Career built on flops

Rooted actor

Career built on flops
He is completely aware of his strengths and weaknesses. Manoj Bajpayee, from the time when he would spell his name as Manoj Bajpai, is a powerful and passionate actor, with awards and accolades lavishly conferred on him. He is no money-spinner after whom the big names run, no champion in any 100-crore-clubs and — in short — no star.

“The hits I have given in my career of 24 years (beginning with Drohkaal in 1994) can be counted on my fingers. I am probably the best example of an actor who has built his career on flops!” he laughs.

On the screen
Among his best work across hits and flops are Satya, Shool, Zubeidaa, Road, Aks, Raajneeti, Special 26, Gangs Of Wasseypur, Aligarh and two of his own favourites — Saat Uchhakkey and Budhia Singh — Born To Run. His latest outing, Naam Shabana, saw him as an intelligence officer, while he has a key role in Sarkar 3, due for an early release.

His looks in his two Neeraj Pandey films, Special 26 and Naam Shabana, were similar. What does he have to say about that? “Well, it’s my face only in both cases,” he smiles. “My moustaches were similar, but then, those kinds are very common in government officers. But my characters were completely different. In effect, I played a cocky idiot in Special 26, whereas in Naam Shabana, I was this cold, unemotional intelligence officer, whose only passion was to serve the nation without even being written about.”

What was the research, if any, done on his character? “I had long chats with Neeraj,” he informs. “He had met such people with a no-disclosure clause. He had the material, but did not even tell us anything about the identities of these people who are so selfless. Most of them do not even tell their families what they do. Their lives are not recorded, their deaths not recorded either.”

What about Sarkar 3? “I have a long association with Ram Gopal Varma. We first did Satya, which was my first hit, then Kaun? and Road. My role in Sarkar 3 is small, but is a very important character. So, when Ramu approached me for the character of Govind Deshpande, I immediately agreed to do it,” he says.

About his last acclaimed movie, Aligarh, he says, “I was playing a 64-year-old professor, somebody from a completely different world. The film is about the right to privacy, which is very close to my heart. For example, I never interact with the media whenever I am shooting a film.”

Manoj tells us that people like to watch him as a real person. “Stars are very, very good at what they do,” he admits. “They are born and blessed with charisma and power over the entire nation. One glimpse of them and people go berserk. Such magic cannot be created. You are either born with it or not. My strength is my ability to deliver and perform. I am gifted with that quality, and so I stick to it.”

No favourite genre
However, Manoj adds a key point. “Some mainstream people are fond of me and offer me good roles, so I just go ahead and do them. I have always believed that an actor cannot afford to have a favourite genre. He must excel in every kind of film, and fit in with the director’s vision. Whether it is Gangs Of Wasseypur, Budhia Singh..., Raajneeti, Aligarh or Tevar, I am a part of all.” And that, he feels, is the beauty of this industry, where everyone is doing what he likes best to do.

“Among the commercial filmmakers who hate anything non-mainstream, I have friends who tell me genuinely, ‘Manoj, why do you do such films? You are bigger than all these. You should do mainstream films.’ But I am stubborn about my choices. I will always make films about which I am passionate.”

But does not the fact that his kind of cinema gets only a restricted release in non-prime-time shows in multiplexes upset him? “The struggle is on, I admit, but that will not stop me from being our part of such films,” he replies.

“As I said, such films are my passion, my calling, even my destiny. They are what I enjoy doing most, as they give me loads of satisfaction. I do not blame the multiplexes for being partial to films that bring in the moolah. But the ideal thing would be to do us a fair amount of justice too,” he says.

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