Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The first time I went to a discotheque, it was with Shah Rukh Khan: Manoj Bajpayee

(First published in
Manoj Bajpayee, dressed in a bright checked shirt and trousers, lean and unassuming, has such a gentle and polite demeanour that it is difficult to imagine how he became the gregarious goonda Bhiku Mhatre in Satya. Or the violent, crude and disgusting Sardar in Gangs of Wasseypur. Or the mild, poetic, thoughtful, gay professor in his last film ,Aligarh. Whether it is a big, small or short film like Taandav, Bajpayee gives himself to it one hundred percent.
Now, as Bajpayee gears up for his upcoming ensemble film,Traffic, his love for his craft comes through in this conversation :
You have just received Dadasaheb Phalke Foundation award for your performance in Aligarh. Congratulations. Is this huge for you?
No, it’s not huge, really. Actually, there is a misconception. It’s a mainstream, popular award. Everyone thought this is given by the Government. But this award is from a private organization.
Are you expecting a National Award?
I hope so. If the jury thinks so. [Laughs]
You have already received widespread critical acclaim for it.
Yes, the response for Aligarh has been huge. I have been very lucky that I have usually got love and appreciation for most of my work. But Aligarh has topped all of it. In terms of appreciation, reviews, acceptance — it’s quite remarkable.
Like the professor in Aligarh, have you felt lonely as an artist? Some top actors claim so.
People say big stars are lonely. Since I am not a big star I cannot talk about loneliness. [Laughs] If I feel lonely, I try to find company. I am shy and a man of few words but I have not experienced loneliness. I interpreted the character through the people I know and the books I have read. I try to be the character.
You seem to transform completely with each different film. What’s your process?
I prepare for my scene according to the genre and the script and the directors vision. Then I add my own interpretation. At times something very magical happens in front of the camera.
Which is your favourite magical moment?
[Shrugs]There are many. When you are prepared well and work hard before the shoot, it happens. The character is inside you, he is guiding you all the time.
In Kapoor & Sons, a few big stars rejected Fawad’s role. Did you feel you were taking a risk inAligarh?
The only people who can do these kind of roles are the ones who have nothing to lose or don’t have much at stake. The stars have too much at stake. They are probably wary for that reason. I am an actor known to take risks. Risk taking is my asset. I never thought of it as a risk. Hansal is a dear friend; it was a great script and a great role. The only prime concern for us, was to do the role well. We completed the film and I started hearing that Manoj is taking a risk.
If given a regular role…
I will never do it. Anybody can do it. They don’t need an actor like Manoj Bajpayee.
Did you think about how Aligarh would affect your image, the way most actors do?
Please forgive me if I sound arrogant or flamboyant. I don’t care about what anybody thinks. When I became an actor, I told myself —‘Manoj Bajpayee, don’t care about what people say, just follow your dream’. I conduct myself with the same attitude today. In any case, I feel very strongly about gay rights. I would have anyway done the role as I care strongly for the issue.
What excited you about your role in Traffic?
It’s not just the role; it’s the film in totality. I saw the Malayalam version and I said I want to be a part of the film. The story of the constable is so fantastic. He makes a mistake and he wants to redeem himself through this journey.
You have worked with directors like Shekhar Kapur, Shyam Benegal and Ram Gopal Varma. How different was it to work with the late Rajesh Pillai on a Malayalam remake?
Rajesh Pillai was very learned, very passionate and very clear about his audience. He was an amazing guy. He has made a taut and emotional thriller.
Shah Rukh Khan paid you a surprise visit during your film promotions. Any memory from your old times with him?
[Smiles] We are old friends. The first time I went to a discotheque, it was with Shah Rukh. He was quite a charmer. He always had a way with men or women. He was a big star even then. 
Are you happy with where you are today?

Fantastically so.
Do you have a wish list?
I am just open to work. I want to work with new directors. I will choose a new director over an established one, any day. They come up with new kinds of scripts and ideas.

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