Popularly known as Mantra, this RJ-VJ-host-actor has been associated with everything from radio, television, theatre and films in the past 20 years. Mantra, who currently plays the Genie in Broadway musical Aladdin, will soon be seen in the film High Jack too. “I feel I started just yesterday. But actually, the journey has been on for 20 years now,” he recalled during an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Hailing from Indore, Mantra shares how he started his journey with All India Radio in 1998 and later became a part of a private FM station from its inception. “Life kept moving and growing. Radio went on forever. Even today, I do a couple of radio shows here and there. I’ve even started my own podcast called MnM Talkies. So it has been a full circle for me. You can say it’s a long journey, but like I said, it seems it all happened just yesterday,” he shared.
Mantra also gained a name as a popular host of shows like India’s Got Talent. He also showed his acting prowess in Comedy Circus and dancing talent in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. Mantra has been hosting the Pro-Kabaddi League for past four seasons. Calling radio as his first love, he, however, says acting is his new passion. “Hosting is an extension of radio. So I enjoy it because there I can be myself. Acting is more of a passion for me and I’m enjoying it more than anything else because you get to be somebody else. You aren’t just one person. So I think if you ask me today, acting is a newer passion for me,” said Mantra.
Coming to his character of Genie in the latest Broadway-style musical Aladdin, which is currently running in Mumbai, and is also gearing up to travel to other cities, Mantra revealed how this character chose him! “I’ve been saying – I didn’t choose the Genie. The Genie chose me. I’ve been associated with Disney for many years. But this happened around 4-5 months back. I was waiting for a project like this. And they approached me for Genie and everything else is history,” he told us. “Right now the biggest compliment is when people leave the hall after watching Aladdin, they say they remembered Robin Williams,” he added.
Does he feel India is seeing a growing audience for Broadway-style musical currently? “There couldn’t be a better time. Theatre was always considered the cousin of cinema. But the reality is theatre is the father of everything. Now, even theatre is seen in a newer avatar. Not just cinema is being made in digital space, even theatre has gone digital. It’s becoming larger than life. And as far as Broadway-style musicals are concerned, we had Beauty and the Beast, our homegrown Mughal-e-Azam… So I think it is a great time. And tickets are being sold out despite being so costly. This means people want to watch it,” he opined.
Mantra has also been doing theatre for more than a decade now. His association with Piya Behripiya won him instant fame on the stage too. Talking about the audience culture in theatre as compared to films, he said live performance is a different ball game. “In cinema, there is an empty wall with some light. There is no real person over there. But in theatre, there is live human being performing for you. That cannot be replaced. So the rush or the high of a theatre performer is much higher than a TV or a film actor,” Mantra shared.
So what is that one thing he would go back and do better in his career if given a chance? “I’d love to go back to radio someday. I’d love to do some better television and more theatre, better films. Everything can be done better. That’s what growth is all about,” he quipped.
He signs off stating that mediums don’t matter to him. “I’ve continued to be a performer. For the world they can be different things, for me, only mediums change, platforms change. But I continue to do what I do.”
Mantra is currently awaiting his comedy film High Jack, which also stars Sumeet Vyas, Sonnalli Seygall and Kumud Mishra. The film, which recently got postponed, is yet to get a release date.