Manahar Kumar is a writer-student EMMY® award-winning director-actor. His short documentary called, kya dekh raha hai? (What are you looking at?) fetched him an EMMY® and 9 International film festival selections. Most recently, his thesis film, Stardust won the Audience Award for Best Short at the Georgia Film Festival and was selected at the International South Asian Film Festival, Toronto. Manahar also acted in ‘Mabrook' which was greatly appreciated at the Oscar-qualifying, 2021 Atlanta Film Festival, and has been recently selected at Palm Springs International Shortfest 2021. In an interview with Asian Voice, he spoke about his craft and choices.
Q - How did you get into creating, writing and producing films?
Born and brought up around professional English Theatre in Chandigarh, North India, and pursuing my undergraduate degree in Manipal, South India, my worldview expanded, after observing many kinds of India in one India. Being part of classics like The Mousetrap, Mother’s Day, The Night of January 16 and 12 Angry Jurors, I learned, grew and fell in love with performing arts. In Manipal, I co-founded a production house, UnTied Laces. This was followed by various projects, across different genres, where I contributed as a writer, cinematographer, director, editor and actor including a music video in collaboration with the non-profit, Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD) that sought to inspire and mobilize more men to stand up against everyday sexual violence in India.
Q - What did you study, and what amount of extra effort went into this journey?
I completed my Masters of Fine Arts in Film & TV from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, Georgia. All through my filmmaking journey at SCAD, I also acted in Pilots, thesis films, for SCAD and Columbia University, New York. As a graduate student at Savannah College of Art & Design, I won the “Most Likely to be a Renowned Actor” Ambassador’s Choice Award and the “Outstanding Academic Achievement Award”. I helmed the lead role in SCAD Atlanta’s Pilot Production – What Remains of Emily. Due to my family consisting mostly of teachers and educators, at first, everyone was taken aback. I pursued Engineering, albeit for just two-and-a-half weeks and realised quickly that that wasn’t going to be the best route for me.
Q - What it is like, and what does it take to showcase your work on an international stage, especially at film festivals?
There are numerous subtle gifts when friends and strangers reach out and make me aware of how my work has touched a chord with them, be it as an epiphany in their life or praise or constructive criticism. I am deeply grateful for each and every message. This makes me realise I’m on the right path. Slow progress, in the right direction, is progress nonetheless.
It takes patience and extreme resilience to stick to ideas, transformed them into stories and see them through. The human ego is huge enough to believe that we have ideas, but truthfully and soulfully, it’s the other way around.
Q - What do you think is the right way to go in order to make sure your art is seen and critiqued in the right way, but the right people?
To be completely honest, there isn’t a right way to make art. There’s your way, which the creator has to find, hone and continuously evolve. Sadly, the most underrated quality is to listen - to the story, the characters, your own biases and most importantly, your intuition.