He’s here to act

He’s here to act

Manoj Bajpayee

He played the antagonist in Satyameva Jayate, a hardcore commercial entertainer with a patriotic angle that released on Independence Day. But that’s his rare commercial side. Because, in a way, Manoj Bajpayee is, perhaps, the most unique actor Hindi cinema has ever seen. Here’s a man who, for 24 years, has had a record of over 90% of his films flopping at the box-office.

“My existence is a logistical miracle. I am known mainly for my flops in an industry that runs on box office,” he grins. “People talk more about my flops than my hits. Look at Aligarh, the film that people were shy of being seen watching in the theatre. But today, it is considered classic.”

Audience connect

Manoj is happy that he has been accepted the way he is, “People think of me as someone their own. The audience connects with my characters. I love the feeling I get when we put different kinds of films in front of the audience, which they remember, talk and think about,” he says.

Manoj agrees that he always had a clear-cut goal of doing only worthwhile films when he came into the industry. “I would sit at home if I did not get work worth my while,” he says simply. “That is why you see some large gaps between my films. Of course, in a few cases when money was dwindling, I would do a commercial film that paid well.”

He hastens to add that Satyameva Jayate does not fall into that category, as he is now in his busiest phase as an actor. “I am getting such great roles. It’s an amazing time, there are so many platforms and good roles being written, and young directors who do not play safe. I am a greedy actor, and I am willing to adjust and slog now. I have sat too long at home.”

The role and the way it is presented was what hooked Manoj in Satyameva Jayate. “John is a genuine man and I feel good in his company,” he says quietly. “The conflict is superb, as are the underlying emotions. It is a cat-and-mouse chase, between the killer and a cop. The best part is that the film is about corruption, a core issue in India.”

Manoj makes a clear-cut differentiation between mainstream and offbeat cinema. “In a mainstream film, you don’t think too much, but listen to the director,” he says. “In Satyameva Jayate, every frame is targeted at entertaining the audience and each and every dialogue is planned. In the other kind, you have to be true to the story and get into the character. In such films, we do not think about the money, though the budget is so slim that most films do recover the investment.”

On working with the young

Manoj wants to leave behind 30 great films as his legacy. “I think I still have 20 to go,” he smiles. The man, who started out with In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, a television movie in 1989, and some more television series until 1994 when he made his big-screen debut with Drohkaal (1994), shot to prominence as Bhiku Mhatre in Satya (1998). His other very few successes, among some 70 releases, include Veer-Zaara, Raajneeti, Special 26, Naam Shabana and, as a narrator only, Rustom.

Manoj has a special place in his heart, however, for new and young filmmakers. “A new filmmaker has nothing to lose. Usually, he has a revolutionary idea, and for years, he has been sleeping with it. He does not think about anything else as he only wants to bring a change in cinema,” he says.

Coming up also are Bhonsle, a project he has lived with for over four years, Love Sonia, which has also received a lot of hosannas at international festivals, and Sonchiriya.

Clearly, Manoj Bajpayee, in the 30th year of his career as an actor, is set to capitalise on the variety being offered in entertainment, as he concludes, “I will go wherever there is a good role, even television or theatre.”






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