Sometimes you have to listen to your gut and sometimes you have to listen to those around you for sage advice. In the extremely rare case, you can do both. When Manoj Sakarapani was cast as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company in “The Pill” it was a great occurrence of playing against type. Sakarapani is a soft spoken, intensely polite, and thoughtful person. The money grubbing CEO which he portrays in this film which explores the morality and ethics of the industry is an ego fueled opportunist. Taking on this role allowed the actor a chance to “swim in a pool” that he always avoids. It’s a benefit of being an actor and this is something that Manoj is exceptional at; in fact, a little to exceptional. His fellow cast mates felt such disdain for Manoj’s character during the filming (and surprise by his complete reversal of personality) that they continually made him promise to never pursue any work in the pharmaceutical industry because he would be a highly successful villain in it. Sakarapani concedes that he was highly convincing in “The Pill” while also finding the reactions of his costars amusing. It’s an age old conundrum for an actor, you want to be completely believable in your role, even if that means being believable as someone who is hated.
In “The Pill” a virus is spreading and a pharmaceutical company has found a cure for it, deliverable in the form of a pill. Once the pill is distributed and released to public, reports surface about its cures against the virus but also revealing deaths due to side effects of the pill. The CEO of the company sees an opportunity to take the company global and ignore the facts that the pill offers some cure but avoids the possibly fatal side effects. He puts intense pressure on the scientists and the quality control specialists and his team to produce large quantities and release the pill worldwide. While fending off direct conflicts the Scientist who discovered the pill and his team, the CEO also is confronted by the news media. A reporter interviews the CEO and the team regarding the discovery but secretly wants to uncover the truth of the drug and expose the CEO and his company to the public as money driven and disregarding of the serious damage to life. In a final heated discussion with the CEO, the scientist and the rest of the team refuse to release the pill. The big reveal and catharsis happens when the scientist forces the CEO to take one of these pills and tries to shove it down his throat. All of this is exposed to the public through media by the TV reporter who secretly tapes the whole thing with the aid of her camera operator.
As Brenden Fletcher in the movie, Manoj portrays a man who is money minded and who will do anything to take his company global. Fletcher is blindsided by the potential income and shows complete disregard for the potentially malevolent effects of this drug on members of society. He is willing to sacrifice his moral and ethical values because as it was so eloquently stated in the film Wall Street “Greed is good.” Sakarapani did not see the character as one sided and felt that the role was quite challenging. He explains, “As an actor you have to be versatile here because you are playing a really good guy with the media who states that he wants to save lives and cure humanity as your number one priority. At the same time, you have to play the greedy guy who wants this done right away before there are more complications and more negative news comes out about this drug. I enjoyed the versatility needed to play these contrasts with my acting range to convey the subject and the message to the audience that my character needed to deliver. My role tends to be more of a Chameleon because that is what I am doing with the reporter when I’m talking to her in person and with my team during conversations and heated discussions.”
The presentation of the film is non-linear, which helps to intensify the emotional impact of the story as well as provide some interesting twists and turns for the audience. The story was built in a way which wouldn’t have made sense in a linear approach. The story starts with a reporter trying to investigate why this Pharmaceutical company is still thriving but being tight lipped when asked about the deaths being reported. The reporter states that she wants to focus on the success of the company, which causes the CEO to perceive this as an opportunity for positive press. gets nice media for the company. Fletcher relaxes and begins to profess his aspirations to help humanity. At this point, flashback being to present the back story involved, revealing the CEO and team discussing the drug’s merits and shortcomings. The film vacillates between members of the team being interviewed by the reporter until she finally sneaks in to a live meeting that the CEO and his team are having which ends up dramatically against the CEO, publicly exposing him. This constant paradigm shift slowly revealed the layers of deception and intent on the part of Manoj’s character. The final shot of the film which slowly roles in on Sakarapani communicates the solace and defeat of a man who has gambled and lost it all, and he knows it.
Vanessa Gibuea, one of Manoj’s costars in “The Pill” states, “The only way to describe Manoj in this film is chilling. He plays it close to his chest. He’s not maniacal or overtly abusive in his portrayal; it’s not cartoonish. This is what makes it so frightening. What Manoj did was to present his character as a very real person. A real person makes a series of mistakes that eventually lead into one very big and bad decision. Brenden Fletcher is a person who lost sight of himself and his fellow man. That happens more often that we’d all like to admit. What was so striking about the way Manoj presented him is that he found all of those little decisions in his performance and you felt them rather than someone showing you them or telling about them all. It was amazing.”