By Arundhuti Banerjee
Can acting be taught or does it come from the experiences of life?
Manoj, whose application to the National School of Drama (NSD) was rejected multiple times, told IANS: "I think the craft of acting can be taught. Yes, there's a lot we embrace from the experience of life and to a certain point, there is an inborn talent. But acting is a mix of talent and craft.
"I know many average actors, who learnt the craft rightly and with the years of practice, they have managed to find their way. That is why we go to some of the great institutes in our country like NSD and Film and Television Institute of India. Some of the greatest personalities of the craft visit there to teach youngsters about acting.
"Having said that, I believe one can only teach you the art of acting if you are passionate about it... This art form comes from passion."
In Aiyaary, Manoj shares the frame with young actor Sidharth Malhotra. He is impressed by Sidharth's interest in learning.
"I love to share my experience with youngsters, especially with those who have an interest to learn the craft. I have been conducting acting workshops from the age of 26 when I learn it from Barry John. When Sidharth called me and showed his interest to know more about the craft of acting, I was more than happy to share.
"While shooting, I do not try to correct anybody because that is the director's area. But off the set, if a youngster like Sidharth is willing to learn, for me, sharing becomes all the more enjoyable," Manoj said.
Giving a glimpse into the story of Aiyaary, he said: "The story revolves around a mentor and protegee and the ideology between two different generations. The journey of these two characters that I and Sidharth are playing is the life of the story.
"Yes, there are some look changes in the film which comes in some of the crucial parts of the film, but moreover, the story is very interesting. It is not about soldiers fighting for the country on the border, but within the country."
In the past, Manoj has worked with director Neeraj Pandey in films like Special 26, Saat Uchakkey and Naam Shabana. So how has their relationship evolved?
"I think my bonding has evolved with Neeraj film to film. Off the set, we meet many times and talk a lot about sharing ideas and opinions. We are on the same wavelength intellectually and as creative people," Manoj replied.
Starting his career in 1994, Manoj has struggled through his life and most of his content-driven films were not well-promoted. Now that he has opened up with the media and indulges in promotional activities, how does he find the change?
"Well, it is something that needs to be done and to an extent all, we actors are happily doing it. There are some conversations with our media friends that I find interesting. At times, it is not exactly boring, but yes a little monotonous. But I think promoting a film is a good thing.
"Earlier in my life, when I started acting in films, there was a constant struggle to get visibility of those films. Now it has changed," he said with a smile.
"Now, every film finds its audience. Therefore, it is a great time for actors. There are so many opportunities and one has to be fit-and-fine to do justice to the performances. When I am staying fit, it does not mean building up the body, but being mentally and spiritually fit enough to act. Mental health matters a lot when you are performing, because you are emoting emotions," he shared.
Aiyaary is releasing on February 9.