10 Years of Manam: A film truly loved and celebrated for what it was

Director Vikram Kumar's family drama has been re-released in theatres on 23 May, marking its 10th anniversary.

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi

Published May 23, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMay 23, 2024 | 9:00 AM

10 years of Manam

Occasionally, a film comes along that is original, audacious, and truly pathbreaking. A decade after its release, director Vikram Kumar’s Manam (2014) still evokes its first viewing memories after daring to go beyond the entertainment factor.

Very few Telugu films in the last decade left such a lasting impact as Manam, made with three generations of Akkineni family actors. And, there are no second thoughts about it.

The film is set in various periods, over 100 years up until 2013, and deals with the concepts of rebirth and eternal love.

The plot features a wealthy businessman named Nageswara Rao attempting to bring together a young couple, who resemble his deceased parents, and the elderly Chaitanya’s attempts to bring the businessman and a doctor together.

The businessman and the doctor resemble Chaitanya’s deceased parents who died because of a mistake committed by him in his childhood.

The wow factor of Manam

Nagarjuna and Naga Chaitanya in Manam

Nagarjuna and Naga Chaitanya in ‘Manam’. (X)

Manam could be simply described as a familiar family saga with a twist.

But it was the perfect concoction of going against the formula while staying wildly inventive with a ton of laughter.

One of the first words I uttered after walking out of the theatre on the first day of its release was “wow”. It’s an expression, in my opinion, that most would still associate with the movie.

Manam has its heart in the right place. Maybe, which is why we are still discussing it now. 

Its successful attempt to stitch together concepts such as reincarnation and multiple periods, and still make it as entertaining as possible for the masses, truly made it pathbreaking.

What’s the point of having such high-end concepts when audiences can’t make sense of them?

This is where Vikram Kumar stood out as a filmmaker who ensured it was important to entertain the audiences while teasing them with unique concepts.

Manam never felt like it was trying too hard to make an impression or look cool with its concepts. It felt like one of those films that aspired to entertain while ensuring that it had something fresh to offer to the audiences.

It’s extremely rare to make a flick with such high concepts so accessible to the masses. And, this is where Manam succeeded big time.

EXCLUSIVE: Shades of grey, politics, and Kishore Kumar’s artistic pursuits

The Akkineni family

The Akkineni family actors

The Akkineni family actors: Naga Chaitanya, Akhil, late Nageswara Rao, and Nagarjuna. (X)

No other filmmaker, up until that point, dared to make a movie featuring actors from three generations of the Akkineni family.

It was a huge responsibility and Vikram Kumar was quite aware of what he was dealing with.

The fact that Vikram didn’t cast the Akkineni trio just for the heck of it, but had a solid purpose through their characters made the film very special.

Interestingly, the well-written characters superseded the real-life image of the late Nageswara Rao, Nagarjuna, and Naga Chaitanya, enabling their on-screen characters to complement each other quite convincingly.

In an interview, Nagarjuna said his father Nageswara Rao was excited to share screen space with Amitabh Bachchan, whom he always considered one of the finest actors in the country.

“My father (Nageswara Rao) always thought of Bachchan Saab as one of our finest actors. I thought just having him in my film would be an honour to my father’s memory.”

Shriya Saran and Samantha were the female leads

Nagarjuna, Shriya Saran, and Samantha in ‘Manam’. (X)

When Nagarjuna asked Amitabh, he immediately agreed. “We didn’t want Bachchan saab’s appearance to be made public. We wanted it to be a surprise. But nothing he does can remain undisclosed,” the Telugu star hero added.

When Manam was in its post-production, Nageswara Rao tragically passed away.

To date, many consider the film the near-perfect send-off to the legendary actor and that even he wouldn’t have wished for a better film to have come his way.

Nageswara Rao’s performance was one for the ages as it was filled with infectious energy and child-like enthusiasm that was rare to bring on screen.

It takes a lot of guts to cast actors from three different generations of the same family and deliver a memorable film.

Vikram Kumar not only succeeded in achieving this, but he also extracted the best performances from them.

Also Read: Tracking Jr NTR’s stardom on his birthday: From a child actor to a global icon

The rise of Vikram Kumar

Late actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao on the sets of Manam

Late Akkineni Nageswara Rao with Vikram Kumar on the sets of ‘Manam’. (x)

Vikram Kumar was just two Telugu films old when he got the opportunity to direct Manam.

His previous release Ishq (2012) was a blockbuster and he was riding high on its success. However, it was a straightforward romantic comedy.

Therefore, he had to prove everyone wrong that he was no one film wonder.

Manam didn’t disappoint audiences and critics alike. Nevertheless, most importantly, it cemented the director’s place in the industry among the legion of filmmakers to watch out for.

Vikram’s career truly soared post-Manam. His next release, 24 (2016; featuring Suriya in the lead), was even more ambitious and highly experimental.

Vikram Kumar quickly emerged as one of those filmmakers who always came up with out-of-the-box concepts and execution.

If not for Manam, his career wouldn’t have reached where it is today.

The journey of Manam started when Vikram narrated the concept to producer Sudhakar Reddy (while filming Ishq).

Sudhakar suggested that he take the idea to the Akkinenis as it would suit them the most. Looking back, it’s safe to say that with Manam, Vikram made a place for himself in Tollywood.

Vikram–Naga Chaitanya combo

director Vikram Kumar having fun during the shoot

Vikram Kumar, Ali, and Naga Chaitanya having fun during ‘Manam’ shoot. (X)

After working together in Manam, Vikram and Naga Chaitanya became the closest of friends.

Post-release, they worked together in Thank You (2022) and the web series Dhootha (2023).

While Thank You turned out to be a damp squib, the duo redeemed themselves strongly with Dhootha, a horror mystery thriller.

Season 2 of the web show is already in the works.

Manam also played a key role in sculpting Naga Chaitanya’s career. The film came at a time when he was reeling under the failures of three back-to-back films—Dhada (2011), Bejawada (2011), and Tadakha (2013).

Manam gave Chaitanya a lot of scope to prove himself as a capable actor and he shone well in his scenes.

In one of his interviews, the young actor revealed that Manam was the most challenging character he had ever essayed in his career.

“It was a crazy idea to even envision, and I don’t know how Vikram even managed to pull it off successfully. I’m thankful to him for giving me the most challenging role of my career.”

Meanwhile, Manam is gearing up for re-release in theatres on Thursday, 23 May, marking its 10th anniversary.

The film also stars Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Shriya Saran as female leads.

Amitabh Bachchan had a cameo appearance.

It has to be seen whether the Manam re-release will create the same kind of euphoria during the original release.

Also Read: Director Vikram K Kumar opens up about ‘Dhootha’ web series