film I directed was Tathagat. I’m right now in post-production. It’s based on the journey of a monk and based in the Himalayan Uttarakhand. It’s the story of a monk and his childhood guilt. Lovely story. Harish Khanna stars in it. I have written, directed, and produced the film. It should be out by the end of this year or early next year.

Which play are you working on currently?

I’ve just opened Chuhal – we performed in Chennai and Hyderabad recently. I am writing another one called Maranoprant or the after death. I hope I finish that by the end of this year.

Why so many stories around death?

I like this idea — to think about death. My father passed away a little over a year ago and I’m dealing with that. So I thought, let’s talk about death.

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