Small town boys come with their own charm. Coming from a small village in Bihar, Manoj Bajpayee has had an eventful journey in Mumbai – from television to the big screen, from character roles to cine-lover’s favourite baddie – a span of 20 years in showbiz studded with many awards and accolades. Today Bollywood knows him as a veteran actor who adds substance to his films and can take a character to a whole new level.
Business of Cinema spoke exclusively to the actor, as he was preparing to shoot for Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, where he plays a gay professor.
- Why do we usually find you in negative roles these days?
The difference between black and white is fast disappearing! Today life, and hence films project more of grey characters. The extent of grey makes the difference! I don’t really care whether you call me the hero or villain in a film. Rather I concentrate on the human being that I am portraying. I try to research and present the human angle of nurturing evil intentions. I try to bring out the advantages and disadvantages of being a character, when you put him under certain circumstantial limitations. I try to act like what I would have done, had I been in his shoes. Days of heroes and villains are gone. Rather, there are a range of dimensions that I can explore as an actor within the boundaries of a film.
- You are known for niche category of films. How did a mainstream flick like Tevar happen?
Your question is a compliment. Thanks. I have been trying to achieve experience of acting in all kinds of cinema. I am not against any particular genre. I am against the repetition of a formula. Tevar offered an unconventional love story! It was more of a love triangle with one of them being a negative guy. This opened exponential scope for me to explore myself. End of the day what you look for is a good script. Niche or mainstream, if the content is good then it becomes a niche in its own category!
- Arjun Kapoor is half a generation junior to you. Did you feel any difference while working with him?
Every generation has challenges. Everyone here chases their own dreams. I happened to be very competitive, extremely fierce about what I wanted, when I debuted; I still am. In my entire career I have continued with the same gusto. But experience has taught me to channelize my energy in the right direction. May be I am more skilled now on how I should react to things or I control myself better and respond with relevant attachment or detachment to different situations. With the time I have spent in this industry, I have turned much more organized. The new generation is spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, but they certainly know how to carry that attitude. For those who are in the same bracket of age and experience as I, restlessness is inside, not outside.
- You are playing a gay character in Hansal Mehta’s film, Aligarh! Did you take any preparations to understand gay sensibilities?
I have been preparing for this role since long. I have been rehearsing a lot. It is a very demanding role and I can’t tell you how nervous I am about it. I am not sure how to talk about it, what to say and where to stop!
- Prakash Jha holds a special place in your filmography.
Prakash Jha has explored my capacities like no one has ever done. His genre of films always carries a socially relevant theme, which makes it even more interesting. Prakash gave me a perspective. I am also hugely indebted to Ram Gopal Verma for helping me develop a versatile profile. No one would have envisaged me as Bhikhu Mhatre in that stage of my career; Satya is a very special film for me. Even with films like Kaun, Shool, Road, each fundamentally different from the other, he helped develop my confidence as an actor.
- From Swabhimaan to Encounter, has television changed? What do you feel?
Television has grown into a huge industry. There are so many channels today. There are so many genres of programmes, so many options under the same genre, a reality and fiction show runs simultaneously on two different channels, they are giving lavish lives to so many professionals. When we were doing Swabhimaan, some of us still struggled to pay our rents. Television has grown. Keeping fit, motivated and building up an exciting & diverse portfolio is a challenge on small screen as much as it is on big screen.
- For your work you have to stay away from home for long months. Does this affect your personal life?
Yes, very badly. I, my wife and my child, we miss each other very badly. I normally don’t emote too openly but my prolonged absence from home at times leaves me miserable. There are some simple joys in watching your child grow up and engage in innocent activities with every passing day. It is a huge sacrifice that I can’t spend enough time with my family because of my professional commitments. It is a part of the package. It is very a tough task to be an actor.
Business of Cinema wishes Manoj Bajpayee and the team of Aligarh all the very best in the days ahead.
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