'Scoop', a Hansal Mehta film which revolves around the life of crime reporter Jigna Vora, has been receiving rave reviews. The six-episode series is also considered one of the best works on journalists and their passion for scoops, to be made in India. Even as the actors are basking in the success of the series, Onmanorama catches up with Malayali actor Manoj Mani Mathew who played Jagruti Pathak's colleague Venugopal in the hit series.
It's nice to know a Malayali actor was also part of the series. Tell us a little about your family.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai. My parents are from Kerala. My father's village is Onakkoor in Ernakulam and my mother's village is Keezhoor in Kottayam. I have two older sisters Manju and Maya. My father shifted to Mumbai in the late '60s for work. Since then we have been living in Mumbai. We do visit our native place once a year.
How did 'Scoop' happen? You were part of 'Farzi' as well.
A casting assistant (whom I worked with earlier) from Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company (MCCC) had contacted me for a role in 'AK vs AK' which was released on Netflix. That role clicked somehow with the MCCC and Mukesh Chhabra himself. I met him a couple of times during other auditions and he used to always tell me 'You are a good actor' or 'I loved your audition'. These small gestures, especially coming from a big casting director, are huge for a struggling or upcoming actor. So MCCC was casting for both 'Scoop' and 'Farzi'. They called me for an audition for a role in each show. My audition worked with the direction team and that's how I got it.
I also got cast by them for a role in 'The Night Manager' which was released in March 2023 on Disney Hotstar. The second part of the show will release on June 30.
Do you consider yourself lucky?
I do feel fortunate to get good and notable roles regularly. But there have been a lot of misses than hits too. The important thing is to keep trying and not to give up. I am always trying to keep myself grounded during both my successes and failures. My family and my few close friends are always there to keep me grounded.
About your journey as an actor.
After my Master's in Theatre Arts, I worked as a casting director and assistant director at a production House called Chrome Pictures for almost three years. My time there opened my eyes to how the film industry functions, both in good and bad ways. I used to act in some commercials as a background actor because my director told me to. It was good fun doing that from time to time. Working on the sets behind the camera gave me good confidence to perform in front of the camera from time to time. I later freelanced for a while and then started my own Production House called Mathai Talkies.
I got my first big break as an actor for a Mastercard commercial with Irfaan Khan in 2018. After that, I took acting more seriously as a career. I feel fortunate to keep getting work in TV commercials and now web shows and films.
How was it working with a veteran director like Hansal Mehta?
Hansal sir is a lovely person and you can see that beauty come across in all his films. He was always relaxed on the sets. He knows what he wants from the character and also gives each actor a space to perform. You could observe the same work ethic within his core direction and production team too.
He and his team showed me that an entire shoot can be done peacefully without being rude to people. They were pretty sorted as production and direction team.
Your role as Venugopal is interesting in Scoop. How did you approach the character?
Venugopal was an interesting role as I read the script. He was a smart ass with a lot of sarcasm in his conversation. I enjoyed the sarcasm part because most of my friends and I interact the same way. He was envious of Jagruti as a colleague because she always used to get the first-page byline but he also had respect for her work as a journalist since she always got the best scoop. It was typical office political behaviour. Venu's character knew it affected Pushkar (Tanmay Dhanania) more, so he never missed a chance to poke him in a fun way. In the final episode, you can see Venu's support for her when Pushkar is made the editor-in-chief and he confronts his bosses about publishing an article on Jagruti's case's chargesheet saying it was very weak. He believed she was innocent and wanted to help her in his small capacity.
A little bit about working with the actors in the series?
My portions were mostly shot in the Eastern Age office scenes. So I got to work with Karishma Tanna and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub mostly. They both were good fun to work with during the shoot.
Cracking jokes and helping each other with dialogues in between takes. My other co-actors like Eshaan Pereira, Aniruddh Rawal, Inayat Sood and Tanmay Dhanania were pretty awesome to work with too.
I felt Hansal sir was confident and happy with us bunch of actors in the Eastern Age scenes as he used to tell us you guys know your scenes and now have fun and perform. We all ended up working as a good team together. We all were just having so much fun shooting together. I enjoyed discussing our scenes and the whole series during the food breaks with them. There was never a dull moment during the whole shoot.
'Farzi', in which you played Iqbal Khan, was also a hit. How does it feel to be part of series and shows that are doing good on top OTT platforms?
It feels fantastic to be part of all these successful shows. Even 'The Night Manager' was a huge hit along with 'Farzi' in March. I feel very fortunate to be part of all these shows. I always feel I am doing things right somewhere. I hope this continues in the future too.
Are you consciously choosing OTT series over films?
I am not consciously choosing OTT series over films. It's just I am getting more offers from OTT films/shows. I am more than happy to do good roles in any medium. In present times, it doesn't matter where these shows release if the character is loved by the audience.
Your future projects?
My future projects are a Web Show on Disney Hostar directed by Bejoy Nambiar and a feature film which is a Hindi remake of Soorarai Pottru directed by Sudha Kongara.