India’s Manohara Evolves From Award-Winning Child Actor to Director of Shanghai-Selected Film on Albinism ‘Bird of a Different Feather’

Indian actor and filmmaker Manohara has had an inspirational journey. Hailing from humble circumstances in Bengaluru, southern India, Manohara was picked out of school and cast by filmmaker Prithvi Konanur in “Railway Children” (2016), which won him best child actor at India’s National Film Awards.

Manohara went on to act in supporting roles in Konanur’s Busan and Hainan selection “Where Is Pinki?” (2020) and Busan, Hong Kong and Goa title “Seventeeners,” on which he also assisted.

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“Bird of a Different Feather” (“Mikka Bannada Hakki”) is based on Sonia S’s autobiography of the same name. Written by Manohara and Sonia S, the film is selected at the Shanghai International Film Festival where it has five nominations at the Asian New Talent Awards.

“Bird of a Different Feather” is the coming-of-age story of Sonia, who has albinism. Sonia comes from a poor family from a small village near Bengaluru. Her alcoholic father almost disdains her for what she is. And her mother is helpless, although well-intentioned. Aged 12, Sonia is saved from suicide by her mother. Sonia is admitted to a new school in the city with new classmates who are discriminatory and hostile because of how she looks, and her teachers are apathetic. The film explores her transformation from a shy, self-pitying teenager to a mature young woman who learns to live in peace with herself and her surroundings.

“I wanted to inspire the youth in my first film. I looked for a story in that direction in many places for many weeks. When I told this to Prithvi Konanur, he gave me the autobiography of the then 14-year old Sonia about struggles with albinism. Even before I started reading the novel, what interested me was the subject of albinism. Before this, I didn’t know that there was such a condition as albinism. What inspired me beyond this is a girl who at one time decided to take her own life after getting rejected and abused by the society and friends, transforms herself positively and relate with the society in a more positive manner,” Manohara told Variety.

“If you want to achieve something in life, all you need is perseverance, effort and a desire, and no shortcomings in life can stop you,” Manohara says about what he wants to convey through the film.

Manohara had worked with Konanur as an assistant during the making of the children’s documentary “Action, Drama, Cut.” “I had seen him comfortably working with children. And for his first film, I felt he would be comfortable with a children’s subject. So, when he wanted to explore a subject, he visited a few NGOs and other organizations who work with children for a children’s subject. However, he was not satisfied with any of the themes and subjects he came across,” Konanur told Variety.

Around that time, Konanur read Sonia S’s autobiography and felt that it would be a good fit for Manohara. “I also knew that it wouldn’t come from the novel alone. So, I made Manohara read this and when he felt that there was something interesting in the story, Manohara and Sonia sat together to weave the script. So, in essence the screenplay is taken from both Manohara and Sonia’s lives,” Konanur said.

A significant portion of “Bird of a Different Feather” was shot in Manohara’s village. The film is produced by Konanur’s Konanur Productions.

Manohara, 22, is now continuing his studies as a first-year master of commerce student in Bengaluru and was also involved in the sowing of the ragi (finger millet) crop in his village in the run-up to Shanghai. “I want to make films that hold a mirror to society. I’m working on such a screenplay. Having lived my life in the middle of middle class – poor families both at home and at college, I intend to explore a love story of the poor. What it means to be that couple in love with no money and the massive burden of the future on their heads,” Manohara said.

Konanur has a few scripts ready, including “Rashid” that was at Busan’s Asian Project Market in 2022. As for his plans for Manohara, he says, “I would encourage him to make films as well, but continue to pursue his passion for acting in mainstream films. Because, simply put, he is a brilliant actor. One of the best out there.”

Manohara Prithvi Konanur
Manohara, Prithvi Konanur

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