In commercial terms, to be a producer, I think you’ve got to be a fairly sophisticated jack of a lot of trades and probably king of a few as you need to juggle a lot of things. And this is what Manoj Maheshwar of Maheshwar Films International is, as he readies himself with his first Bollywood project Today’s Last Night which will be releasing during Janamashtami. Right from producing to acting to devising the marketing strategies for releasing the film pan India to promoting the songs under his own music label, there is a chef-like quality to this astonishing personality. On a rainy Saturday, Editor Soham Siddharth caught up with this amazing person over a cup of coffee..
Films & TV World: When did the cinema bug bite you?
Manoj Maheshwar: I am born and brought up in Kolkata. As a passionate youngster eager to have a secure future, I was preparing for medical field as my parents wanted me to become a doctor. Those were also the times when I got permission from my parents to see a film in the cinema hall. And thus I saw my first film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge on the big screen. I was so much impressed and got carried away by the romance between Sharukh and Kajol, the exotic locations and the way the film showed the ups and downs in ones life before finally emerging a winner. I was so impressed by all these that I crazily saw 3 shows back to back and even the next day all the three. I don’t know actually what impressed me, but I was sure - I wanted to rule people’s hearts and that was possible only through films and acting.
After a lot of thinking, I finally decided in my heart of hearts to choose acting as a career. But I did not know how to start and where to start from. And those were not the days of google and internet. Somehow I researched on the cinema and the industry, albeit without my parent’s knowledge. And then started the tedious task of making my parents see my way. However, my parents contrary to others understood my passion and supported me. And I went all the way from Kolkata to Delhi to complete my diploma in acting from Padmini Kolhapure School of Acting, Delhi. I picked up the nuances of acting from the institute and finally in 2000 moved for Mumbai to start my uphill struggle of becoming an actor.
FTV: An actor and a producer, why did you add this extra designation?
Manoj: It was a long road to becoming an actor. Initially I did a lot of small roles in serials like Kehta Hai Dil, Kasautii Zindagi Ke and so on. I also went on to do many small budget films and ad films, did print modelling and what not. But it was too tough to get the dream role of your choice. After a lot of thought, I decided to start my own production houseMaheshwar Films International with a dream to do the kind of films I believe in. Under my own banner, I went on to produce couple of regional films and I also acted in it. I also went on to start an acting institute MFI Acting Institute through which I wanted to groom students for this industry as well promote my students according to their ability under my own banner too.
FTV: Whom have u learnt your trade from?
Manoj: My first producer, friend and brother who inspired me and helped me in every way possible in those tough days was Mr Mohan Das of Eon Films. It was thus my endless journey of acting and production began and today I am here with all my MFI students including me with my film - Today's Last Night.
FTV: Bhjojpuri or Hindi? Where do you find your calling?
Manoj: I believe cinema has no boundations. India is a diverse country and the languages are just a part – be it Hindi or any regional language. But the creative process or the technology involved to do a good film is just the same in any language. In fact I am ready to do films in any languages, because I really want to convey my presence in all the communities of our country. I am looking forward for good script in Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Tamil and so on. I have even recorded the songs of my upcoming film Today’s Last Night in 7 languages - Marathi, Punjabi, Garhwali, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Bengali & Nepali for promotion and to give the message that a good story line does not have any language barriers nor needs any star. Initially we can grab business with stars but in the long run only good script matters. Sairat is just an example.
FTV: What is Today’s Last Night all about? What is the story of the film?
Manoj: Terrorism has no religion. The film depicts how young boys are getting caught in the mesh and there is rampant conversion to turn them as terrorists. The film also carries a positive message that even without any weapon, through the marg of ahimsa, we can still change the negative mind of a terrorist with love and humanity.
FTV: So is Today’s Last Night anything like the patriotic films we have seen so far?
Manoj: Though the basic premise is INDIANS VS TERRORISM, yet it’s very different from the films we have seen so far. But the basic fact remains that all individuals whether good or bad does love its own country. The positive part is we have also showed a very different and a positive Chief Minister who puts country first before his family and that I think every politician should be.
FTV: You have released the songs under your own music label. Tell us something about the music of the film?
Manoj: Since ours is an action film with lots of firing, blasts and so on; hence I wanted to have soothing music to touch our souls straightaway. I thus asked my music director Om Jha to work on the same and he understood my consept and put his whole heart in making the songs. The music has turned out awesome and is already becoming a rage on the digital platforms.
FTV: How is the music faring on the promotional platforms?
Manoj: The entire digital marketing for promotion of the audio and the music of the film is done by my own music company Mann Music Entertainment. And working on the strategies, it is getting much more attention on every digital platform - be it on Hungama, Wink, iTunes, Gaana.com and others. I’m happy that the songs are fast becoming a craze even though we don’t have any big star singers crooning for us. But having said that, I believe if the music is composed to touch your hearts and souls, it’s bound to find its own audience as everyone tries to find their own emotions through film music. And we Indians love music and songs in everything we do or go through – be it love, romance, sadness, celebrations, anything.
Manoj: Yes! Actually I am a big fan of Sharukh Khan., his energy levels and also his marketing strategies that he adopts for his films. Just the same way he promoted his Jabra song of FAN in 11 languages, I too am following my idol. We have dubbed my film song in 7 languages till now. He was the first to experiment this in Bollywood and I am happy to state that we are second to him. Does this call for any record??
FTV: How was your shooting experience and how do you find this director different from the ones you have worked in the past?
Manoj: Every director has its own imitable style of working. I loved Sunny Kapoor’s (the director of Today's Last Night and a known director who worked for Sagar Arts) style of working as he understands the problems and situations a producer faces not only in making a film but the uphill task he undergoes to promote the same and get it a decent release. Im happy to say that he took care of most of the thing, mainly working in a controlled budget and not letting it go haywire. He also completed within a given time frame thereby not letting budget escalate which usually happens. I also want to specially thank him that he tackled very smoothly with new comers and got the best out of these new talents. The proof is for all to see on the big screen. make their scene do easily..
FTV: Your film will be releasing this 26th. What are your expectations from the film?
Manoj: Let me be very clear in this answer. I won’t lie. Yes. The answer is yes and yes. I am definitely hopeful is all I will say. I really expect a lot from this film just as any other producer not just to make money, but because this is one of my dream project. Let me tell you – A film is like a child to any producer. Just as you would do your best for your kid, I learned early in my career that you have to get very involved with the project. And so I was. Right from the story to the making to every single poster design, every single trailer edit, every single featurette, or every single piece of marketing ideas and strategies - I have been over-seeing all. And I really want everyone to see this film. It is laced with a good story, emotions, drama, music, action, and above all – our love for our motherland reigns supreme is what is showed in this film.
FTV: What are your upcoming projects?
Manoj: I will continue making films and that too mainly with newcomers and fresh talent. At every turn, I am determined to not have this feel like typical production house or a typical producer and shun new comers. That means we are all encompassing and a little more iconic and our approach to the functioning of the industry is completely untraditional as we are all to support talent and authenticity. This is our guiding mandate. Also, one of the main reasons to work with fresh talents is to complete the film in time and also any fresh talent doesn’t waste his or hers valuable time just to get a first break. As of now, a stream of projects are lined up - Silent Don, Risky Ishq, Ishq Na Ho Yun Kabhi, Tohra Pe Kurbaan, Welcome Mami to name a few.
As we come to an end of this interview, one thing gets clear. This man is definitely made of steel and is ready to go the extra mile to achieve what he has been dreaming of. And his plan is to continue with his own set of ideas while introducing a few more strategies to upp his quotation in the big bad world of films. And win he will. Just the same way he is in love with his project and expects the best; we too are hopeful that we will meet soon talking over another film maybe a few months later with a new project of his. Till then, wishing him and his film all the best, I make a move before it starts raining once again.